Hola Amigos!

Finding enough good workers has always been a problem. Today, though, employers have reached a tipping point. Anyone needing more help is faced with a labor pool that’s almost exhausted.

“Many employers now find they can’t hire a sufficient number of capable people or they can’t get anyone at all,” reports Tom Maloney, a human resources educator specializing in the Hispanic workforce at Cornell University’s Department of Applied Economics and Management. The only solution for many, according to Maloney, is to look for workers from Mexico, as well as El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries. Interest in Hispanic workers has only grown as they’ve proven themselves capable and enthusiastic.

“Hispanic workers have a positive attitude and a strong work ethic,” says Maloney. “Because their whole idea in coming to the United States is to get a job to support their families, they are highly motivated to perform well.”

There’s another reason for the new interest in Hispanics in the workforce: Employers need to better serve a changing consumer. With some 40 million residents accounting for 14 percent of the population, Latinos now comprise the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States, according to the Washington, D.C.,-based Pew Hispanic Center. That’s a lot of shoppers.

“The nation is seeing a tremendous increase in the number of Hispanic consumers,” says Myelita Melton, president of Speakeasy Communications, a Mooresville, N.C.,-based training organization specializing in occupational Spanish programs. “Hispanics have $700 billion of disposal income, and that figure is expected to grow to $900 billion by 2007.” Further, because Latinos have birth rates twice as high as the average American they are expected to become an even larger consumer force.

Bottom line: Latinos, who now make up some 13 percent of the nation’s workforce, are expected to account for half the growth of the U.S. labor force between now and 2020, according to estimates from Pew.

Communication Challenges

No progress, though, comes without cost. In many cases organizations hiring more Hispanics are confronted with a new round of communications problems. “Taking steps to overcome the language barrier shows respect and helps your business function better,” advises Maloney. “A growing number of managers are learning some rudimentary Spanish, such as phrases useful in a work setting. Employers may need to hire Spanish interpreters to foster understanding during complex discussions.”

Communication, of course, is a two-way affair: Hispanic workers need to increase their mastery of English.

“Only 53 percent of Hispanics say they speak English well,” says Melton. “We need to concentrate on the others. They need our patience and encouragement to help create a safer and more dynamic workplace.” In many cases, says Melton, employers will invest in programs teaching VESL, or “Vocational English as a Second Language.” On-the-job language instruction need not be formal or time consuming.

“You don’t have to be a qualified instructor to teach something,” says Donna Poisl, a Gastonia, N.C.,-based author of guidebooks for immigrants. “You can start on an informal basis, during lunch breaks for example.” Poisl suggests that each day employees knowledgeable in English teach a few words to their Hispanic colleagues. Those knowledgeable in Spanish can reciprocate.

“A cooperative effort such as this is a great way to learn language,” she enthuses. “There’s so much you can do if you try.” Whatever your approach, patience is a virtue and necessity.

“I don’t think many people realize how difficult English is to learn as a second language,” says Melton. 

Speak Slowly

If it takes some time for many Hispanics to become comfortable with English, what can you do in the short term to assure your instructions are understood? Use short sentences, speak slowly and enunciate properly. All those things help the Hispanic individual keep up with your conversation.

“Put yourself in the other person’s position,” advises Poisl. “Then consider this: How would you like to be treated if you were not that knowledgeable about a language?” As you speak, stay alert for responses that indicate understanding or puzzlement. Don’t become irritated if you have to restate a sentence in different words.

Given this language barrier, it’s important to reinforce verbal instructions with visual cues. “To effectively train and develop Hispanic employees, demonstrate what you want them to do,” advises Carlos Conejo, president of Multicultural Associates, a Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based consulting organization specializing in the Hispanic workforce. “Then have the employees practice in front of you.”

That last part is important, Conejo stresses. “You want employees to make mistakes in front of you because you can turn the situation into a coaching session,” he says. That can anticipate performance and safety problems down the road. Following practice time, advises Conejo, allow the employees to give feedback.

“Hispanics are not accustomed to being asked opinions,” Conejo says. “Asking for input will create a dialog that increases trust.” 

