Document 193105

To Train Across Cu Itu res
"Special training can be a powerful
successfully transition
help to
workers into the ranks of supervision when
you pay attention
and leadership
to differences of culture
By Mariah E. deForest,
Senior Vice President,
Imberman and DeForest, Inc.
[email protected]
about managing are inherited from
their cultural traditions. De~ades of
the US work force in manufacturing,
experience, including much in Mexico,
warehousing and construction,
have shown that Latin management
according to the US Department
style can be surprisingly different from
of Labor and the Hispanic Research
that of the United States. That's why
Institute - are supervised ineffectively,
the typical U.S. supervisory training
As a result, these Spanish-speaking
program does not fully resonate with,
workers are not as productive as they
foreign-born Hispanic foremen.
can, and want, to be.
Investing in low cost, low quality
Many Spanish-speaking employees who today make up about 25 percent of
The rapidly increasing number of
foreign-born Hispanics in American
industry has created a critical need for
bilingual supervisors who not only
speak Spanish but know how to manage
a diverse work force. One stumbling
has been Latin American culture itself,
brought from native countries, a culture
that carries with it a different style,
outlook and set of assumptions. How
best to turn good Hispanic workers into
able supervisors? How best to empower
them to participate fully in achieving
company goals?
is a false economy. Generic courses
rarely produce measurable, ongoing
in supervisory perf or-
mance. What's needed to help foreignborn Hispanics advance to supervisory
positions is training that targets
cultural impediments
to successful
job performance as well as promoting
cultural strengths.
Common practice/communications
Many companies
have experienced,
the drawbacks associated with using
bilingual employees to convey instructions to Spanish-speakers.
Often, the
are more impressionistic
than accurate. And what's more, little if
any useful communication-flows
The fact that Spanish-speaking
employees may be outstanding
as well as
training aimed at the dominant culture
with great attendance records doesn't
necessarily qualify them to be good
from the workers to the supervisors.
One-way communication
is a poor
way to engage workers anywhere, and
supervisors any more than it does U.S.
workers - as many plant managers
convey critical company and safety
has been the lack of English fluency.
Another, less visible consideration
block to promoting good foreign-born
Hispanic workers into supervision
needed to
help foreignborn Hispanics
advance to
is training
that targets
to successful
have discovered.
U.S.-born supervisors often
are ineffective -
and sometimes
exacerbate problems -
with employees
who don't speak English. They.can
grow impatient, believing that foreign.~bom Hispanics should learn English
can fail to
For example, one time a
plant manager in a cut-and-sew textile
operation iri San Francisco gathered
all the Spanish-speaking
into a general meeting to announce
a compromise
offered to the union
during contract negotiations.
He often
quickly and conform to mainstream
used his most proficient bilingual
customs. But acquiring English is no
employee to interpret his remarks.
easy task for immigrants from south'
of the border, where schooling for the
the English "compromise"
the worker translated
working and agricultural classes usually
Spanish "compromise,"
ends at the sixth grade.
"firm commitment,"
While many of the foreign-born
into the
which means
indicating the
manager's "firm commitment"
to a
Hispanic employees who speak
wage freeze. Thus the negotiations
serviceable English are eager for oppor-
with the union were thrown into
tunity and promotion, their instincts
an uproar.Another
time, a super-
visor, trying to be affable, asked
not typical in Latin countries and
owner. This is a different concept from
a worker to translate "I love your
thus not common among Latino-
the U.S. "exempt" or "salaried" super-
language" to one of the assembly line
born supervisors in the U.s. While
visory classification, where a supervisor
employees. Because. the words have
an important aim of training is to
derives authority from his position
several meanings, the comment was
expose American management
in the organization's impersonal
Mexican-origin foremen, just insisting
as, "I want your tongue."
style to
Needless to say, the poor employee
that they be more participative or talk
was startled and embarrassed.
to your employees doesn't work.
Earnestly This refers to the importance of a
often try to have a
Latino mindset
in the personnel office
According to the Pew Hispanic Center,
seeking to leader's personal strength in gaining
so that employee concerns are heard
there were
and interpreted correctly.
the work force in
Cultural differences
Of those, 54 percent were from Mexico,
of which
million Hispanics in
(see Figure
were foreign-born.
