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Study on Hispanic Professionals Reveals Low Productivity and Engagement in the Workplace

08/06/2015 12:53PM

By Glenn Llopis

At a time when Hispanics are projected to represent 74% of labor force growth by 2020 according to Selig Center for Economic Growth – especially as Americans get older and retire – a new study by Center for Hispanic Leadership (CHL) Academy reveals some potentially devastating news for the future of U.S. business and the American economy.  According to the five year study targeting U.S. Hispanics, the country’s fastest growing workforce and consumer group, Hispanic professionals in the first 10 years of their careers are only performing at 40% of their full potential in the workplace.

The reasons for the widespread inability to contribute higher levels of performance have to do with the realities that Hispanics face each day when they enter the workplace, fueled by 75% of non-Hispanic supervisors who are unaware that Hispanic cultural values and their childhood upbringing influence the natural ways Latinos think, act and perform.  Corporations must learn to solve for the low levels of workplace productivity and engagement that they unknowingly perpetuate when, as 81% of Hispanics believe, their unique perspectives are not valued enough.

The CHL Academy study reveals an overall lack of cultural intelligence at companies that is unknowingly perpetuating workplace engagement tension, employee misrepresentations, and stereotypes – which is resulting in lower workplace productivity and engagement amongst Hispanic employees.  The study concludes that these factors significantly contribute to the low number of Hispanics and diverse employees represented in senior executive roles.  This further contributes to the revenue opportunity gap of a staggering $10+ billion across the top three market leaders in all major U.S. industries, whose businesses depend on Hispanic consumers for future growth and to remain competitive.

A special report by The Economist validated just how much dependency the immediate and long-term future of America is directly linked to the Hispanic population – which will represent 30% of the United States by 2050 – and the responsibility that America’s politicians and business leaders have in recognizing the significance of U.S. Hispanics to economic growth and global competitiveness.

The new findings of the Academy study – which included independent research, assessments and focus groups – reveal a host of reasons keeping Hispanic professionals from advancing into senior leadership roles and from delivering their full potential at work, including the fact that while 89% of Hispanics perform best in a culture where they feel valued and can work with an entrepreneurial spirit and sense of purpose that strengthens the overall contributions, only 20% of the workplace and corporate values that matter most to Hispanics are represented in Fortune 500 companies. In fact, 92% of Hispanics do not gravitate towards their non-Hispanic supervisors because they find them self-absorbed, judgmental and disrespectful of diverse employees. These types of managers tend to lack the cultural sensitivity that can increase workplace engagement with their Hispanic and multi-ethnic employees – which helps to explain why only 30% of Hispanic professionals are actively engaged at work.

Another reason for this lack of engagement is the fact that most (96%) Hispanic professionals in the earlier stages of their careers are battling the gulf between assimilation and authenticity at work. This battle is at the heart of low productivity and engagement scores that U.S. leadership have been fueling in their continued failed attempts to prepare for the cultural demographic shift™ – a shift that is telling us it is becoming less about the business defining the individual and more about the individual defining the business.

A growing majority of those individuals representing the shift are Hispanic, and they will represent $1.9 trillion in purchasing power by 2019, according to Selig Center for Economic Growth. The lack of productivity and engagement that Hispanics are faced with in the workplace slows down the real upside purchasing power potential, as represented by the aforementioned $10 billion opportunity gap.   Additionally, it not only reflects in the lack of Hispanics that reach senior executives roles – but also further propels the inauthentic go-to-market strategies being launched by many brands who must authentically serve Hispanics and their rapidly growing consumer purchasing power.

Talent and marketplace development represent two-sides of the same coin, and to close the gap companies must address both sides of the coin equally and with the same level of commitment. This gap is surprising when you consider that there are industry leaders – e.g., in the automotive industry – whose growth is 100% dependent on the cultural demographic shift.  It is becoming clear that Wall Street analysts must take a more active role to awaken this conversation.

Where do we start?  92% of Hispanics agree their heritage/cultural values influence the natural ways they think, act and engage with others. Yet only 54% of Hispanics attribute their heritage and cultural values to the enablement of their career success and their ability to contribute to the success of the organization.    As such, it’s time to empower Hispanics through the lens of their cultural values in order to discover their full potential. This will require a shift in thinking from the organization as provider to that of the organization as enabler. 

Additionally, this will require organizations to support professional development and consumer engagement programs that no longer rely on a one-size-fits-all approach. This traditional approach makes it difficult for Hispanics to authentically relate to others and fit into a workplace culture that does not support their values.   It’s time to think of the workplace as less of a melting pot – and more of a mosaic.

It will also require non-Hispanic supervisors and executives to better understand cultural nuances and the role that heritage plays in shaping the most natural ways that Hispanics are motivated to perform.  Until they do, there will continue to be critical workforce development opportunity gaps amongst not only Hispanics, but other minority groups. This is what makes it difficult for organizations to define the right strategy in order to best serve and most authentically engage with the cultural demographic shift, which has a direct impact on new business models and operational best practices.

Though the results of the CHL Academy are disturbing for the future of American enterprise, it’s not too late for U.S. leadership to start preparing for the cultural demographic shift. By embracing diversity of thought and modifying the templates for leadership success and high-performance in the workplace, we will not only improve talent acquisition and workforce development, but ensure a talent pipeline for the future and an actively engaged Hispanic workforce of new and potential leaders. 

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The cultural demographic shift™ in the United States is about the workplace and marketplace telling us that it is becoming less about the business defining the individual and more about the individual defining the business. This is exactly why Hispanics – both entering the workplace in search of the right employer who will allow them to be their authentic selves as well as those professionals who have been battling the gulf between assimilation and authenticity – are now ready to advance as 21st century leaders by activating their immigrant perspective; that is, the influence their cultural values have on the natural ways they think, act and are motivated to perform at work.