Each year, National Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 through October 15, serving as an opportunity to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American champions who have inspired others to achieve success.
The observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson as a single day and was later expanded by President Regan in 1988 to a full month.
But now, with the month- long celebration officially past us, how does your organization continue to demonstrate its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion – and build a strong communication and training program that is culturally sensitive?
It’s never been more critical. Today Hispanics and Latinos represent approximately 18.4% of the total US population making them the largest ethnic minority group in the country. And in the construction industry, one in three construction workers identify as Hispanic or Latino.
“Workplace training focused on diversity and inclusion should be an ongoing process,” said Grace Herrera, Director of Product Management for MindForge. “While you might hold synchronous cultural diversity training sessions for employees on a specific day and at a certain time, it’s important to follow up with ongoing communication that takes place in a variety of ways and that is accessible to employees on-site and off. :
In the MindForge Marketplace, diversity training options exist, including Marcom’s “Diversity in the Workplace for Managers," which has practical tips on what supervisors can do to embrace and encourage diversity in their department.
“But you can’t have training on diversity without ensuring that all your training, communication and operations is culturally sensitive,” said Herrera. “Knowing your team and building strong practices around inclusion will help ensure any training is a success.”
To assist with this, Herrera and Patricia Kagerer, Executive Vice President of Risk Management at Jordan Foster Construction, have developed a strategy that has proven to work well in the Latino-heavy populations of Texas where Jordan Foster is headquartered. That strategy is built around understanding cultural norms and attitudes.
“First, you have to understand what value systems are motivating,” said Kagerer. “The Hispanic workforce responds favorably to a ‘what’s in it for us’ mentality – as opposed to the traditional American value system of ‘what’s in it for me. The Hispanic culture is about being a part of something, a feeling of belonging, watching out for one another and working together for the good of everyone.”
The following best practices are often shared by the two:
- Identify the Group’s Leader. Watch the group’s dynamics. After completing tasks for the day, there is often one individual who may be checking in with his or her peers and clarifying responsibilities. Get this person’s buy-in so that future training requests are successful – building messages around the benefits to the team.
- Walk the Talk. “The Hispanic culture is one of pride, loyalty and respect – yet each of those must be earned,” said Kagerer. “A leader who shows up regularly and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty will reap the rewards of a loyal crew. One who just sits in a trailer all day and only comes out to bark orders is not going to earn their respect.”
- Build Relationships . Latino workers are often more comfortable in an environment where they have established personal relationships at work. “(Latinos) invite each other over to family gatherings and develop a sense of kinship,” said Herrera. “Because of these personal relationships, they work well together and develop trust.” Build training messages around this sense of community.
- Encourage feedback. Don’t neglect opportunities to gather input from employees throughout the year on what they felt has worked well to help them understand the culture and perspectives of others, what hasn’t, and any ideas they may have for future communication and training efforts. Take the time to think about how your best practices and positive employee responses to your efforts can be put into play year-round with all employees.
With these best practices, a team environment and culture of success around productivity, training and communication can occur – year-round, not just during a month.