To refer to "cultural differences" is not
more than from any other country.
to stereotype nationalities
When native Mexicans become super-
old labels or pigeonholes.
seeking to understand
serious lapses in communication
well as inadvertent
visors, they naturally think of supervision in their own cultural terms.
cultural points of view will help prevent
missteps. Being
Anomer aspect of leadership in Latin
America is the cult of "personalismo."
Companies with better bilingual
or revert to
In Mexico, a supervisor belongs to
different cultural
followers, and the term describes
the tendency to follow a leader due
points of to the force of his personality. In
view will
help prevent
business, "personalisrno''
refers to
the rnindset that a boss's authority
serious lapses in springs from personally representing
the employer on the factory floor. So
as well as it is important to address the concept
of "personalismo"
in training targeted
missteps. at foreign-born supervisors. It's very
the rank of "empleado de confianza,"
helpful to emphasize that in U.S.-style
meaning an employee is in a trusted,
respect for a supervisor
alert to cultural differences is what
personal relationship with the boss.
is ideally conceived as being earned by
"cultural sensitivity" means. We want
That's why traditionally, whatever a
trustworthy and knowledgeable actions
to recognize where differences exist
supervisor says on the floor there is
rather than deriving from a close
so as to seek common ground. Mutual
regarded as coming straight from the
personal relationship with the owner.
in the workplace is
the sine qua non of fruitful job
Orientation (Latin styles)
Larin-style supervisors
tend to manage
closely, expect willing
obedience and often consider verbal
input to be back talk from employees.
Foreign-born supervisors
seem instinc-
tively to react to employee
as challenges to their authority. In the
old country, it's considered
essary, even weak, to have to explain
yourself or your orders. To explain
amounts to not having the right to
give orders, not to be the boss. This is
another area where all supervisors need
to accept that employee complaints
are not challenges to their authority
and accept that the supervisor's role is
to illuminate, not smother, employee
requests for information.
Managers in many types of manufacturing assume that the ideal U.S.-style
are valued
around the globe. But "participativestyle" management
is not universal,
12 Industrial Management
notions of just what constitutes
Effective training
In short, Latino supervisors as ~ell
There are differences as well in
Long experience in training Hispanics
as any others must learn that they are
supervisor's job. Larin-bern super-
managers who are accountable for
for supervision in many different
visors work to solve problems in
their own departments but appear to
obtaining certain results, results. that
plants and industries
include the morale of the work force,
six elements are necessary to train
hesitate to "step on rhe roes" of their
peers and others. For example, often
rather than simply pushing the work
Hispanic foremen.
L Set benc1unarks. Successful
The American difference
be reflected in improvement
mental performance in productivity,
formalized supervisory training will
both foreign-born supervisors and
hourly employees will avoid calling
suggests that
in depart-
attention to poor quality coming from
U.S.-style industrial supervisors ideally
a preceding department due to the
relate to their employees as facilitators
qualiry and on-time shipments. So
reluctance to "meddle." Foreign-born
in getting the job done, employing
before training starts, trainers should
Latino supervisors typically see their
two-way communication and inter-
establish average departmental
principal role as carrying out their
action. Present-day American-style
mance benchmarks
boss's directions to the best of their
management training encourages
with after-training
ability. In Mexico, it is considered
supervisors not only to allow workers to
performance. That will help evaluate
have a say. but to recognize suggestions,
the effectiveness of the training.
unseemly and insubordinate
to act
independently, query instructions
or to
2.. Use
answer questions and be informative.
for comparison
in-plant examples.
take up an issue with a peer supervisor,
In other words, engage in partici-
even though the matter may affect
pative management, not "If I want
tends to work best. Cases based on
by the case study method
them both.
you to know, I'll tell you." Supervisors
This social taboo against "inter-
are encouraged to admit when they
views and observation will document
from workplace inter-
ference" sometimes results in a low
don't have answers and to be Willing
relevant examples so that training is
level of interaction among first-gener-
to respond to the workers and get an
customized to the specific company
ation Hispanics on the factory floor.
answer. A U.S. supervisor's role ideally
and industrial process. The trainer
Training that is culturally attuned will
includes dealing with gripes and griev-
should spend several days in the
emphasize to such supervisors
ances, getting input on decisions before
plant, observing and interviewing an
they are final, and making the compro-
adequate cross-section of employees
going beyond regular duties to solve
problems is an important pan of the
mises needed to forge a "team" feeling
in order to gather the case materials.
job -
among the workers. This also includes
Supervisors can identify with the
an idea that authorizes and
justifies peer consultation.
explaining to workers how to do the job;
problems through discussion of the
keeping track of how it's being done;
real-life examples. Using case studies
Take the initiative
checking tolerances, inventory levels
of employee production and qualiry
All supervisors must learn that their
or tracking orders; and being a source
problems concretely illustrates to
job is proactive and not merely to
of information and control.
follow the plant manager's orders.
