Latinos in America are currently facing huge challenges. Latino children have been separated from their parents at the border and anti-Latino speech has been on the rise. With these stories in the news, it is easy to forget another area where Latinos are facing an uphill battle: Corporate America. CNN recently published an eye-opening article about Google, stating the company has a hard time keeping its Latino employees. The article summarized Google’s annual diversity report, which specified that the company’s employee attrition rates were highest for black and Hispanic employees. Currently, Google’s Hispanic employees make up only 3.6% of the company’s US employees while Latinos represent 18% of the entire US population.
I wish I could state that Google losing its Latino employees is an isolated case, but the high attrition of people of color, and in particular Latinos, is not an uncommon experience among many corporations.
During the 18 years I worked at Microsoft Corp, where I led Diversity and Multicultural Marketing, I saw less than a handful of Latinos in executive positions. Today there are no Latinos in the company’s board of directors and none in its senior leadership team. Occasionally one sees a Latino VP, GM or Director. In the latest diversity report, Microsoft reported that the percentage of Hispanic/Latinx employees in leadership roles is 4.3%.
Microsoft and Google are not alone in their diversity and retention challenges. Losing talented Latino employees is a widespread problem for most companies. According to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR), the average attrition for Hispanic employees in 2016 was 20%. Simply put, Latinos are not staying in corporate America.
Behind the low numbers
What might be the culprit behind low retention numbers? In many cases Latinos working in corporate America were challenged by conscious and unconscious biases, and as a result, they don’t feel welcome or like they fit in. Many feel like outsiders or generally misunderstood. After studying the topic for several years and being Latino myself working in the corporate world, I have concluded that there are the following issues:
- Lack of role models at high levels
- Lack of sponsorship/mentorships
- Non-Latino managers of Latino professionals not understanding how to best manage Latino employees, and
- Latino professionals having their own cultural blind spots.
Having said that, I am hopeful that companies will continue to try to understand and nurture Latino employees, and that Latino professionals can also do better by enhancing awareness and performance.
What can companies do today to retain and develop Latino employees? More representation in the corporate suite and serving on boards is a longer-term problem that will take years to correct. There are great organizations such as HACR and Latino Corporate Directors Association working on that. However, most companies can act today to significantly improve both the performance and the sentiment of their Latino employees by doing the following:
Provide coaching and mentorship opportunities to their Latino employees – Most successful professionals benefited from having a coach or mentor. Via one-on-one, group coaching, or mentorship circles, employees can have senior professionals providing guidance and advice on career and performance management. Mentorship and coaching are some of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to increase employee retention and loyalty.
Deliver cultural awareness and understanding to non-Latino managers of Latino employees – People don’t know what they don’t know. Managers may have cultural unconscious and conscious biases towards Latino employees. From communication styles to values, there are many aspects that a manager can misunderstand about a Latino professional. Wouldn’t it be great if we help managers better understand the culture and idiosyncrasies of Latino employees so they can strengthen trust and jointly deliver better performance? The Latino employee will feel better understood and welcomed in the workplace. The manager will get more out of the Latino employee as well.
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Help Latino professionals enhance their performance by providing leadership development training – Leadership development specifically tailored to Latino employees allows Latino professionals to learn about their Latino cultural assets, blind spots, and competencies. This practical knowledge empowers Latinos to develop as Latino leaders and elevates their own on-the-job performance.
Companies that integrate the above will obtain positive, visible, measurable results. Latino professionals will feel wanted, welcomed, and right at home within corporations. Retention of Latino employees will increase, the diversity & inclusion in the company improves, and ultimately this drives innovation. Net, everyone wins. I hope most companies will see retaining Latino employees not only as an opportunity to do the right thing for Latinos in America, but also as a great way to grow their business and prepare their companies to capitalize on how America will look in a few decades.