By 2060, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Latinos will represent almost one-third of the population; that’s 119 million people. This poses a huge challenge, as well as an opportunity, for the landscape industry, which comprises over 35 percent Hispanic laborers.
The strong work ethic and skill set of the Hispanic workforce can help to ensure a sustainable growth for the industry for years to come, but more often than not, landscape companies lack the tools needed to successfully promote their Hispanic employees to supervisors and managers.
Generally speaking, upper management is largely Anglo-Saxon and the labor force is Latino, predominantly Spanish-speaking. Upon arrival, many immigrants claim they understand the English language, however, in reality, many don’t. They have a great sense of pride and are willing and looking to be helpful, but their lack of language skills can cause a disconnect and can lead to unintentional errors due to miscommunication between employer and employee.
The key to resolving this long-standing concern lies in a two-way effort to bridge linguistic and cultural barriers, both from the workforce and the managerial team.
Spanish-language materials. New hire training sessions should be offered in Spanish, adding visual aids and demonstrations to enhance learning and provide alternative components for employees to better gauge instructions and materials. Do not Google Translate your materials. The Hispanic community is heterogeneous in that it is comprised of many different nationalities and backgrounds that are diverse when it comes to traditions and linguistics.
Even vocabulary and accents differ depending on regional backgrounds. Invest in a translator who can accurately interpret the language so that it reflects its original meaning and resonates with culturally diverse Spanish-speakers. It’s also important to work with local banks that have bilingual staff.
Creating a sense of team. We can all agree that pay isn’t everything. Respect in the workplace is valued by all, especially by the Latino culture. Hispanic laborers are committed and hardworking, but more importantly, they are loyal. Creating company culture that is fair, promotes unity and encourages a sense of family will make the workforce feel like a fundamental part of the company.
Treat your workers as equals and learn about their families and culture. Holding bi-annual company family picnics is one way that you can create a stronger-knit team and instill a sense of camaraderie.
Providing a bonus for those who complete an English as a Second Language (ESL) program or a special certification gives them the motivation to make the time and effort and move forward.
Promote Hispanic workers. Keep your eye on those Hispanic workers that have made great strides and have shown leadership skills and promote them to managerial roles. By recognizing these committed employees and the results that they have driven, the company boosts workforce morale by encouraging upward mobility among their employees and sets an example of how hard work and learning results in growth. Highlighting the opportunities that are available for development, management can fuel motivation to ensure better efficiency and quality of work.
English as a second language. One way we can promote learning is by offering resources and incentives for our workforce to continue their professional development. Employees were trained to accomplish tasks in certain ways and are hungry to learn more. Providing a bonus for those who complete an English as a Second Language (ESL) program or a special certification gives them the motivation to make the time and effort and move forward.
A little goes a long way. Sometimes when we are caught up in the day-to-day, we don’t realize that stepping out of our comfort zone and taking up a new challenge can provide added benefits for our businesses. Learning some basic Spanish vocabulary can make all the difference when communicating with a Hispanic workforce.
Taking Spanish lessons will not only help management to speak with their laborers, but it will also show employees that they are an integral part of the company and that management sees the value in strong communication.
Constant communication. The simplest and most important take-away from all this information is that management needs to be in constant communication with its workforce. Don’t just talk to your workers when you need something done. Learn about them. Relate to them. Ask them if they have questions or need further clarification. If you want to better connect with your employees, remember two things: eye contact and the magic word – “gracias.” L&L
The author is chief operating officer of Denison Landscaping and the president of the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance.
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