For Hispanics, it's important to learn
But traditional foreign-born
Hispanic supervisors often are not
that what is called "overstepping your
comfortable with this ideal of U.S.-style
bounds" ina Latin country is called
management. U.S.-style management
"initiative" here, and it is welcomed
rarely stands on ceremony, sees nothing
by upper management.
wrong with (nonunion)
this common social prohibition
getting their hands dirty occasionally.
requires modeling and continual
or with being on a first-name basis
with subordinates. Traditionally,
When newcomers
learn the techniques of modern
Latin culture tends to be more formal;
problem solving and become adept
it's customary in the old country for
at employing the fish bone analysis
authority figures to inaintain a distance
technique, for example, the training
("guardar las distancias") with subor-
supervisors the benefits of seeking
For information from the hourly work
Hispanics, force and teaches the what-and-how
it's important of resolving typical problems.
to learn that
Practical cases are the best way to
what is called teach important.supervisory concepts
overstepping such as the importance of obtaining
your bounds" employee cooperation, of the consein a Latin quences of failing to give proper direccountry tions, or of the consequences of failing
is called to listen to employee complaints.
IIlust~ate the idea of the importance
here, and it oflistening to employees with some
is welcomed case examples.
by upper
For example, in a rubber inner tube
management. plant in Mexico, tiny air bubbles in the
session becomes a living example of
dinates. On the other hand, Hispanic
how to discuss common problems.
workers are greatly appreciative if their
And by authorizing mutual problem
supervisor lends a hand. Especially
rubber were causing terrible problems
solving, Hispanic supervisors
in Mexico, this SOrtof supervisory
with failures in the field. No one could
are empowered to collaborate
"unbending" gains enthusiastic
figure out the cause. Eventually, the
on achieving company goals.
employee cooperation ..
plant had to stop production entirely
to prevent further losses, a significant .
cost. Finally; interviews with the final
include instruction
The supervisor's job is more than
revealed that they
tends to be personal. Workers there
of their language and origin, should
respond most to face-to-face contact
in planning.
with the supervisor
were given cotton gloves to protect
pushing todays production through
their fingers from the hot rubber
the department.
or owner.
What about bridging the gap
Effective training
between North American and Latin
when squeezing the inner rubes to
emphasizes how to plan for inter-
American styles of motivation? It is
detect any bubbles. But employees
departmental workflow. Supervisors
very useful to expose the foreign-born
complained that the gloves wouldn't
must watch for schedule snags,
supervisor to a psychological approach
let them feel the bubbles. Eureka. The
anticipate employee problems and
to employee motivation. Exposing
problem was solved by adding more
still meet management's
the new supervisors
cooling time to the curing process so
schedules. And training must include
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and role-
final inspectors wouldn't have to wear
the how-to's of peer cooperation:
playing various related motivational
gloves. Management and the supervisor
specific techniques of dealing with
involved learned the hard way to listen
other supervisors, production
From case examples of employee
(even behaviorist theory)
can open the door to an important
new way of thinking.
ulers, engineers and inventory-control
. to the workers.
to, for example,
5. Focus on goals. The
personnel without losing face or
blunders, manufacturing supervisors
authority. As explained above, an
to combine cultures so that dissimi-
can best internalize the lesson that
important area for Latin supervisors
larities lose importance -
the primary function of discipline is
is feeling free ro address mutual work
correction, not punishment. Discipline
problems with other supervisors.
ethnic groups -
is to focus training
on achieving company goals.
is a way to educate the worker on how to
All this can be taught, bur not by
improve and function better. This lesson
lectures and not overnight. Effective
can be explained so that its acceptable
training should include all the tools of
to authority-minded
true-to-life case examples, simulations,
individuals of any
and to help
successfully supervise all
Goals can be emphasized byelucidating the elements of getting there
by stressing the steps in the process.
