Rodney Morris, Senior Vice President, joined The Elliot Group in 2014, bringing with him over 25 years of hands-on experience in the hospitality industry. Rodney has extensive expertise in all facets of human resources and operations, from emerging-growth concepts and high-growth corporations to quick-service restaurants and polished casual dining. He has worked across the private, private equity and public company domains.

Rodney is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Diversity Council, a former Board member for TDn2K (formerly The People Report), former Chairperson of the Certification Governing Board for the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association, and former President of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART).

We spoke to Rodney about leadership development, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Cannabidiol (CBD) products, and more.

You have been recognized for your support of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, can you explain why these efforts continue to be necessary for companies?
Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) have never been a one and done event, rather it’s a series of educational moments bringing awareness of the unique value of each and every person, where individuals are valued for their talents and empowered to reach their full potential. With the explosion of social media giving literally anyone a voice, the heated rhetoric and actions of others have come to dominate the news, and not necessarily in a good sense as the FBI has reported late last year that hate crimes have increased 17% from 2016, with the overwhelming majority based on race/ethnicity/ancestry.

In its purest form, D & I make a strong business case. Demographic changes in the United States identify we are more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past, and the U.S. is projected to be even more diverse by 2055, when the Pew Research Center projects that not a single racial or ethnic group will be in the majority. The only color that should matter in a business sense is green, the color of money.

As a member of the National Diversity Council and on the Board of Directors since the organization launched in the fall of 2008, I’m fully aligned with its mission to expand D & I in businesses, communities, and schools. I’m also a proud member of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States since 2005. My participation in these groups is not about special rights, it’s about Equal Rights.

How has the importance for businesses to provide internal leadership development and professional coaching evolved since you started working in the hospitality industry?
The war for talent continues to rage with unemployment at historic lows. In my early years, there was little focus on developing the existing talent in organizations, as it was easy to simply go hire another warm body. The majority of my training was the ‘Magic Apron’ (put on an apron and congrats you’re a cook!) or ‘Stand by Jack’ (go over and stand by him and watch what he’s doing).

The advent of eLearning and its growing adoption across our industry has allowed companies and leaders to provide right-sized or just-in-time training to their entire population regardless of geography. Career pathing or career ladders are now common within growing and healthy organizations, providing a road map for the leader to excel at their current job and/or be prepared for the next step in their career.

The use of professional coaches has continued to grow over the last 20 years. It makes good business sense for a company to spend 10-20+% of an executive’s salary to develop the individual in role. It’s been estimated that the cost of executive turnover can be multiples of their cash compensation. Seems to make business sense to nurture the ones you have.

In your opinion, what is one quality that makes a successful C-Suite executive?
Cognitive Empathy – the ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions. 

CBD products are popping up absolutely everywhere – even in the food and beverage industry. How do you see CBD use impacting the restaurant industry in the coming year(s)?
The restaurant industry is always pushing food boundaries, bringing creativity to our plates every day. It will be interesting to see how chefs “sell” the benefit of CBD in food. Perhaps that seven-layer decadent chocolate cake with CBD will help with chronic pain or insomnia? Or perhaps it’s simply the chocolate cake…either way, I’ll take a second piece.

What was the most memorable search you completed? 
Each search is unique, with the most memorable time speaking with a candidate after they have officially accepted the offer. It’s such a special time to share with the candidate as they are charged up and ready for their new life and career adventure.

Why Elliot?
We change lives, businesses, and industries, and we’re the industry leader. I play to win!

Career pathing or career ladders are now common within growing and healthy organizations, providing a road map for the leader to excel at their current job and/or be prepared for the next step in their career.
Rodney Morris, Senior Vice President