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Culture Matters: Development for the Latino Employee

The Latino community is developing a stronger voice in corporate America to go along with its growing demographic and political power. CLOs have an opportunity to tap into that growth with employee development targeted to their needs.

“Given the growth of Hispanics in the workplace, it is clear they are looking for things that are culturally relevant, that give them the opportunity to be more of who they are and recognize that culture is an advantage,” said Glenn Llopis, a consultant and founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership.

Further, in designing development CLOs should examine some of the cultural assumptions traditional programs sometimes make about their audience, said Robert Rodriguez, president of DRR Advisors and author of Latino Talent: Effective Strategies to Recruit, Retain and Develop Hispanic Professionals.

“Hispanics often have to deal with issues that some of their non-Hispanic colleagues don’t have to deal with,” he said. “Things like their sense of identity, isolation and perceived tokenism are real issues for many Hispanic professionals.”

Targeted and culturally relevant development programs should address those aspects of culture important to Hispanics.

“For example, concepts such as personal branding and marketing yourself internally may be difficult concepts to master for some Hispanics because their heritage taught them that hard work should be enough to get them noticed,” Rodriguez said.

Diversity and Development
The Center for Hispanic Leadership’s Llopis identified six characteristics — what he called the “immigrant perspective” — to consider when designing targeted development for Latino employees.

In general, Hispanics:

• See opportunity in everything.
• Have an ability to anticipate the unexpected.
• Have the potential to be passionate and pioneering.
• Display entrepreneurial initiative.
• Work with a purpose and consider others’ needs.
• Embrace the promise of their culture.

Relevant training and development recognizes that culture is a competitive advantage that can be unleashed to boost Hispanic employee engagement and help advance their careers, Llopis said. Being more aware of these characteristics also helps the organization better manage Hispanic employees and ensure their perspectives and ideas are included.

“What we’re trying to do is help Hispanics leverage their heritage, to discover their full potential in their careers as authentic leaders and small business owners,” Llopis said.

But as they create development relevant for Hispanic employees, CLOs should also understand they are not a homogenous group and move forward carefully.

“There [is] a lot of diversity within the Latino demographic,” Rodriguez said. “The Nuyorican from New York is quite different than the Mexican from east Los Angeles or the Cuban-American living in Miami. If learning practitioners believe that Latino issues are consistent across the entire Hispanic community they are prone to make more mistakes.”

Options for Latino Development
Fortunately, there are options available for CLOs as they target their Hispanic employees. For executives, Rodriguez points to Latino development programs like the Latino Leadership Institute at UCLA and the Latino executive development program at Southern Methodist University.

Internally developed programs are another option. McDonald’s, Verizon, Shell and AT&T have all opted to create multi-day corporate Latino leadership development programs, Rodriguez said.

For the broader employee population, Llopis launched the Hispanic Training Center on Aug. 6. The center provides video-based online training on topics like leadership, career advancement and entrepreneurial skills, as well as courses on leading Hispanic employees and selling to Hispanic consumers.

Each course consists of five to eight chapters, average just over five minutes each, and can lead to a certification from the Center for Hispanic Leadership. The training center will have 15 hours of content up by early September, in time for Hispanic Heritage Month, Llopis said.

While tailoring development to their cultural characteristics and needs makes sense for the Hispanic employee, it also can benefit the non-Hispanic employee. Culturally relevant training isn’t just an initiative, Llopis said. It should be a best practice of business today.

“What they’re learning is important for everyone,” Llopis said. “Now that we’re in this global economy, it’s not just about what you think you need to learn for your company, it’s about how your company [is] more relevant to a broader audience.”

Mike Prokopeak is the editorial director of Chief Learning Officer magazine. He can be reached at mikep@CLOmedia.com.