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Common sense help manage multi-cultural workforce

 

                               

By Jim Kendall

Posted Monday, April 30, 2007

 

 

 

Jim Kendall on Small Business

 

Common sense helps manage multi-cultural workforce>

 

It s one thing to read about and discuss the effects of a global economy but something quite different to deal with, for example, a multi-cultural workforce.

 

Ask Bridgid Michaud, president of Direct Resource Inc., a Chicago market research and field management firm that does much of its work outside the U.S.

 

Market research is very deadline oriented, Michaud says.  We were having lots of frustrations with timing and maintaining schedules, especially on projects in Central and Latin America.

 

I d say, Here s the schedule.  Here s the plan.  Are we all on board?  Do you commit?   And it wasn t working.   Americans, she says, are very fixated on schedules.   The rest of the world isn t.

 

Today, Michaud asks more open-ended questions as a way of getting her workers involved.  Is this date reasonable? I ll ask.  What does our ability to meet this deadline depend on?  What can I do to get things done by this date?

 

The change in approach came in part from CultureConnect, a Chicago consulting firm that helps businesses understand other cultures.  Earlier this month, for example, partners Penny Kendall (no relation) and Claudia Jaccarino conducted a how-to-understand-the-Hispanic-workforce seminar for the Illinois International Trade Center at College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn.

 

Hispanics certainly aren t the only element of an increasingly diverse workforce, but in industries as varied as manufacturing, food service and landscaping, Hispanics have become a significant factor.

 

That means managements may have to adjust their approach.  The good news is that many of the adjustments incorporate simple common sense:

 

Make friends with your employees.  Latinos are very relationship oriented, Jaccarino says.  They enjoy the social aspect of work.  Greet people by name.  Good morning, Señor Rodriguez.   Shake hands.  Take time to talk about his family.

 

Family, Kendall adds, is the central focus for many Hispanics.  It s a focus that could work to your company s benefit.

 

Employees, for example, may want to get their cousin to work at your place, Jaccarino says.  Or a worker may have connections that will help your company if you have a facility in Laredo.

 

Actually, says Jaccarino, Hispanics can bring some cohesiveness to the workplace.  Latinos are team players.  They think We.   Americans think I.

 

Understand that many non-traditional workers are used to a structured system.  There are many layers in the workplace, Kendall says, and each layer has specific parameters.  Decisions are centralized, very bureaucratic.

 

What that means is that you may have to be patient and genuinely encourage employees to take the initiative.

 

Most Latinos want to improve their English skills.  Take advantage and offer English classes on site and during working hours, perhaps half an hour twice a week.  The classes, Kendall says, can help reduce absenteeism by being a reason for employees to come to work.

 

© 2007 121 Marketing Resources, Inc.

 

 

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1601-65 Spanish Priest
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