Communicate Safety

The language barrier becomes particularly dangerous when it increases the risk of injury.

“Employers need to communicate good safety practices to employees who may not be proficient in English,” warns attorney Sara Goldsmith Schwartz, president of Schwartz Hannum, Andover, Mass., a law firm that defends business clients and non-profit organizations in employment-related litigation. Failure to provide adequate instruction can lead to fatalities and costly litigation for negligence if someone gets hurt on the job. Provide safety manuals in the employees’ native languages, advises Schwartz. “Hire an expert to assure the accurate translation of your safety manual.”

Not all employers have been successful in this risky area. “The injury rate is very high for Hispanic employees, and we suspect it has to do with the language barrier,” reports Conejo, who recommends employers assure workers can read and understand safety words encountered in signs such as “Danger, High Voltage” or “Keep Hands Away.”

“As an employer, you will be respected from square one because Hispanic workers come from a hierarchical society where authority is not questioned,” says Maloney. “Part of their cultural value system is to be very dedicated to pleasing the boss.” Respect for authority, though, is a two-edged sword. On the positive side, it means workers are eager to perform as directed. On the negative, they may fail to communicate critical information which they fear will upset the boss. “Many times workers will hesitate to be entirely forthcoming when they perceive doing so may result in their supervisor hearing something he or she doesn’t want to hear,” explains Maloney.

This communications failure results from experience in a Hispanic culture where workers are often terminated for events beyond their control. Fearing for their jobs, workers may continue to use a faulty tool, for example, rather than admit something broke on their watch. And they may fail to report injuries, since in their native lands — which often lack disability and health insurance — employees are often terminated and replaced following accidents.

Finally, Hispanic employees may try to please the boss by affirming non-existent knowledge of certain work procedures. That often results in performance issues. 

Appreciate The Culture

All these problems can be reduced if the manager takes pains to encourage two-way dialog. How?

“You can start by understanding that family is incredibly important to Hispanic workers,” suggests Maloney. “Indeed, a main reason why they come to the United States is to send money home to their families.”

Establish workplace policies and resources, then, that recognize and assist a family mentality. Provide easy and affordable access to long-distance phone calls home. Give phone cards as incentives and gifts and express personal interest by asking about the well-being of their relatives. Arrange for easy and affordable transmission of money home. These steps show you understand and support the Hispanic love for family. They go a long way toward building loyalty and assuring a smoothly functioning workforce. To return to our topic of safety, it’s worth adding that many Hispanic workers will often take unnecessary risks to get their tasks done quickly.

To avoid this, advises Melton, tie in the need for safe work practices with the individual’s love for family. He advises saying something like this: “Don’t do it this way, because it is not safe. Think about your family. We want to send you home in the same condition you came here.”

It’s possible for employers to reduce conflicts and improve performance as more Hispanic employees join the workforce. The secret lies in improving communication skills, placing more emphasis on safety and respecting different values. 

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

November 26, 2015

2015 Metrolina Greenhouses (Huntersville, NC) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results for Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC.

Read More
Yoshimi And Grace Shibata

November 26, 2015

American Floral Endowment Establishes Fund To Honor Legacy Of Yoshimi Shibata

Yoshimi “Shimi” Shibata, a flower grower and wholesale florist, passed away in October at the age of 100.

Read More
Vinca 'Valiant Lilac' (2015 Texas A&M University Field Trials)

November 25, 2015

2015 Texas A&M University (Overton, Texas) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, Texas.

Read More
Latest Stories

November 25, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About the New England GROWS…

Held In Boston December 2-4, New England GROWS includes a comprehensive conference program, a trade show, and with six special programs that teach new skills and provide opportunities to network with colleagues.

