Posts tagged ‘getting an internship’
The concepts of diversity and inclusion have evolved dramatically in recent decades. Looking back twenty years ago to the 1990s, it’s hard to imagine diversity concepts and practices of that period still being applicable to today’s work environment. At that time, a concept like diversity was mostly about creating awareness rather than a strategic business requirement. Today, many U.S. businesses are not only global in scope, but they also function within a social and work environment that is characterized by a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-generational domestic population. Different demographic groups like Hispanics and other people of color are driven by different needs, perspectives, and challenges. So as the external environment has changed, employers must make sure ideas and practices related to diversity and inclusion have changed as well. Consequently, as you employ more Hispanic interns into your organization, it’s important to understand the meaning of diversity and inclusion and how these two concepts might influence Hispanic interns’ experiences in your organization.
Generally, diversity can be viewed as individual similarities and differences. These are characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, race, physical abilities, sexual orientation, etc. Inclusion provides a sense of belonging which provides an employee a sense of confidence and commitment from the organization. Ironically, an organization is still able to achieve diversity without attaining inclusion and vice versa. Hence, when managing Hispanics and other people of color in your organization, it’s essential to accomplish both. While most organizations’ diversity and inclusion efforts initially focus on recruitment, just as important, if not more, is their focus on the retention and development aspects of diversity and inclusion. While many companies are satisfied in recruiting diverse employees, many are still hampered by high turnover rates of Hispanics and other minorities associated with a lack of growth and opportunities.
How can employers make sure they’re achieving both diversity and inclusion? The most important factor is assuring that diversity and inclusion are part of the organizational culture and incorporated into the overall business strategy. Diversity and inclusion are no longer just concepts to be used as part of training programs. To be successful, diversity and inclusion must be employed by senior level management to the supervisor managing an intern. Supervisors that manage Hispanic interns are the “glue” that leads to a successful internship experience. Ensure supervisors are demonstrating diverse and inclusive behaviors and sending key messages that parallel your organization’s commitment to these principles. Keep in mind that Hispanic interns will rely more on what they observe than what the organization says.
My first few posts to the Intern Matters blog have attempted to provide employers with a basic understanding of Hispanic culture and how its characteristics can potentially influence the performance of Hispanic interns in an organization. I believe that understanding the nuances of Hispanic culture – and just not comparing it to mainstream culture – is important to helping effectively manage Hispanic interns in any organization. Over the course of my initial posts, we’ve learned that Hispanics are certainly not a heterogeneous group. Hispanics constitute an assortment of countries, races, and experiences. Yet, as I’ve noted in my first few blog posts, Hispanics share many common values and beliefs.
However, creating an awareness of these cultural differences is only the start. We’ve learned that Hispanic cultural values and attitudes can play an interesting role in determining how Hispanic interns might behave, observe, and think as they interact in the work setting. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that some of these introductory concepts are vague – and might even lack clear and concise definitions. And while some of the concepts I’ve introduced such as familiasm, personalismo, or simpatia might not have literal English translations, they’ve hopefully provided a basis for cultural awareness, knowledge, and understanding. My goal was to inspire a sense of cultural empowerment; building a sense that cultural understanding can lead to increased participation, performance, and belonging on the part of your interns.
We’ve learned that Hispanic cultural traits are interdependent and are highly founded on connectedness and relationships. By understanding Hispanic culture, employers, as well as interns, are better able to improve their overall performance and effectiveness. How?
1. By knowing that an employer “gets” their cultural background and experiences, Hispanic interns will be more motivated to perform and contribute;
2. By increasing cultural knowledge and awareness, both supervisors and interns learn more about each other and about themselves;
3. By acknowledging their cultural background, interns’ sense of self-worth and confidence are increased significantly; and
4. By fostering a positive cultural connection, interns’ desire to build more relationships within the organization will also grow.
