By 2044, more than 50% of the nation’s population will be minorities. Serving as a major catalyst for this transformation will be Latinos, who currently represent the nation’s second-largest ethnic group after whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Although Latinos are expected to represent 20% of all U.S. workers by 2030, many employers are unfamiliar with Latino culture and how it can influence the core values this population brings to work, say the authors of the recently released Latino Worker Project report by the HR Policy Association. This demographics shift will create a workforce unlike any “in the history of this country,” says Mike Madrid, a partner with political consulting firm GrassrootsLab and co-project leader on the Latino Worker Project report. He adds that employers that are not prepared will see their recruiting and retention efforts suffer.
Reducing this risk begins with the simple step of knowing what’s important to most Latinos about work, Madrid says. According to the Latino Worker Project, which is based on extensive, small-group “listening sessions” conducted with members of Latino ERGs across various roles and industries plus research from publicly available surveys and studies, three core values define Latino cultural ideas about work: family, relationships and hard work.
Employers can begin their journey to better align with these values by asking themselves a simple question, says Priscilla Guasso, founder and CEO of networking organization Latinas Rising Up in HR.
“What’s your Latino strategy?” Guasso says. “If you respond, ‘We don’t have one,’ then let’s start there.”
According to the report, when Latinos talk about “familia” in the workplace, they are not referring to co-workers, but rather literally to brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or cousins who work at the same company, Madrid tells HRE.
Guasso adds: “I’ve seen a lot of people in our community open doors for others within their own family because we’re still building generational wealth.”
Latino culture largely holds that family is key to every decision employees make about career and work, says Shelly Aguilar Carlin, executive vice president at the HR Policy Association and executive vice president at the Center on Executive Compensation, as well as co-project leader on the Latino Worker Project report. For example, career development could lead to a promotion that would require uprooting the family to another location.
“There are a lot of implications when you talk about career development with Latinos, and the conversations can take on a very different meaning,” Carlin tells HRE.
Citing her own experience, Carlin on several occasions faced a choice between advancing her career by relocating or remaining in the same location because it was best for her family, she says.
“For Latinos and Latinas, it’s about how to make a decision in the context of whether it will help my family because my family is the priority,” Carlin says. “Familia plays a role in the decision-making and behaviors in the workplace.”
To help demonstrate that an organization’s values align with the importance of family, Madrid says, employers can ensure all candidates are aware of additional job openings, which can empower them to refer family members.
Employers should also ensure that employees have access to flexibility, which can be particularly key in attracting and retaining Latina workers, Guasso adds. She notes many Latinas left the workforce during the pandemic to care for children, parents and even grandparents. This commitment to family could continue to keep them out of the workforce unless employers can offer flexible schedules.
It’s common, Carlin says, for Latino workers to place great importance on work relationships and being liked—but that can put too much emphasis on popularity and not enough on performance.
This is complicated by the notion that Latinos are historically underrepresented at large corporations that rely on traditional performance evaluation processes, Carlin notes.
“One gentleman told us, ‘My parents were immigrants. They had nothing to prepare me for what college was going to be like, or what the workforce was going to be like,’ ” says Carlin.
Mentors can assist Latino employees in navigating the pay-for-performance concept and company culture, she says, as well as improving performance and career progression.
Sponsorship is also needed, Guasso adds.
“Sponsorship is about who’s advocating for you when you’re not in the room,” Guasso tells HRE. “They’re advocating for your development, your promotion and really out there to make sure your name is known in bright lights and to help support you and your career.”
Latino employees have a high regard for hard work but may be reluctant to highlight their contributions, Madrid says, as Latino culture emphasizes that opportunity comes to those who work hard—not necessarily to those who ask for it.
In fact, he adds, there is a perceived cultural bias against saying, ” ‘I want a promotion’ or ‘This is the career track I want to be on.’ ”
As a result, he says, Latinos could be at risk of feeling invisible to the employer and may work even harder to demonstrate their commitment in hopes of ultimately being recognized. However, that can lead to burnout, he warns.
“We just want a chance to prove through our hard work and our commitment that we all can succeed,” Carlin says. “That’s the core message of the values of this workforce.”
Guasso advises HR to ensure Latino workers have access to leadership programs to help them advocate for themselves and use their voice. These programs include The Hispanic Alliance for Career Advancement (HACE), Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) and McKinsey & Company’s Connected Leaders Academy.
In addition to these programs, Guasso points to her own organization, which assists HR Latinas in becoming stronger leaders, which in turn can advance representation, equity and employee voice in the workforce.
Guasso also notes the importance of elevating Latino talent within the HR function. “As you’re focusing on your Latino population,” she says, “don’t forget your own team in HR.”