Read More

November 20, 2015

Lessons Learned From The California Drought

For those of us who live in the areas of the country that experienced harsh winters and significant rain over the past three seasons, water has become a nuisance in some cases, rather than a blessing. I can’t count the number of times I have wished to be able to send the snow or the rain to the West Coast, tied up with a big red bow. But think about how we’d feel if we didn’t have the snow and the rain, and we were experiencing the same dry conditions that the residents of California, Oregon and Washington have. With fresh water supplies dwindling in regions of the world, and the resistance of residents in states like Michigan to share water from the Great Lakes, it’s likely that the next civil or world war could be fought over our most precious resource. California’s epic drought should cause everyone to look […]

Read More
Jill Calabro

November 3, 2015

AmericanHort Names New Research And Science Programs Di…

Jill Calabro will bring strategic direction and oversight to research funding by the Horticultural Research Institute, the research affiliate of AmericanHort.

Read More
SBI’s ANY Device Application allows growers to quickly determine availability-featuer

November 2, 2015

SBI Software’s Solutions Help Simplify Logistics For G…

The company focuses on helping growers improve their existing processes with solutions for site fulfillment, replenishment, inventory management and more.

Read More
Griffin Expo15 seminar

October 28, 2015

Griffin’s Hits Record Attendance With 2015 Expos,…

Griffin Greenhouse Supplies set new attendance records with its 2015 Expos. Its 2016 Expos are set for August 31 and September 1, 2016, in West Springfield, Mass., and September 21-22, 2016, in Lancaster, Penn.

Read More

October 28, 2015

Possum Run Greenhouses Taken Over By New Owners

Justin and Lynn Marotta have placed Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts into the hands of new owners. John and Caroline Bletner, a newly married couple, took over the Bellville, Ohio, property October 2, according to an October 24 article in the Mansfield News Journal. The Marotta family has run Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts for 41 years. When the Marottas announced in April the greenhouse operation was for sale, they said they were looking for an energetic couple to take the business to the next level, which is what they found in the Bletners, the article reports. The Bletners have hinted they’ll be “opening to a larger market” and that the retail side will “look different.” They’ll hold a grand re-opening the week of April 22, 2016. Staff are staying on board and the Bletners are maintaining many of the suppliers. The 200-plus varieties of fuchsias Justin brought to the greenhouse […]

Read More

October 25, 2015

We Could Be Growing More Green Infrastructure Plants Th…

At her Cultivate’15 presentation in July, Shannon Currey of Hoffman Nursery challenged the horticulture industry to get involved while green infrastructure is still developing, saying that a good start is to offer more plants that fit the unique needs of this market.

Read More
Integration Key To Compliance For Specialized Crops

October 22, 2015

Integration Key To Regulation Compliance For Specializ…

Growers considering supplementing ornamental crops with cannabis will enter into a new world of governmental regulations where key business systems will be indispensable for successful crop management.

Read More
Kate Santos Operations Director Dummen Orange

October 21, 2015

Kate Santos Explains What The Sale Of Dümmen Orange To …

Over the weekend, Dümmen Orange announced that the Dümmen family has sold its majority stake in the Dutch flower breeding company Dümmen Orange to European private equity firm BC Partners. The deal is valued at more than $560 million, around 11 times its core earnings, according to a Reuters press release. The company, owned by the Dümmen family and investment firm H2 Equity partners, has locations all over the world, including farms in Central America and East Africa. This is BC Partners’ first foray into the flower business. We caught up with Kate Santos, operations director for Dümmen Orange, to find out how the company’s sale to BC Partners affects Dümmen Orange customers, if at all. Here’s what she told us: Why did the Dümmen family decide to sell their shares? Why to a private equity investment company? Similar to the reason that H2 sold its shares to BC Partners, all […]

Read More
The tradeshow at the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo — outside of the occasional 1960s vibe, perhaps — would feel familiar to most growers

October 19, 2015

Have Cannabis Growing Expertise, Seek ‘Golden Ticket’

Many horticultural growers might start cultivating cannabis tomorrow if they could secure a license, the equivalent of a “golden ticket.” But these are hard to come by, and the number and criteria vary greatly by state

Read More
Lurie Garden Millennium Park

October 16, 2015

Green Infrastructure An Opportunity To Redefine How We …

Green infrastructure is an emerging market that has important ramifications for the horticulture industry. That is, if growers, designers and other industry players take a proactive approach to grasp the opportunities that come their way.

