Posts tagged ‘career’
A few days ago, I had lunch with a friend who works for a well known Fortune 500 organization here in Cincinnati. He’s been successful as a leader over the course of his career, which has included experiences on the international stage. During our discussion, we talked about a number of topics, including my on-going efforts of working with employers to increase their awareness and understanding of Hispanics in the workplace. I also mentioned the efforts I’ve made in sharing my thoughts through Intern Matters, my blog, and other social media platforms. Since my friend has extensive experience working in multicultural settings, I asked him to share his perspectives on successful management techniques in this regard. Ironically, most of his advice didn’t involve developing policies or guidelines; they focused on basic and personal efforts a manager can follow. Below are some principles he proposed and has employed:
1) Successful Managers Learn about Culture: Successful managers make a concerted effort to understand and learn about their employees’ culture. By understanding their culture, managers can use more effective motivational strategies and supervisory techniques. This process can just range from simply asking the employee questions to doing some basic research on theInternet. From his experience, my friend noted this minor investment of time can provide major returns.
2) Successful Managers Help Build a Culture of Inclusion: My friend described how he organized lunches or dinners, and invited employees of different cultural backgrounds to informally discuss their experiences. While this suggestion might not always be practical, the main idea is that effective managers are proactive in helping employees become more comfortable in their work environments by providing opportunities to have constructive informal dialogues.
3) Successful Managers Support Social Activities: Just showing up to a social event sponsored by an affinity group goes a long way in developing trust and camaraderie with employees. My friend would make every effort to at least drop in to demonstrate his support for a given event. In most cases, he’d stay longer than he thought!
4) Successful Managers Get Involved in the Community: Effective managers show a genuine concern for the Hispanic community by getting involved. Whether it’s getting involved in a reading program or becoming a mentor, managers that demonstrate their willingness to improve the educational and professional efforts of other Hispanics build a stronger bond with their employees.
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.
Although we’re deep in the middle of winter, many college students around the country have their sights set on warmer weather and the possibility of securing a summer internship. University career centers are already busy posting internship opportunities and scheduling employer campus interviews. Whether you’re an employer considering starting an internship program or have an established program in place, now is the time to be planning how summer interns will be best utilized by your organization. Do you know how your organization expects to leverage the energy, creativity, knowledge, and skills interns commonly bring to the workplace? And above all, and a factor often neglected by employers, is your internship program designed to produce genuine value and results to the student as well as the organization? Having managed internship programs for a university and a few organizations, the best and worst internship experiences often hinge on this last question.
For the student, the goal of an internship is to gain practical and relevant experience through the application of knowledge so far attained only in an academic setting. Whether interns are joining your organization to support an established team or tasked with a short-term project, assure that their theoretical learning is being supplemented in the role. Beyond practical experience in their core area of study, interns are also expecting to develop and apply other skills that are essential to their long-term professional success. Provide interns the opportunity to develop interpersonal, critical thinking, presentation, networking, and political acumen skills. Developing these essential career skills is just as important to their overall internship experience.
For the employer, it’s imperative to identify one or more projects where the intern can provide legitimate support or make a considerable impact. Employers might at times be reluctant to trust an intern with too much responsibility fearing that he or she will fail. On the contrary, from my experience, interns rise to the level of expectation and use their willingness to learn as an opportunity to contribute wherever they’re needed. Of course, this approach should be balanced with what an intern needs to learn in order to complete the assignment. Pinpointing the right opportunity, along with determining the appropriate amount of supervisory support, will go a long way in assuring an intern’s skills are used most effectively. Combining an intern’s specialized area of study, willingness to learn, and the right project will yield the best results where the organization most needs it.
The rapid expansion of globalization continues to transform American society in a number of ways. We now live and work in an environment that is consistently being influenced by diverse cultures. The same diversity that is changing the American workforce has already transformed many colleges and universities. Students from varying ethnicities and races including Hispanics now constitute a growing part of the student population on many campuses in the United States. It’s a transformation that many colleges and universities are embracing. Hence, it’s logical to assume that much of the diversity found on campuses will continue to spill into the work environment.
Employers of all sizes and from various industries are conscious of this trend. Many employers have already grasped the idea that their organizations’ workforce should reflect the broader demographic and social environment in which they operate. But while diverse representation in organizations is important, just as vital is an employer’s ability to manage this diverse workforce. This creates a new set of challenges for employers including the development of new types of leaders skilled in managing an increasingly multicultural workforce. These new generations of leaders will require the ability to identify, understand and appreciate cultural differences – in other words, to be culturally intelligent.
Cultural Intelligence, or CQ, can be described as a person’s ability to relate effectively with people of different cultural backgrounds. By developing this skill, people are better able to engage, manage, and work with diverse work groups. From a Hispanic intern perspective, CQ can provide considerable value. Take for instance understanding acculturation differences. Acculturation can be described as the process of taking on another culture while keeping aspects of another (original) culture. Studies have demonstrated that Hispanic acculturation levels vary in the United States. Language, for example, is a cultural characteristic many Hispanics hold onto in order to maintain a connection with their heritage, family, and community. On the other hand, English becomes more dominant and important in the workplace or as Hispanics become more acculturated.
Employers who have a greater understanding of CQ and its implications are in a better position to connect and manage Hispanic interns and other interns from differing cultures. Like other intelligences, CQ can be developed in most people with the objective of increasing their confidence in managing employees of different cultures. In future posts, I’ll continue to introduce specific cultural topics and concepts related to Hispanics in the workplace that might impact their values, attitudes, communication, and performance.