Floriza Genautis was recently named chairperson of the newly formed Asian American Business Council at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, where she hopes to better connect Asian American-owned businesses with one another and the rest of the business community. Genautis has more than 30 years of experience in the recruiting and professional staffing industry, and is the founder and CEO of Wyoming-based staffing agency Management Business Solutions. Genautis, who founded her company in 2006, works with a wide range of employers to help place workers, giving her a close look at how the pandemic amplified the talent shortage over the past year and a half. MiBiz caught up with Genautis at the Grand Rapids Chamber’s recent West Michigan CEO Summit, which delved into pressing issues around diversity, equity and inclusion and the post-pandemic future of the workplace.
What do you hope the launch of the Asian American Business Council at the Grand Rapids Chamber will accomplish?
We’re in the infancy stages right now, and are trying to look at programming and a lot of opportunities to really connect the Asian community. Not only that, but it’s part of the (diversity, equity and inclusion) initiative the Chamber is doing as far as bringing specific business communities together. I think the key thing about having one dedicated chair for each of the groups is that you have one individual who is going to be able to lead that effort to push it forward.
We’re going to start going through meetings and try to get other businesses in the community connected, especially within the Asian community.
Why is it important to have an Asian American Business Council?
It can be a little harder to connect in the Asian community because we have so many different, diverse groups. There are multiple languages and barriers. That’s one of the biggest things in the Asian community: the language barrier.
There are a lot of Asian business leaders in our community who are just never heard from, we just never know about them because traditionally we’re very quiet, we don’t speak up. That was one of the key things about being part of the Chamber and what I wanted to be able to do: Have that voice and have that ability to actually highlight us and be able to get other businesses noticed because there are a ton of successful Asian businesses. People just don’t know about them.
I always say that sometimes the Asian community is the forgotten one because we never say anything or ask for anything, we just kind of quietly blend in. It’s so nice to be able to be invited and be very intentional about this work.
What have you learned as you led your own business during the pandemic?
These last 15 months have been very trying. Right now we’re great, we’re booming, we’re so busy. But from March 2020 through November and December 2020, we had zero placements.
I kept all of our employees and we didn’t lay off anyone in our internal staff. What kept us going is that we have consultants out there that kept us moving with our revenues. Then we started talking about the talent shortage, and now we’re experiencing that.
Can you explain what it’s like to be a candidate for a position in today’s job market?
Very recently it’s becoming more of a candidate market again. It will eventually shift, but it’s really nice to see because it’s been such a long time since candidates have had this opportunity to have expectations going into a job.
Employees are actually able to evaluate what is really important for them, whether it’s work-from-home or that work-life balance. It’s still a little unknown what the future is, but it’s starting to be defined a little more. People are thinking more about what work style is more suited for them and their family.
And what are you seeing on the employer side?
We’re seeing a lot of individuals exiting positions because of retirements and changes in life. This is where employers become a bit more strategic in re-evaluating what those open positions are. They’re being very strategic in figuring out how to reposition their organization for growth.