Read More

October 5, 2015

Smart Business Sense At Tidal Creek Growers Yields Succ…

Tidal Creek Growers stays competitive by focusing on what really turns a profit. It helps the large operation successfully balance contract growing with growing for retail garden centers.

Read More

October 4, 2015

ePlantSource Adds 5 New Partner Companies

ePlantSource has announced an additional five companies that have been added to its partner distribution list. Not only do the additional partners offer more supplier options to ePlantSource customers, but the website now also provides a more diverse product list with the addition of bulbs, clematis and many new varieties. New partners added for the 2015 – 2016 season: A.D.R. Bulbs Lennon Farm Greenhouses Micandy Gardens Pacific Growers Roseville Farms “We make it a priority to respond to our customers, and we have had many requests for additional options and a more diverse product line, so we are continually evaluating suppliers that work well with our non-traditional approach to the sale of live goods,” says Gary Falkenstein, President and CEO of ePlantSource. “We feel that it is good for our company, our customers and the industry as a whole to keep looking forward and seeing how we can improve and expand how […]

Read More
Cannabis marijuana

September 8, 2015

Supplemental Lighting Benefits For Growing Cannabis In …

The cannabis industry has moved out of the basement and into the light, and with this shift in politics and regulation occurring worldwide there is a need for growers to change the way they think about lighting and energy consumption.

Read More

September 2, 2015

Delegation Is Key To A Successful Greenhouse Operation

In a packed room at Cultivate’15, speaker Bernie Erven presented key steps growers need to take to improve their delegation skills, the benefits of delegating and the dangers of not learning how to delegate. This is a skill, he says, that everyone needs to learn. “For all of you who are part of a family business, you are choosing not to do things the easy way,” Erven laughed, as he presented a list of ways to know whether or not you’re an effective delegator. The owner of Erven HR Services, LLC, Erven has been working with and observing family businesses for many years. In his presentation, he said, he didn’t share anything that he hasn’t seen first-hand. You might not be a good delegator if you: Tend to be a perfectionist Work more hours than anyone else Lack time to explain clearly and concisely Are often interrupted Enjoy what you used to […]

Read More
AmericanHort logo

August 20, 2015

David Savoia To Serve As AmericanHort’s Interim P…

Following Michael Geary’s announcement that he has resigned as president and CEO of AmericanHort, the association has announced that CFO and Senior Vice President for Operations David Savoia will serve as interim president and CEO while the board conducts a search for a new staff executive. Craig Regelbrugge, the senior vice president for advocacy and research, will support Savoia with the association’s external affairs. Geary announced August 12  that he will be leaving his position after September 30 to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” Geary said in an eMail. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me […]

Read More

August 18, 2015

Michael Geary Is Leaving AmericanHort

AmericanHort president and CEO Michael Geary announced last Wednesday that he will be leaving his position at the end of September to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. “I am writing to share with you that on October 8 I will begin a new professional chapter as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries,” Geary said in an email. His last day with AmericanHort will be Sept. 30, 2015. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” he said. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me to be closer to my family and aging parents and to re-engage with another industry […]

Read More

August 15, 2015

Ball Horticultural Co. Buys Conard-Pyle/Star Roses And …

Ball Horticultural Co. plans to add Conard-Pyle/Star Roses and Plants to its family of breeding and distribution companies, according to a press release dated August 14, which announced the company’s recent acquisition of the famous introducer of Knock Out Roses and other perennials and woody plants to the market. Ball plans to capitalize on the expertise of its Ball Ornamentals woody ornamentals division, as well as Conard-Pyle’s market-leading position as a top rose breeder to strengthen its product line. The sale is scheduled to close by the end of September 2015. Conard-Pyle’s in-house breeding division NovaFlora, along with its intellectual properties and the distribution, production and administration facilities of its wholesale division are also part of the acquisition. NovaFlora is the driving force behind the Star Roses and Plants brand. “Conard-Pyle has been the leader in roses in its market and has been actively diversifying its offering with other woody […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]