. (Look under Pork Production Resources.) Increasingly, veterinary clinics, agricultural employee management services and allied industry are offering training assistance for Spanish-speaking workers. (See the Production Solutions column in each issue of Pork magazine.)
Beyond language issues, put the time in to evaluate the workers’ skills, behavior and work ethic. Observe how they are performing. Do they have the potential to learn the language, to take another position or even to supervise others?
Hispanic workers can be reluctant to take supervisory roles, as it conflicts with their desire to maintain equal status among their work group. If a Hispanic worker is promoted to a supervisory position, make sure he or she has all the necessary training and that the whole crew knows why the individual was promoted. Make it clear which workers report to the new supervisor and which ones do not.
Other priorities in meeting Hispanic workers’ needs include basics like transportation. It’s not uncommon for such workers to lack a
Often, comprehensive pay packages including transportation, housing, uniform, medical and dental needs are required to keep Hispanic workers from leaving to join an employer who provides such basic necessities.
According to 2005 USDA figures, the median wage for non-supervisory hired farm labor was $6.75 per hour. That’s among the lowest wages paid for unskilled occupations. However, with many extras that ag employers often provide, the actual reimbursement value can be much higher.
Once communication is established and basic needs are being met, understanding the culture is a must. “The main motivation of these workers is to maintain their families that often remain in
Because family is such an important consideration, these workers appreciate it when you show an interest. This means inquiring about their families and listening to their stories and concerns.
There are many other cultural differences. For example, Anglo-Americans use communication largely as an exchange of information, whereas Hispanics use communication to build relationships.
“Anglo-Americans are generally uncomfortable around someone who stands very close while talking to them,” Estrada points out. “Hispanics are more comfortable standing very close while talking, and even touching and hugging as signs of friendship and appreciation.”
Eye contact can be an issue, as Hispanic workers avoid it in certain settings, particularly with managers or owners. If you find that eye contact is difficult, don’t think the person is not paying attention. It’s often how Hispanic workers react to a boss or someone in authority and is usually done out of respect and loyalty.
Greetings and handshakes are important, as they show that you recognize the person’s contributions. “Shake their hands,” Estrada suggests. “It shows your respect, and they really appreciate that.”
Of course, there are a few things to monitor.
The workers may take risks when they shouldn’t; specifically, they may neglect personal-safety equipment. This may look like carelessness, but it’s often related to a determination to complete the job quickly to try to gain the supervisor’s approval.
In an effort to keep the job, a worker may misrepresent his experience. “Sometimes, a ‘yes’ can mean ‘no’,” according to Estrada. Be sure to observe a new task or supervise through the practice until you are confident that the person can perform it effectively and safely.
Hispanics’ big meal is at lunchtime. “Sometimes they tend to overeat at lunch, which can cause drowsiness in the afternoon and lead to a safety problem,” Estrada warns.
Use simple language when giving directions on how to perform a task. Speak slowly and repeat if necessary. Avoid complex explanations and relate just what the worker needs to know. Once the task is learned and repeatedly performed correctly, you can add more details. “Most of these workers will learn if you train them well,” Estrada says.
Evaluate how each team is performing and pay close attention to how Hispanic workers are fitting in with others. Always promote the team effort.
“One way to encourage teamwork and bridge cultures is with meals or other joint events,”
With increased government efforts to address the nation’s illegal-immigrant issues, future changes in laws and regulations are sure to develop. In October 2007, a federal judge in
The judge barred authorities from threatening to prosecute businesses that failed to fire employees whose Social Security numbers don’t match government records. A new DHS proposal is expected this spring.
Meanwhile, some states are tackling the issue on their own.
“Hispanic workers in this country without legal status are very scared about what is going to happen,” Estrada says. “Nobody knows what the future holds in this area; we’ll just have to wait and see.”
With the already tight
Employing Hispanic workers takes commitment, but with proper documentation, communication and a cultural awareness among your workforce, Hispanic workers can add an important dimension to your success.
Ensuring Legal Status