Diversity: Creating company culture that fosters diversity

October 22, 2019 -  By
Fostering diversity in the workplace depends on building a strong culture of inclusion. (Photo: Sean Rayford)

Fostering diversity in the workplace depends on building a strong culture of inclusion. (Photo: Sean Rayford)

Whether a business with a large Latino workforce succeeds or fails usually comes down to one thing: culture, says Pam Berrios, president of Alexandria Landscapes in Alexandria, Va.

Berrios, past president of the board of directors for the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance, also operates her own training and consulting company where she sees firsthand when diversity within a workplace is successful and when it is not. Employees who are unable to assimilate in the workplace culture may struggle. She says she works with employees and owners alike to help employees integrate into operations.

“I’ve seen a lot of people fail; this industry is not for everyone,” Berrios says. “Especially people that are not open minded.”

With that all-inclusive mentality, it is important to understand there are many countries represented within the Latino community. So, if you’re considering a meal to thank your staff, be mindful of different cultures.

“No. 1, would be to really have that all-inclusive mentality and understand just because you’re Latino, you’re not Mexican,” she says. “Not everybody likes tacos. If you’re going to do something for your employees, you have to understand that not everybody is Mexican.”

Likewise, it’s great for folks in leadership to strive to learn Spanish, but just like with English, there are subtle nuances to word choice.

“Even with the language, it’s not one size fits all,” she says. “With different countries, one word could be offensive in a country and it could be something completely OK in another country.”

Recognition or training can be just as important as money for some employees. (Photo: Pam Berrios)

Recognition or training can be just as important as money for some employees. (Photo: Pam Berrios)

Berrios says one key indication of success of an operation that employs many Latino workers is these operations also have strong Latino representation in leadership positions.

“See who is willing to be a leader,” she says. “Give them the proper training so they continue to grow and then they (will) continue to train others.”

Berrios encourages business owners to think about what they can do to make their Latino employees comfortable. It could be as simple as recognition.

“Money is one thing, but especially for Latino workers, recognition means even more,” she says.

Some companies offer prizes and host friendly workplace competitions to keep the staff motivated. Other companies have training programs and give employees certificates upon completion. While those may not seem all that substantial to some, Berrios says it’s more meaningful to employees than business owners may think.

“They’re posting them on social media with their kids, and they’re sending their certificates back home,” she says. “Some of these people, they’ve never gotten a certificate in their entire lifetime. So, having that recognition goes a lot further than a dollar.”

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Christina Herrick

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