At work or on the street, the racial spectrum of America is changing rapidly. If you follow the latest headlines, there seems to be a valid explanation. According to the US Census Bureau, by 2050 one out of every four Americans will be of Hispanic decent. What’s even more impressive; however, are the projected number of individuals. Currently at 44 million and growing, the Hispanic population is expected to more than double, reaching 100 million in that same time period.
But if the Hispanic population is booming, why has it been so difficult for corporations to attract, hire, and retain Hispanic professionals?
The problem of attracting Hispanic hires is more deeply rooted than meets the eye. With over 78 million baby-boomers set to retire in the next two decades, the Census Bureau estimates that their exodus from the workforce will generate approximately 35 million job openings, and the growing crop of minority candidates, among them Hispanics, will eventually fill a large portion of them.
At present, the pipeline of available Hispanic professionals is scant at best. According to the National Society of Hispanic MBA’s Research Department (www.nshmba.org), Hispanic professionals currently represent 7% of the white-collar workforce. At such a low figure, it should be no surprise why human resources departments have been working overtime to come up with successful ways to attract and retain them.
Contrary to popular belief, the pool of available bilingual Hispanics with sufficient professional working experience continues to grow smaller, not larger. Part of the reason can be attributed to the increasing competition among corporations looking for similar Hispanic talent. In addition, the number of qualified candidates is shrinking because the majority of Hispanics are too young. According to the Pew Hispanic Center (www.pewhispanic.org), the average age of 60% of the country’s Hispanics is just 13.
The increasing quest for qualified candidates able to communicate effectively with Hispanics has created a need for innovative solutions. Currently, the most common options companies use to access Hispanic professionals include career expos and executive search firms. Career expos provide a large number of targeted candidates in a brief period of time, but may require an entourage of interviewers. If the event occurs when job openings are available, this option can present a quick-fix solution. However, for a more continuous flow of qualified candidates, some firms hire executive search services that have access to an extensive network of potential candidates and active jobseekers. Some search firms focus specifically on attracting candidates directly from a client’s competitor.
Surprisingly, these tried-and-true options haven’t rendered favorable results with Hispanic candidates –– some of the problems? First, career expos targeting Hispanic candidates are also attracting many more candidates from other ethnic groups, resulting in lower-than-expected qualified Hispanic candidates. Moreover, many executive search firms, particularly the larger ones, are too impersonal to attract qualified Hispanic candidates.
So what have some companies done to attract and retain Hispanic professionals? One Fortune 100 firm in the financial services industry decided to take a different approach. Rather than focus its resources to attract Hispanic professionals, it chose to invest in its existing pool of employees by hiring an outside firm to teach its non-Hispanic employees some of the basic cultural selling skills needed to close and maintain a transaction with Hispanic consumers. In part, it chose to ‘Hispanisize’ its non-Hispanic workforce.
Hispanisizing a non-Hispanic workforce can help position Hispanic consumers as business case managers and salespeople can readily understand and follow. It can also open new channels of communication among employees and their managers who in the past may have felt uncomfortable addressing Hispanic-related issues. The business-case approach allows various skill-sets within an organization that tweak the traditional approaches to improve Hispanic consumer appeal. To achieve a high level of acceptance within an organization, the participation among the workforce must include the direct involvement and financial commitment of senior-level managers.
Other firms turn to smaller executive search firms that specialize in hiring Hispanics. They tap their personal networks to gain access to a larger pool of potential Hispanic professional candidates.
Even after spending substantial resources to attract Hispanic hires, companies are also faced with the daunting task of retaining them. Without a comprehensive and culturally sensitive support program, Hispanic hires can easily get lost in a faceless corporate business environment. Some companies have launched mentoring programs to give new hires more meaningful access to a company’s career opportunities. According to the June 2007 Business Journal on Hispanic Research, Hispanic mentors were found to be less effective than their non-Hispanic counterparts. Some of the reasons cited ranged from a potential mismatch among Hispanic cultures to a mentor’s lack of influence at key decision-making levels, and that non-Hispanic mentors may have greater influence within an organization, but could lack the cultural-sensitivity and appreciation needed to mentor a new Hispanic hire.
To fully appreciate the increasing complexity of hiring Hispanic professionals, one can begin to see that unless a non-Hispanic mentor is fully sensitized or Hispanicized, the chances of retaining a new hire may be reduced substantially.
Image courtesy of El Mundo de Mando