Instead of viewing cultural differences as an obstacle to communication and productivity, successful employers draw upon differences to enhance their businesses and improve their workplace. In order to do this, employers must understand how culture influences an individual’s job performance and his or her ideas about work. The more employers know about the cultures of their employees, the more equipped they will be to develop and implement successful management strategies. The following are important issues to consider when managing Hispanic employees, particularly when designing and carrying out training activities.

Understand reluctance

People from Hispanic cultures generally take great pride in their work. Sometimes, however, they are too proud to ask for help, especially if they are unsure about their language skills. This can lead to reluctance to take on responsibility, which employers may interpret as indifference. Usually, Hispanic employees want to assume responsibility but only if they have the knowledge to complete the task well.

Hispanics may tend to avoid situations that could embarrass them or compromise their job security. As such, they may be afraid, ashamed or unable to ask for assistance. It is important for employers to take the initiative in helping employees acquire the knowledge and skills they need to assume added responsibility before they ask them to do so.

Make employees feel important


Everyone wants to feel important. This reality is central to Hispanic identity. Keep this in mind when selling employees the benefits of training. Show them you represent a professional organization and that they are professionals, as well. Tell them their work will be on public display, and that with proper training, they can excel at their job.

Hispanic employees value rewards, even if they are small. Let them know that upon completion of training they will receive a certificate or another type of reward.

Encourage team building

A Hispanic employee’s sense of pride is a resource that can be used to build strong teams. Share honest information with employees about how the company is doing and show them how training can make the organization successful. Some managers represent this idea visually in team meetings by pouring colored gravel into a glass container – green for profits and red for expenses. Activities such as this generate enthusiasm among employees.

Emphasize the ladder

It is important to focus on the individual benefits of training and job performance, as well. Show employees how improving their skills will help them advance in the business or improve their job security. At times, additional training can help them improve immigration status, as well. If appropriate, emphasize this when possible.

Find common ground

When employees understand the benefits of training, the next step is to find common cultural ground on which to present it. In order to do this, it is important to remember that in many Hispanic cultures the line between work life and home life is blurred. Managers and co-workers are often seen as part of an extended family, particularly when employees are working in a foreign country. In developing training and management strategies, consider four areas in which employers can make meaningful connections with Hispanic employees: family, religious beliefs, country and friendship or support.

Allow students to become teachers

In training and on the job, provide opportunities for employees to share their expertise. Watch for employees that demonstrate skill, and ask them to help train other employees. Simply asking employees for their input or having them give feedback regarding training materials can make an impact on their confidence and performance. Give employees opportunities to share their ideas, and give them credit for their innovations.

Rely on outside experts

Bringing in outsiders to teach particular skills can reinforce the credibility of your training program. A manufacturer of a machine that employees use, for example, could help with safety training. However, employees may doubt the advice of an outsider who has not worked in the field. Be selective about who you invite to participate in training.

Avoid large groups

Equally important to who conducts the training is how the training is conducted. Visual methods, such as slides or videos, are generally much more effective in teaching Hispanic employees than handouts or long talks. Hands-on, participatory training is even better. Conduct this type of training in groups of no more than five people so everyone has the chance to see and practice. In larger groups, employees will be less likely to ask questions or interact with the trainer.

Give feedback instead of tests

Like many of us, Hispanic employees are fearful of tests. If you want to assess employees’ knowledge or performance, call it feedback rather than a test. Ask questions and allow the employee to answer in Spanish, if needed. (Record answers on video or audio tape, if translation is necessary.) Assure employees their job does not depend solely on this performance and that you will work with them in areas that need improvement. Make sure they know no one else will see the results.

Speak Spanglish

Encourage your employees to learn English and provide resources and opportunities for them to do so. Learning to speak Spanish is a good way for employers to connect with Hispanic employees, but creating opportunities to speak English will benefit employees in the long run. Finding terms that combine both languages (i.e., “Spanglish”) can be an effective way to communicate, as well.

Use the buddy technique

It is important to emphasize that there is no shame in asking questions. It’s better to ask questions than make ego-damaging mistakes. In order to reinforce this, tell employees specifically whom they can direct questions to after training is over. In other words, assign them a partner or mentor, a “buddy.” Make sure that person encourages questions, as well.

The “buddy” should be an informal mentor not only regarding work matters, but also regarding family and community issues, as well. The person should ideally be an older Hispanic person coming from the same country as the new employee. New employees should be paired with their mentors for five weeks.

Show the benefits of staying on board

Show employees they can build a career in your business. Employee mentors can help reinforce this idea. Your commitment to understanding where your employees come from and what their goals are will help you retain and develop a quality workforce.


Blending cultures in the workplace requires creativity and commitment on the part of employers and employees. Designing and implementing culturally sensitive training for new employees is a crucial first step in establishing a working environment where respect, mutuality and productivity can flourish and where cultures can blend. Businesses that successfully create such an environment benefit significantly from the contributions of their employees. PD

—From 2003 Managing a Hispanic Workforce Conference Proceedings