Editor’s Note: This post is a continuation of our occasional series that looks at the impact of the Millennial generation (Gen Y) in the workplace from the perspective of our millennial-age consultants.
By 2050, one in three working Americans will be Latino. That means that many of today’s Hispanic Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997), accounting for 27% of all M in the U.S., will be between the ages of 53 and 69. Some of us will be retiring, while others will be leading Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. The key question business leaders today need to ask themselves is, “What is my company doing to better embrace and support Hispanic Millennials in our organization?”
A previous post looked at some of the stereotypes that are associated with Millennials. But even within GenY, there are differences that aren’t considered in those stereotypes. And for businesses to accept and provide opportunity for an increasingly Hispanic workforce, there are cultural differences that can get in the way of even the best intentions.
Let’s dive in and touch upon general cultural perceptions and preferences of Hispanic Millennials, like me, and what organizations can do so their workforce development efforts are successful.
What’s in it for… my family?
Latinos in general are known as being family-oriented. Because of this, we tend to work not only to provide for ourselves, but to provide for our family members who extend across generations and national boundaries. We pride ourselves in working hard to ensure the well-being of our parents and siblings, but also the well-being of our grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and so on.
The moment we begin working, even if we are high school sophomores, we begin having financial responsibilities, in fact Latinos are more likely than our peers to contribute financially to the well-being of our families. Some of us may be sending occasional money to our grandparents in El Salvador; others may be helping out our parents with medical bills or rent, while some of us are paying for our siblings’ school materials.
Thus many more of us face additional financial challenges than our other millennial counterparts.
Tamales for thought: Much has been written and debated about Health Care Reform, but let’s focus on the mandate which allows employees to add their children under 26 years as dependents in their medical plans. While this has direct benefits to many Millennials, it ignores the fact that in many cases, the Hispanic millennial becomes the Head of Household and the parent becomes the dependent. A company aiming to attract top Latino talent may consider allowing parents to be added as dependents.
Proud of our culture
Hispanic Millennials are proud of their culture and heritage, with 67 percent those surveyed wanting to stand as Latino. If you are my colleague, I may be tempted to share my stories about my last trip to Mexico. Or, I may show some pictures from my cousin’s quinceañera last weekend. While three in four Latinos speak Spanish at home, most of us are bilingual, with smaller percentages speaking English only or Spanish only. In fact, the majority of us enjoy hablar Spanglish. Being bilingual has its share of benefits and pitfalls. I often find myself visiting my family for the weekend hablando endlessly with mamá in Spanish and in Spanglish with my siblings. Then, on Monday morning I jump on a client call, and I forget that simple English word that everyone knows.
Regardless, companies can benefit from leveraging a bilingual workforce. In marketing, we can be the ones that ensure that the ad in Español is culturally relevant. In Sales, we can contribute to building a relationship (and business) with the Latino customer or Latino business owner.
Empanadas for thought: Do you ask your Latino co-workers about their personal lives? If so, you may have already found out that we take pride in our cuisine, music, family, and celebrations. Do you make it comfortable for all employees of diverse backgrounds to talk about their culture in the workplace?
A couple of years ago, I was part of a client project that was especially diverse, with people with Guatemalan, South African, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Vietnamese, Filipino and U.S. backgrounds. To ensure we all felt included; we established an informal tradition of going out to lunch weekly to an ethnic restaurant, each week chosen by a different member of our team. This simple activity gave us all the opportunity to share a little piece of our culture while also learning about other cultures.
What is your company doing to embrace the different backgrounds and identities of your workforce? In what ways can you leverage your bilingual, culturally-attuned employee?
Lost in translation: Confident or arrogant, humble or indecisive?
In mainstream culture, it’s generally understood that organizations put high value on employees who are direct and exude confidence. Confidence translates into leadership to many of us, while being direct means that we can pride ourselves for being clear, effective and efficient.
