There is a growing necessity for brand marketers to provide culturally relevant content and messaging that specifically targets US Hispanics. In fact, Nielsen’s recent study, The Hispanic Market Imperative – clearly states that Hispanics are the largest immigrant group to exhibit significant sustainability of their culture and are not disappearing into the American melting pot. Now that we have confirmed that cultural sustainability matters to US Hispanics, companies must become more educated about the Latino community not just as consumers – but more importantly, as people and the identity we represent as a diverse community.They must recognize that Hispanics buy brands that empower their cultural relevancy.
“Studies show that embracing American culture does not strip Hispanics of their heritage or render them susceptible only to mainstream marketing influences,” says Armando Azarloza, president of The Axis Agency, a leading national multicultural marketing agency that focuses on the importance of tapping cultural movements. Hispanics in America are growing tired of being the target of new marketing campaigns by brands that are not creating cultural connectivity. In fact, Latinos are more likely to turn away from brands that are only interested in selling to them, rather than empowering their cultural relevancy. Hispanics are more inclined to build trustworthy relationships with people and companies that take the time to understand who we are and what we represent morally, ethically and culturally. The Hispanic market can no longer be viewed as a short-term expense, but rather should be approached as a strategic long-term investment.
The business case for organizations/brands to invest in the Hispanic consumer should no longer be a mystery. The recent announcement by ABC News that it plans to join forces with Univision News to create a multiplatform news, lifestyle and information programming aimed at U.S. Hispanics – says it all. If that doesn’t tell you where culturally relevant content is headed – the Nielsen study revealed that if US Hispanics were a standalone country, their market buying power would be one of the top twenty economies in the world. The bottom line is that brands continue to misunderstand the Hispanic market opportunity. They are taking a traditional/mainstream approach that focuses on selling features/benefits to gender-specific audiences whose purchasing habits have been known for decades. “The business case is simple, targeting Hispanic audiences with dedicated campaigns around cultural expression multiplies the entry points and opportunities for brands to establish meaningful connections that ultimately translate into sales,” continued Azarloza. Hispanics represent a new type of consumer who is connected to their own cultural nuances that support the needs of their family, their heritage and customs. The Hispanic consumer is looking to build loyalty with brands that properly represents their voices and authentic identity; and that empowers their heritage by effectively embedding their cultural characteristics in how a brand speaks to them. Cultural relevancy is a two-way conversation. This means marketers must allow the Hispanic consumer to influence how they brand their brands. “Marketers must sustain a dialogue rather than continue the stale monologues of the past. When you invite Hispanics to engage they will adopt the brand with their own characteristics and personal value,” commented Azarloza.
“Brands need to find new ways to engage with Hispanics,” says Monica Gil, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Nielsen. “It’s time for companies to understand the behaviors that drive Latinos to connect emotionally with their brands. Until they do, they are leaving revenue and market growth opportunities on the table.” Brands must empower the value of Hispanic Heritage in their messaging and communication strategies all year round – not just once a year when it is formally celebrated, September 15th – October 15th. Brand engagement with Hispanic consumers is about being able to show that your organization believes that their purchasing power and voice matter. This means that brands must measure ROI with a longer-term objective focused on helping the Hispanic community strengthen its voice across generations. Hispanics want you to earn the right to become a member of the family. This is how you build ultimate trust with Hispanic consumers. “To open this door, brands must identify and hone in on those unique and powerful cultural insights and triggers. These ultimately will form the foundation of a compelling campaign that will foster consumer desire, loyalty and relevancy and set it apart from its competitors,” says Azarloza.
With a median age of 28 years old, the timing is ripe for organizations/brands to make a firm commitment to the Hispanic consumer. It’s time to strengthen a consumer segment whose identity in America has been weakened by brands that attempt to force Hispanic loyalty using traditional mainstream marketing tactics rather than earning it by empowering cultural relevancy. “Corporations need to start feeling comfortable about being uncomfortable,” continued Gil. “Brands need to start putting the Hispanic demographic shift conversation into action by making a commitment to understand what it all means to their brand(s). Hispanics have a hunger for consumption, but prefer brands that speak their language and embrace their cultural heritage. Brands need to take more risks by sprinkling “Latinoness” into their mainstream ads (as Volkswagen did here), concludes Gil.
The 2012 U.S. Census revealed that Hispanic-owned small businesses are growing at nearly twice the rate of the national average with annual revenues at $350B (though many industry insiders believe this is a conservative estimate with the true figure being well-north of $600B). The U.S. Minority Business Development Agency reports that between 2002 and 2007, Hispanic owned businesses grew faster than the national average of 44 percent in 28 states. Clearly, the impact of the Hispanic population and the entrepreneurial spirit we bring with us is influencing the emergence of Hispanic-owned small businesses. – and with this rapid growth the need for Hispanic specific resources and support to help enable revenue generation and profitability is at an all-time high.