These are only a few of the lessons I hope to have provided in these first few posts – broadening the perspective of Hispanic culture as well as the Hispanic experience. In future posts, I hope to build on these ideas and concepts to provide more practical illustrations, and discuss how we can continue to increase mutual understanding and learning.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit and present to a Latino student organization down the road from Cincinnati at Northern Kentucky University. Before my presentation, I spent quite a long time talking with many of the students asking them about their backgrounds and experiences, respective majors and classroom work, and expected plans after graduation. I also shared everything about my background, and how it mirrored many of their experiences. By the time I was introduced to speak, I had already established an initial relationship with most of the students in attendance. And even though I didn’t get a chance to meet everyone before the presentation, I could sense that the rapport I had developed with some in the group had already helped me generate credibility before speaking one word. This illustrative process highlights the special emphasis Hispanics put on relationship-building prior to engaging in business or developing professional relationships. It’s based on the cultural idea that individuals are valued more than material belongings and is known as personalismo.
Personalismo can be described as the partiality for close personal relationships. The concept of personalismo is not so much an observed behavior but rather a perception Hispanics have about other individuals. For example, personalismo can be seen in others if they’re perceived to be well-meaning, objective, caring, and respectful. To Hispanics, even a stranger can be seen as having personalismo if he or she exhibits these qualities. In a work environment, supervisors demonstrating high character and moral standards, for example, are able to build stronger levels of trust among Hispanics. A supervisor that is seen as unbiased, fair, and objective with all employees is perceived to possess high levels of personalismo. While Hispanic interns might behave very formal during initial meetings, recognize they’re probably already monitoring for these genuine cultural elements in their supervisors or managers. Once this trust or personalismo is established, it will help Hispanic interns build a strong personal bond with their team or department.
Personalismo essentially serves as a foundation for other cultural values that are important to Hispanics. Without establishing that genuine relationship, a supervisor might find it more challenging to manage or direct a Hispanic intern. So supervisors should take some time to get to know their new interns. Ask about their background, experiences, and future plans. Invite interns to share what they are hoping to accomplish during their internships and what support they’ll need in order to do so. Of course, don’t fail to appreciate the role of culture to the intern’s overall aspirations. A genuine effort to recognize their cultural perspective will go a long way toward showing you have their best interest at heart.
One of the common questions I get asked by organizations and clients I work with is what term do I prefer. “Term?” I ask…“Yes, do you prefer Hispanic or Latino?” is the usual follow-up question. It’s a frequent question and one an employer should consider as well. I don’t have a personal preference when it comes to either, and I tend to use both terms interchangeably as many Hispanics and Latinos that I know do (you see, I did it just there!). I honestly appreciate the question and realize most people are asking in order to use the correct term and to avoid potentially offending others. While many in the Hispanic community share the same perspective that I do, others are still very much prescribed to one term or the other. According to a PEW Hispanic Center survey, 36% of the Hispanic community preferred the term “Hispanic” while 21% preferred the term “Latino.” The remaining respondents in the survey (43%) had no preference or used both terms interchangeably.
The use of each term might also be determined by what region of the United States you are standing in when you say it. Concentrations of the Hispanic population differ by region, for example, there are many more Mexican Americans in Texas and California than there are in Florida, where there are more Cuban Americans. Along the East Coast, you’ll find a higher concentration of Puerto Ricans. In my own experience of living in several areas of the country, I’ve found the term “Latino” most often used on the West and East coasts, and the term “Hispanic” in states like Texas and other parts of the Southwest. Of course, this is just one person’s experience! There continues to be a lot debate within the Hispanic community about what term actually captures the true essence of the population.
Whether it’s Hispanic or Latino, what is common to each perspective is that each term is used to represent a demographic with a common cultural background including characteristics such as language. Employers should be aware, however, that these two terms often do not capture differences in race or ancestry common to the Hispanic population. While Hispanics are often “grouped” to represent a monolithic group on forms such as job applications, the reality is that Hispanics are incredibly heterogeneous. Hispanics originate from European, Latin American, and even African heritage. Hispanics can literally vary from blond and green-eyed to African in physical features.
So what’s the bottom line for employers? Realize that Hispanics are not a homogeneous ethnic group. There is great diversity in their demographic, economic, and social backgrounds. Yet, there are also many similarities in areas such as language, culture, and attitudes. This combined variety and similarity provides employers with an opportunity to leverage their backgrounds and experiences in a work setting.