A dramatic statistic revealed in the 2000 Census is the fact that Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the United States, representing 12.5% of the U.S. population. This indicates a 60% growth in 10 years and experts predict continued growth. In Arizona alone, Hispanics represent 25.3% of the population, which is an increase of 88% in 10 years, signifying an additional 600,000 Hispanics.

However, the census further states that 49% are not fluent in English, and the education level of Latinos has not improved as exponentially as their explosive growth. Eleven percent have graduated from college, 56% have a high school diploma, and 28% have less than a 9th grade education. It is therefore imperative that unique, quality training experiences in Spanish be created for Hispanics engaged in the U.S. workforce. The legal picture for Latino employees is also very disconcerting. EEOC complaints have more than doubled in 5 years, and settlements have risen to over $ 50 million. In June of 2000, a class action lawsuit by 22 Hispanic females against Grace Culinary Systems, Inc. (a subsidiary of W. R. Grace) resulted in a $ 1 million settlement. In April of 2001, a Texas University paid $ 2.4 million to Hispanic housekeepers due to discrimination. Although this workforce is hard-working, loyal, and indispensable to many industries, bias and discrimination continue to prevail.

An article by Stephen M. Paskoff and Lori J. Shapiro in the November, 2000 issue of Legal Times stated, “In several recent cases, the U. S. Supreme Court has articulated its mandate to employers: A policy prohibiting harassment and discrimination in the workplace is not only required, but must be clearly and effectively communicated to company managers and employees so that they both understand the policy and can apply it in practice.” They go on to say, “Without realizing that the most important outcome is an impact on behavior, some companies simply pass out materials about discrimination, sexual harassment, or employment issues to employees without any link to corporate culture, expectations, or standards.”

Employers can no longer make superficial efforts to effect behavioral changes. These efforts must be substantial and comprehensive. Additionally, they must be communicated in the employees’ native language to be effective. Otherwise, we are not communicating clearly and effectively, as recommended by Shapiro and Paskoff.

This information presents extraordinary challenges for Human Resources professionals. A comprehensive plan must be developed. Training is one key element. Another is that of developing a corporate culture that maintains a philosophy of bridging the cultural gaps within organizations’ employee population, and enacts systems and programs to support that belief.

This philosophy must start at the beginning of employment and continue throughout the employment lifetime of a Latino employee. Since the hiring process is the first experience Hispanic applicants will have with an organization, providing an Employment Application in Spanish will speak volumes about your commitment to diversity, as well as having a bilingual interviewer in Human Resources. Once hired, all-employee memos, policies and procedures, and signage should all be translated into Spanish. Additionally, new employee orientations, employee meetings, and counseling sessions need to be conducted in Spanish.

Employee retention is a serious problem today in all sectors of employment. Within the Hispanic culture, the immediate, as well as the extended family, play an integral part. The more companies can integrate a family atmosphere into their environment, the more successful they will be in retaining this workforce. Lucent Technologies bridges this cultural gap by providing an Employee Business Partner group that helps African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians with their unique challenges. This group devises its own business plan that addresses such issues as language and family. It provides a family atmosphere where everyone feels accepted and supported, as well as a recruitment and retention tool for the organization. Other companies provide training programs with bilingual trainers and training videos in Spanish that are not dubbed or subtitled. Core programs in Spanish should include such topics as:

• Sexual Harassment and respect
• Customer Service
• Safety
• Sensitivity Training for Managers and Supervisors
• Cultural Diversity
• Supervision
• English as a Second Language (ESL)
• Spanish as a Second Language for managers, supervisors, employees (SSL)
• Understanding Your Company Benefits’ Package

Companies enacting this philosophy have met with great success. They are experiencing the benefits of reduced turnover due to increased loyalty from their Hispanic workforce, higher productivity, and enhanced job banks due to increased employee referrals. They have learned that it’s simply the right thing to do, and it’s good business.

In summary, allow me to quote two Hispanic professionals who explain this challenge very effectively. Sonia Perez, Deputy Vice President for Research for The National Council of La Raza states, “This is not a matter of ‘being nice’ to Latinos. We are already a very significant part of the current workforce. We will be even more significant in the future as Anglo birthrates decline, and Anglos grow older and retire. It’s in America’s best interest to invest in the Latino workforce.” And, Belkis PeA a, HR Senior Business Partner at Lucent Technologies, says, “It’s a learning curve for everybody, but it’s the HR of now, not tomorrow, that needs to be changed.”

As Reprinted in: the 2004 Prentice Hall college textbook: Human Resources for the Hospitality Industry, as well as Hospitality News, Empire State Food Service News, and Today’s Grocer.

Ms Harrop is President of Claridis, Inc., a training and consulting company specializing in the Latino/Hispanic workforce. Claridis has produced training videos in Spanish, utilizing Latino actors, as well as in English. These films are unique and effective because they provide training for Hispanic in their native language. Most others on the market are dubbed or subtitled. They were designed by a human resource/training professional to assist the Hispanic population with understanding their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. The two productions are entitled, “Jose’s Story – It’s All About Respect,” and “Respect – The Universal Language.” The topics are sexual harassment prevention and respect in the workplace. Products include the DVD/VHS training video, a free bilingual instruction manual for trainers, a 5-minute bilingual meeting opener, and bilingual instruction manuals for employees.

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