Today’s workplace environment is vastly different than it was ten years ago. Management practices that worked in the past and that suited some cultures do not necessarily work with the changing cultural workplace climate of today. According to the American Immigration Law Foundation, Hispanics represent more than one-fifth of the entire workforce in the landscape industry and 13% of the entire U.S. workforce. So what does this mean to you and your business? Understanding the cultural differences of your workforce can build better workplace relationships and impact productivity which can in turn positively impact your business. By taking the time to learn about different cultures it gives us the opportunity to broaden our perspective and make connections between ourselves and others that can allow us to be stronger leaders.
Being of Hispanic descent myself and having immigrated to the U.S. to build a better life for my family I am able to more accurately detail the aspects of my own culture, therefore this article is focused mainly on Hispanic cultural nuances. That is not to say however that the same regard and practices cannot be applied to many different cultures and produce positive results. It is worth noting that the observations made are generalizations, not all people within a specific culture are the same and there are similarities and differences within every culture.
As with most people, work ethic, family values, respect and resourcefulness are dominant characteristics of Hispanic immigrant workers. It is the culturally driven nuances behind these characteristics that can make them stand apart from other workers of different descent.
America was established as the land of opportunity. Our differences are what make this country great. Acknowledging and understanding these differences is a respectful practice that can be used to yield positive results in the workplace. Hispanic immigrants who come to the United States are pursuing the American Dream, doing so to build a better life for their family. Family values are a top priority. They are filled with optimism about the opportunities available and the ability to build a better life. Building a better life begins with securing employment. The work ethic of Hispanic immigrants is driven by the importance that they place on the opportunity to build a better life. The working conditions and wages in the U.S. are considerably superior to some countries and they want to excel at their job in order to remain in a position to stay in the U.S. and provide for their families. Hispanic immigrants tend to value stability and long-term gains over short-term gains. This means staying in a position and working their way up rather than going from job to job searching for higher wages. Understanding this work ethic and the reasons behind it is a big step in strengthening workplace relationships. Find ways to allow your employees to feel a sense of pride and ownership in their jobs and the tasks they are undertaking, this will establish a relationship between your employees and company.
Jorge Croda (in the white shirt) and his crew at Southern Oaks.
Respect is an important aspect of the Hispanic culture. Hispanic immigrants have an engrained respect for authority; it is natural to respect those in positions of authority whether they are supervisors, teachers, law enforcement, or other individuals. If you gain their trust you will have an employee who is loyal to their employer and will go above and beyond to get their job done. However, at the same time respect in return is expected. The inability to gain the respect and trust of your employee can result in them appearing to be, but not actually being as productive as possible. If you are respectful towards your employees it will allow them to trust you and build relationships that will build a stronger workplace. I have monthly carne asada lunches for my crew as a way to show appreciation for their hard work and dedication to our golf course and to foster camaraderie. Knowing that people from different places and cultures have different food preferences the choice to serve carne asada was made by talking to my crew about where they are from and what they prefer to eat. When your employees know that you acknowledge and respect the cultural differences that are present in the workplace they will gain respect for you as a leader and this will strengthen the sense of teamwork.
Resourcefulness is a key characteristic to the Hispanic culture. Many Hispanic immigrant workers come from countries that do not have a variety of resources available to them. They are able to complete tasks with a resourcefulness that stems from the necessity of getting the job done regardless of what resources are or are not available to them. Connecting back to their emphasis on family values and respect, they value teamwork and will all work to pick up the slack when needed and ensure that the task gets done. An important aspect of teamwork is having a cohesive vision. Focus on being a leader and not a boss, leading by example is always important. I make sure that my employees know the vision and values of our golf course. Where we want to go and why we are doing the things we do. This allows us to be a team that has one specific goal in mind, achieving the vision through our teamwork and effort. I also encourage my crew to use the creativity that comes from their resourcefulness when completing tasks. If they can draw from this aspect of their culture and find a more efficient way to do something, this should be encouraged.
Again, these observations are generalizations and can be applied to almost any individual. The question is, “What can you do to acknowledge these cultural differences and begin seeing positive gains in your business?” Three words will begin this process; leadership, camaraderie and vision.
This letter on the importance of understanding the culture of Hispanic workers was submitted by 2014 Superintendent of the Year finalist Jorge Croda. Jorge is a Mexican national living and working in Burleson, Texas, where he is superintendent of Southern Oaks Golf Club.