|By Carol Amoruso, HAV Editor
Readers of the Hispanic-American Village will know Louis E. V. Nevaer from his incisive New America Media commentaries. Now, Navaer has collaborated with Vaso Perimenis Ekstein, a human resources and technology consultant to business, on HR and the New Hispanic Workforce: A Comprehensive Guide to Cultivating and Leveraging Employee Success (Davies-Black Publishing; 2007). Their is a handbook for human resources personnel with a mandate to recruit, “nurture and cultivate” Hispanics.
The book is an equally useful tool for Hispanic workers as it:
Without belaboring the point, HR and the New Hispanic Workforce reminds us that corporate America’s bottom line is profit and “brand,” and, by extension much of the commitment to provide a positive experience for Hispanic workers is based on these two exigencies. They say, ““the demographic and social makeup of the workforce of an organizations is market driven” and cite studies showing that when employers made a commitment to their employees to accommodate their “cultural world view,” “their productivity thrived and dissention was minimized.” In turn, the harmonious work environment afforded that employer a competitive advantage over others in their industry.
The authors recommend that human resource management (HRM) implement “dedicated strategies” in order to provide a Hispanic-friendly workplace. They note that it’s not enough for an organization with a brand that has captured the Hispanic market to then hire Hispanic personnel, but the organization must also lay the groundwork to make the experience fulfilling, lest they lose their market. They cite, as an example, an innovative program at IBM for bringing Hispanics and other minorities into management roles by including a 5 minute drill at meetings of top management asking the managers to come up with potential candidates, gently reminding them to think especially of diverse and female candidates. These drills have resulted in managers being more disposed to offer such names.
Salient demographic information is presented to underscore for HR managers the nature of the growing Hispanic workforce as the US emerges as a “bilingual consumer economy.” We learn, for example, that Hispanics are almost a decade younger than the general population; over 34 million Mexicans have a legal right, through family relationships, etc., to emigrate to the United States; there is a disproportion of college-educated Hispanics in the city of Miami, with over 33% college-educated, while, in Los Angeles, only 17% have a college degree.
The handbook’s numerous suggestions on providing a culturally sensitive and fulfilling work environment are all premised on the assumption that job satisfaction is of more importance to Hispanics than salary, a preference not shared by Caucasian and African Americans. These suggestions include: assurances that the worker will not have to relocate; offering “human-scale” benefits, such as holidays and extra time off in exchange for a bigger salary; creating incentives for Hispanic workers to recruit friends; inviting the extended, instead of just nuclear, family to organization events; and offering well-trained Hispanic mentors.
With regard to job performance, Nevaer and Ekstein note that “mainstream cultured people” tend to evaluate themselves higher than those of collectivist cultures. This, they say should not be construed as either proof of poor performance or a worker’s actual inferior estimation of his/her contribution. Passivity, they add, is seen as a form of respect amongst many Hispanics and does not indicate a lackluster effort.
In what seems to be a curious misconstruing of the realities of corporate and other large-scale workplaces, the authors put a great amount of emphasis, mentioning in each chapter, on contention between African Americans and Hispanics. There is, they posit, “not so much a conflict between Caucasian and Hispanics (who may be of any race) as one between black and brown. Some African Americans have issues with Hispanics, and these issues spill over from the greater society into the work place.” (p. 96) They go so far even to recommend workshops be implemented as part of human resource policy whether disharmony has been identified or not. To me, with little corporate experience but immersed in a cultural milieu where there is no such antipathy, such emphasis is excessive and might muddy still clear waters. What, instead, does bear exploring are the inherent conflict that arises between the highest management, most of which remains white and male, and subordinates, increasingly minority of all backgrounds, and female.
The authors, in identifying role models to emulate with positive and profitable Hispanic-targeted practices, such as CitiGroup and Proctor and Gamble, and mentioning the need to offer OSHA regulations in Spanish, omit mention of the many businesses that routinely exhibit unfair wage and hour and safety practices . Nor do they acknowledge that instances of discrimination in hiring and holding qualified Latinos remain all-too common. Public relations for such firms would do much to nurture their Hispanic employees if such practices were remedied.
An even more pressing omission, I feel, is that of the special consideration that needs to be given to Hispanic women. They bring spring-off identities and experiences to the workplace distinct from those of their Anglo sisters or Hispanic brothers. Important issues such as relating to male and/or female superiors, accepted workplace attire, and sexual harassment are viewed in different ways by many Hispanic women. Dominant culture managers through their human resources surrogates must be sensitized to these differences.
A final note: I’ve adopted the authors’ exclusive use of the term Hispanic over Latino to be faithful to their expressed preference for Hispanic, which represents, for them, “the acquiring of Spanish norms by native Americans of Latin America,” as opposed to Latino, for them a term that, instead, connotes a “political, social and economic agenda.”