Magazine article Workforce

Savvy Companies Build Bonds with Hispanic Employees

Magazine article Workforce

Savvy Companies Build Bonds with Hispanic Employees

Article excerpt

A large multinational oil company found that productivity in its Mexican plant was off 20 percent. It hired a US. manager to go there to figure out what the problem was.

The manager did some digging, surveyed employees, and found that the company used to have a monthly fiesta in the parking lot for all the employees and their families. Another American manager had decided this was a poor use of time and money, and canceled the parties.

"The message employees got was that the company didn't care about our families anymore," says C. Philip Bamberger, vice president of J. Howard & Associates, a Boston firm that served as a consultant for the oil company.

The fiestas were reinstated. Productivity and morale soared.

Glaring examples like this of cultural misunderstandings are expected to become more frequent and to affect business results more dramatically in the coming years. The Hispanic population in the United States grew by 53 percent between 1980 and 1990, and then another 58 percent between 1990 and 2000-totaling 35 million people. New census data shows that half of that population is under 26, indicating that the trend will continue.

These new census statistics also show the number of Hispanic employees in the workplace rising not just in the southwestern United States but also in places like Milwaukee. Employers are making sure they create workplaces where people from different cultures are comfortable working, and want to stay. American employers sometimes see this growing population as a monolithic group. Nothing could be further from reality. Hispanics represent a wide variety of cultures and languages. Even within countries, there is broad diversity. In Mexico, for example, Indians often speak languages unrelated to Spanish.

Still, there are some values in Hispanic cultures that tend to be commonly held. As the oil company learned, families and extended families are often at the social center of the culture. …

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