nationality by emphasizing that what
videos and homework. Supervisors
Focusing in on what the company and
is wanted is employee cooperation, not
tarring and feathering.
should have homework: They should
apply each lesson to actual situations
encourages workplace teamwork and
are trying to accomplish
on the floor and report the results to
creates the opportunity
going supervisory training posed a
each other at the next training session.
hypothetical role-play situation to
A close connection between learning
A Los Angeles plant under-
for mutual
6. Speak frankly. Finally. to help
and practice best ensures that the
foreign-born Hispanic supervisors
visors. The supervisors took turns
lessons will be carried our on the
learn how to manage -
playing the roles of supervisor and
plant floor.
4- Using the authoritarian
follow instructions
weekly one-an-one
conferences with
four pairs of Hispanic-origin
employee in a simulated disciplinary
meeting case. Instead of punishing
Another important
the employee for walking around the
not merely
they need regular,
their direct boss. Discussions should
object of super-
be frank, and supervisors should be
should be to promote
.floor, the supervisor was supposed to
the constructive exercise of aurhority
encouraged to bring up their and their
discover, through questioning, that
as opposed to following the old
employees' problems. The impor-
the employee was looking for an Allen
strongman political model. By showing
wrench that the supervisor should
and explaining production
From case
ranee of this type of meeting is that it
examples of reinforces the training and provides an
tasks to
have been responsible for. But in every
workers instead of just barking orders,
impressive role model to "authoritative-
simulation, the man playing the role of
the supervisor will engage the workers,
style" supervisors on how to listen to
supervisor fired the man acting as the
using power in a positive way.
employee - just because the employee
tried to tell his side of the story. The
task was for the new foreign-born
Supervisors can be redirected to
If the plant manager can
. supervisors can do it withoutlosing
interacting with employees and being
best internalize
helpful. Modeling the authority figure
the lesson that
face, surely they
can, roo.
Latinos, the fastest growing
supervisors to learn that employee
.as teacher or father naturally will
the primary
involve taking employees into account.
function of will reach about 35 percent of the work
are not impertinent
back talk. but rather the royal road ro
And incorporating
the concept of
problem analysis. It turned out that
"personalisrno" -
strong, charismatic
native tendencies are hard to overcome,
personal relations -
and new behaviors require practice.
fine opportunity
3. Planning and collaboration.
Training for all supervisors, regardless
14 Industrial Management
will present a
for positive employee
segment of the American population,
discipline is force
correction, not
In some geographic
areas, Hispanic work forces will be as
much as 75 percent. Manufacturers
with effectively trained bilingual
motivation. Experience in Mexico has
taught that Latin-style motivation
of the competition .•:.
surely will be ahead
Manufacturers with heavy Hispanic plant populations who want
additional information on ways to improve employee productivity
and supervisory performance in their diverse workforces should
contact the author, Mariah E. deForest, Senior Vice President,
Imberman and DeForest, Inc., at [email protected], or PH:
847/733-0071 for the following additional articles and reports:
"Ending The Era of Employee Entitlement," Foundry Management
and Technology, March, 2010.
"How To Save Cash by Improving Productivity,"
Distribution and Fabrication, September, 2009.
"Is Inertia Hurting Your Company?" Wire Forming Technology,
Summer, 2009.
"Learning From Obama's Victory," Food Processing Magazine,
December, 2008.
"Carrots and Sticks Aren't Good Enough" Tube and Pipe Journal,
March, 2008.
"Work Harder ... Work Smarter ... to Motivate Your Workers,"
Foundry Management and Technology, November. 2007.
"Casting Profitability - Realities
Industry Link, October. 2006.
Vs. Rhetoric,"
Die Casting
"Planting The Seed to Grow Your Bottom Line," Agricultural
Equipment Manufacturer, Fall, 2006.
"Better Communications Mean
Industry Link," April, 2005.
"Managing The Hispanic Die Caster," Die Casting Industry Link,
October., 2004.
"Better Management = Better Bottom
Technology, Fall, 2005.
"Training Latino
December 2004.
Wire Forming
"Spanish Speaking Employees In American Industry," Business
Horizons, Indiana University School of Business, January, 2004.