A Time to Act – Creating an Inclusive Workplace For our Hispanic Friends and Colleagues

Updated: Sep 7

This month marks Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, as well as National Inclusion Week globally. National Inclusion Week is a week dedicated to celebrating inclusive in all its forms; the theme for this year is “time to act, the power of now.” And Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans.


Two years ago, I wrote my blog focusing on the impact of the pandemic on the Hispanic population. I shared the impact of Covid on the mental health, emotional well- being and health outcomes for the Hispanic community, further amplifying health care disparities.


Today the world is a different place from two years ago and we are still learning to live with the sorrow, the isolation and the tumultuous change as a result of the pandemic.


And yet, COVID-19 has taught us a lot. As a result of the global crisis, we have re-evaluated our values, our social networks, our relationships with people and our careers and come up with our equations of what is working—and what isn’t. The looming questions remains: has this re-examination of our society translated into any real progress for underrepresented communities? And what more can we do to leverage the power of now to create sustainable change and foster more equitable and inclusive workplaces and communities for our Hispanic friends and colleagues.


Today in the U.S, Latinos make up about 17% of the workforce. Hispanic representation in the workforce makes for disheartening reading. Only 4.3% of executive positions in the U.S. are Hispanic - making the gap between the labor force and executive representation wider for Hispanics than for any other group. (1) The statistics of Hispanics on boards is also bleak: Hispanics represent barely 2% of directors on boards of Fortune 1000 companies. (2)


Yes, there are some positives to be drawn from the Hispanic experience in the U.S over the past decade: the Hispanic high school dropout rate has dropped while college enrolment has increased, with about 41% of U.S. Hispanic adults ages 25 and older having some college experience in 2018 (3). An increasingly educated Latino population bodes well for a community that is projected to make up 22.4% of the U.S labor force by 2030 and more than 30% by 2060. (4)


Despite these encouraging signs of progress, not only is representation lacking in senior leadership but so are equity and inclusion for our Hispanic employees. On average, Hispanics are paid 73 cents for every dollar that is paid to non-Latino White workers. If we were able to close this wage disparity, we would be talking about an additional $288 billion earned by Hispanic workers. This could help move more than a million Hispanic families into middle-class standing. (5)


A 2016 study by the former Centre for Talent for Innovation found that most Hispanics in the U.S. do not feel that they can bring their whole selves to the office. The research revealed that the vast majority of Hispanics- 76% suppress who they are at work. (6)


So what can organizations do to increase the representation of Hispanics in senior leadership positions and foster a culture of inclusion where our Hispanic colleagues feel they belong and can excel as a result of it?


Moving from Performative Action to Sustainable Progress – moving beyond the creation of ERG’s


To foster a culture of inclusion that results in a sense of belonging for our Hispanic colleagues, it is not enough to simply launch a Hispanic Employee Resource Group (ERG) and hope that this will transform their experience within the organization. ERGs have to be nurtured and positioned to have a positive impact for the organization.


Let me share an example of the positive impact an ERG can have if well positioned and supported. Ken Barrett, Global Chief Diver­sity Office at General Motors (GM) told me that in the U.S, they assign ambassadors from their Latino/a ERG to answer questions from primarily Latino/a candidates who have received employment offers. The ambassador engages with the candidate once the offer is extended and welcomes them into the GM community. As a result, GMs recruitment of Latina/o hires increased threefold.


For enduring change, DEI has to inform all systems and processes – both internally and externally. At Sodexo, we partnered externally with Mexican American Legal Defence and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a leading Hispanic civil rights orga­nization. As part of the partnership, Sodexo would organize community cooking demonstrations with Sodexo chefs at local university clients. Latina mothers and their children would attend these demonstrations and be riveted by the explanations of portion size and calorie content and enjoyed the food tastings. After the food tastings, the mothers moved on to an interview with the Sodexo and univer­sity recruiters while their children got a tour of the university where the session was being hosted. This external engagement built a bridge between the social impact and the business in a practical way. While Sodexo was enriching the quality of life in the Hispanic community, they were also accessing potential hires. And they were elevating the brand of their university client who used it as an opportunity to expose potential students and hires to their institution. A win-win all around!


It is a myth that if you just hire enough underrepresented talent, over time they will percolate to the top of the organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes intentionality and constant focus. To increase the representation AND inclusion for Hispanic employees, DEI interventions must be embedded at all points in the talent life cycle- recruiting, onboarding, engaging, developing, advancing, promoting and retaining.


Here are just a few examples for recruiting, developing and advancing Hispanic talent:

Recruiting

  • Go beyond traditional schools to Hispanic Serv­ing Institutions (HSIs).

  • Build relationships with these schools proactively through presence on campuses.

  • Mentor young Hispanic students before they reach university and expose them to careers in your organization.

  • Offer them internships and scholarships to expose them to your organization.

  • Leverage Hispanic alumni networks to do outreach.

  • Leverage Hispanic ERGs for referrals and to help with pres­ence at in-person recruiting events.

  • Partner with non-profit and community-based organizations such as The National Council of La Raza, HACR, LULAC, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

  • Involve recruiters and ERGs in community-based activities to build trust in your organization’s brand.

  • Keep in “soft” touch with the high-quality declined Hispanic candidates.

Developing

  • Provide opportunities for development including high-profile assignments, mentoring, sponsorship, and leadership development to your high potential Hispanic talent.

  • Provide exposure to senior leadership.

  • Intentionally manage and support their career paths.

  • Encourage your Hispanic talent and especially your Latina talent to take on profit and loss roles as a pathway to senior leadership.

Engaging

  • Calibrate performance reviews and analyze data for Hispanic talent to check for bias.

  • Intentionally identify Hispanic high-potential talent as successors in talent reviews and provide them with development plans.

For more details and examples of how you can integrate DEI into your talent lifecycle get your copy of my book here.


We Must Be Ambitious The Power of Now!


Organizations demonstrated incredible resilience and urgency as they pivoted their operational models in response to the pandemic. From health­care organizations setting up the technology and infrastructure for telehealth overnight; to an American multinational con­sumer electronics retailer that had spent months testing curb side pick-up in a handful of stores rolling it out to all their stores in just two days - these examples demonstrate the ingenuity of organizations to achieve what we thought previously was unimaginable. We now know that the impossible IS possible.


How can we galvanise a similar sense of urgency in response to the inequities we see for our Hispanic communities? What will it take to dramatically change mind­sets and behavior’s that result in sustainable actions to foster inclusion and equity for the Hispanic community?


Transformation happens at the intersection of people and processes and it’s work that is ongoing.


At the individual level, we need to be open to learning, to be courageous and have the commitment to step up to be allies to our Hispanic colleagues.


At an organizational level, leaders need to examine how their institutional cultures and processes have reinforced systems that disadvantage some and favor others.


The theme for National Inclusion Week provides us with an opportunity to make the change we want to see in the world today. It’s time to act - how can you leverage the power of now to make bold moves and support your organizations to take sustainable actions to address inequities in the workplace as well as in the community?


We need a sense of urgency to go from situational action to sustainable progress in addressing social justice in our communities and diversity, equity, and inclusion in our organizations. I encourage each of you to use your own individual power to be the change that you want to see in the world.


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