However, a company’s success can be easily facilitated through an urgent acquisition of cultural competence and a comprehensive approach to capture the company’s share of the richest U.S. ethnic market—Latinos. In order to change, organizations must acculturate. HR has the opportunity to be the company’s acculturation leader, and the chief learning officer has the fortune to implement. If successful, both the chief people officer and the chief learning officer will be heroes to employees and shareholders alike.
How do you do this? Before we delve into the specifics, let’s take a look at the largest minority group in America—Latinos.
American Latinos as a Demographic
It seems that each day another world-class publication highlights the growth of minority populations throughout various regions of the United States. Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, a partner of Los Angeles-based M3 Alliance Consulting and director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture in UCLA’s School of Medicine, is a well-known and respected scholar and framer of Latino culture. In a 2003 report, “The Latino Majority Has Emerged,” Hayes-Bautista states that beginning in the third quarter of 2001, more than half of the births in the state of California were Latino. This trend continued into the fourth quarter, where Latino births comprised 50.6 percent of all births. Comparable statistics are also apparent in other areas of the nation.
To put these statistics in perspective, right now, there are more Latinos living in the United States than there are people in Canada. You can easily do the projections and anticipate everything from kindergarten enrollments to voter registrations to what the workforce will look like in the year 2019—high percentages of diverse ethnic groups.
Educating the Workforce
Most experts in the diversity and training fields would agree that unless management and staffs understand these various demographic and market changes, can adapt to them and can alter their approach to accommodate them, their overall business and bottom lines will suffer.
If management understands these market changes and the opportunities they present, and if they are willing to address them, they must also realize that to ensure their success, education of the workforce is key. The students for this “curriculum” must come from practically all functions across the company, but it is especially important in the functions of human resources, corporate governance, government relations, community relations, vendor and supplier enterprises and finally, product design, development, sales and distribution. Why? Let’s take a look.
Human Resources: Companies can never capitalize on these markets unless there is indigenous, internal management appreciating the potential yield and helping the company get there. For those with international operations, it’s not that different from having indigenous management at your foreign facilities. HR must ensure this indigenous management in order to enable organizational success. One key thing to remember, however, is that recruiting is only half the battle; once in the door, retention is critical. Training professionals know better than anyone that talent is a precious commodity, and it doesn’t make sense to develop this talent only to lose it to your competition.
Corporate Governance: Corporate governance accounts for the representation on the board of directors. They, too, require education, training and development. If the board is thought of as a source of company stewardship, support and guidance, it makes sense that not only should some of the seats be minority-occupied, but the remainder of the chairs should be culturally competent.
Government Relations: Legislators are responsible for knowing their constituencies, and it’s imperative that corporations know their consumer-elected representatives. These same representatives have their finger on the pulse of their electorates and are often the conduits for successful community strategies. An example would be the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and its 20 congressional members.
Community Relations: If companies profit from these communities, it is a good practice to properly support these same communities. Whether recognizing locally elected officials and national and local coalition leaders or participating in local outreach activities, a successful inclusion program will result in the company being seen as a member of that community. Some companies prioritize this at the expense of all other activities.
Vendor and Supplier Enterprises: Full partnership includes allowing these communities to partake in the growth of the enterprise. A perfect example of this is their inclusion in the company’s supplier base. Not only does supplier utilization ensure that the community grows as the company grows, but members of this same community are more likely to be loyal consumers if they know they are mutually invested.
Product Design, Development, Sales and Distribution: Finally, complete the education by ensuring that the products that are created and distributed reflect the wants and tastes of these markets. Indigenous leadership understands the cultural significance of the marketplace and can design, promote and distribute to those wants and tastes. Fulfilling those needs drives better bottom-line performance.
In summation, absent acculturated training, many organizations are truly under-delivering and will be hitting singles instead of home runs. Human resources and its chief learning officer should grab the bat and:
- Educate management about the marketplace and assign diverse leadership to guide the process, thus ensuring cultural competence.
- Help management understand that until the recipients of community relations become the targets of consumer relations, no organization will be all that it can be.
- Ensure the assignment of the same values to these emerging markets as to the company’s most cherished customers.
Given the priority of the business case, CLOs should lead the charge to dissect it, analyze it, understand it and then transform it so, throughout the organization, the uncomfortable becomes comfortable, exclusions become inclusions, and what was perceived as an obstacle will now be seen as an opportunity.
Bill Wilkinson is founding partner of Los Angeles-based M3 Alliance Consulting (www.m3alliance.com). Bill has more than 30 years of experience in human resources management, diversity management, workforce training, MWBE negotiations and operations, product inclusion and community relations. He previously held the position of executive assistant to the chairman for Capital Cities/ABC Inc. and was senior vice president of human resources (over its 120,000 employees) when it merged with the Walt Disney Company in 1996.