Here is where these values may be lost in translation. In some Latino cultures, we may interpret overt confidence as arrogance and directness as cold or abrasiveness. Instead, we may place greater value on humility and maintaining harmony within the team, as our parents and grandparents taught us. A humble and personable manager who cares about the employee’s well-being and personal life may be a more successful and respected leader in our eyes than a manager who may appear self-important.
Nevertheless, in the workplace, a humble and caring manager may be seen as indecisive or weak. It’s important for organizations to learn these cues and cultural differences and integrate them within the overall company culture, so that they do not ignore talent and limit their leadership potential. In other words, be sure to identify and embrace the engrained competitive advantages that many Latinos bring, that in turn will create a successful leader in your company.
Ceviche for thought: Think about your company’s yearly performance reviews. Does your company promote workers who are “confident” and penalize those who are “indecisive”? If so, then you may be inadvertently placing Latinos at a disadvantage. Instead, think about adding performance factors associated with providing strong contributions to the collective success, well-being, and happiness of the team – performance factors where your millennial Latinos have a greater chance of standing out and leading your company to new heights.
Success is in the family
As part of the Millennial generation, it is assumed that I think it’s all about me. Apparently, I’ll know I’m successful when you find out, while browsing your various social media platforms via your smartphone, that I work at a start-up, recently bought a loft in the city, own a hybrid, and meaningfully contributed to a social cause.
Let me share what is true and not true for me. It is true that I use multiple social media platforms. They are great ways to see what’s happening with my numerous relatives going about their lives both in the U.S. and Mexico. It is also true that I believe I’ve contributed my fair share to social causes. In fact, a few years ago, I successfully raised funds through crowdsourcing and running a marathon to ensure that children of a small village in Mexico could enjoy a newly renovated school.
What’s not true? First, I should clarify that as a Latino, it’s assumed that I attribute my success to my family’s success. So, while I unfortunately do not own a home, or loft, of any kind, I obtain a sense of pride knowing that I regularly provide for my mother, my siblings, and my nieces and nephew. Sometimes, I get discouraged when I hear that my friends are buying their first homes. It makes me wonder if I am doing something wrong, but then I remind myself that I put myself through college and grad school thanks to the dreaded hefty loans. And, while we will not go into detail about the difficulties of Millennials of Color face in accumulating wealth, I still believe in the “American Dream” of one day owning a home.
Enchiladas for thought Are there programs or resources offered by your organization that could be better leveraged in helping your Hispanic Millennials and their families achieve their version of success?
If you offer a retirement savings program, take the extra time and effort to explain the value of 401(k) plans to them so that they (unlike many of their parents) can retire comfortably without having to depend on their future children. Also, consider offering a flexible time off program so that they can spend more quality time with their families.
If your company allows employees to work remotely, express some flexibility in permitting them to work outside of the U.S. for at least a short period. Today, the technology that allows us to work from home (internet, computer, conference systems, collaboration sites) can also be used to work from virtually any country in the world, but most importantly, the countries where our extended and immediate families may still live. Many of us wish that we could visit our family’s country of origin regularly; removing yet one more roadblock in visiting them may go a long way in your employee’s job satisfaction and loyalty to your company.
Take the next step
Given that some Hispanic Millennials are already at the age of becoming mid-level managers, it’s important that organizations take steps today not only to prepare your Hispanic Millennials for leadership roles, but also to prepare your company and yourself for this more diverse face of leadership.
Are you advancing and retaining your Millennials by offering them growth opportunities, a holistic total compensation package that takes into account what they find valuable? Are you removing roadblocks that stand in the way of their success, and as a result, of your company’s success? If not, you risk putting your organization at a disadvantage for decades by not leveraging the 22.7 million Hispanic millennials as your workforce leaders—the same 22.7 million people who you may lose as your consumers.
Ultimately, today’s reality is no longer about ensuring that Hispanic Millennials learn and adapt to the company’s existing culture, but it’s also about the company embracing and embodying vital cultural Hispanic values for the long-term success of your company.
What steps will you take?