In a recent Fox Latino interview, Hector Barreto, the former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under George W. Bush, said that there are many intangible factors inhibiting Hispanic small business growth. According to Mr. Barreto, Latino business owners are filled with uncertainty and lack confidence in the U.S. government.
I respect Mr. Barreto’s candor in identifying the challenges that both Hispanic (and non-Hispanic) small business owners are faced with in our current economic environment. However, for Hispanics in particular, the obstacles run much deeper and this is where the Presidential candidates and politicians across America are all missing the mark. Hispanics, perhaps more than any other community, are rich in diversity and self-identify with their culture. As such, they require tools, resources, government and educational programs that are culturally-relevant so that they can grow their business in ways they can identify with most naturally. This factor alone explains why Hispanic consumers (let alone Hispanic small business owners) represent the largest unbanked community in America.
Can you imagine the incremental impact of Hispanic-owned business revenue generation to the U.S. economy?
Many Hispanic-owned business owners are faced with the inability to consistently create and sustain relationships with Fortune 500 corporations. Revenue generating and job creation opportunities are not being seized fast enough. Hispanic business leaders are not at the forefront of supplier diversity programs at a time when corporations are looking to expand their business partnership outreach with the community.
To overcome this challenge, Hispanic-owned businesses must lead and operate with a strategic versus a tactical approach. There are many opportunities here, but for the purposes of this article, I can recommend two fundamental areas: leadership and operational excellence. Learning how to apply both of these factors within a small business is the difference between success and failure and both can be attained through one variable: executive education. Business owners must invest to educate themselves on how to be better leaders and, at the same time, better business operators. As a small business owner, you can’t do one without the other; this has been an unwritten rule amongst those who lead supplier diversity programs (which are quickly becoming the standard).
According to Luis Cuneo, Hispanic Segment and Channel Market Development Executive at IBM, “One of the most common questions I am asked by Chamber Executives is: ‘How can we help small businesses grow?’ ”
His reply: “Teach small business owners to run their company as an executive and the company will start to thrive. For the past seven years, I have been engaging with hundreds of small businesses across the U.S., and I have noticed the following leadership barriers that inhibit these companies from growing:
- The leadership style is Transactional.
- Unable to delegate and empower their team.
- Haven’t identified their successor.
- Haven’t created an exit strategy for both the owner and the company.”
In August 2012, a survey of Texas Hispanic-owned Businesses with Paid Employees was sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, and the Kauffman Foundation. Results from the survey suggest that Hispanic-owned businesses with paid employees need strategies that help them in two primary areas:
• increase business training in management and communication skills
• improve access to public- and private-sector customers
According to the survey, the following two critical findings revealed why Hispanic-owned businesses are performing behind mainstream businesses:
• Hispanics’ lower levels of assets and education, lower percentage of parents with business experience, and smaller networks than Caucasian business owners.
• Ineffective oral and written communication with customers, employees, and suppliers as well as limited access to procurement opportunities.
Think of the opportunities for job creation, economic growth and innovation if the majority of Hispanic-owned businesses increased their business training in management and communication skills – while improving their access to public- and private-sector customers?
Finally, Hispanic-owned small businesses must forge greater levels of relations with the banking and financial management community. One of the Small Business Administration’s top priorities is to provide access and opportunity to small business owners in traditionally underserved communities.
However, small business owners must minimize the risk profile for a potential SBA lender by showing them that their business is being managed and led with leadership and operational protocols that can be trusted. In today’s risk adverse climate, small businesses must operate with the same strategic due diligence and leadership principals as a mid-size / larger corporation.
Hispanic-owned small businesses can no longer be led through a tactical lens where the owners operate like an old-fashioned “mom and pop” shop. Leaders must become executives, and learn to trust their employees to assume the responsibilities that the owners used to be accountable for when the business was new. If small businesses are to steadily grow and mature, owners must begin leading and focus on developing the talent around them. When this happens productivity multiples, a workplace culture begins to take shape and a “real business” begins to blossom with operational guidelines, organizational structure and leadership that is being strategic versus tactical in its thinking, planning and execution.
In the end, Hispanic-owned businesses must focus on building infrastructure and systems to support growth and business scalability. This requires strategic thinking enabled by leadership and operational excellence that continuously matures to foster best practices and relationships so that you can see and seize the opportunities that matter most.
Hispanics in America influence the future of the US economy yet this conversation remains quiet as corporations grow more uncomfortable with this time-sensitive issue. The numbers speak for themselves. The lack of commitment in giving rise to the Hispanic community is so obvious that it is becoming irresponsible as the risk profile increases. Corporations know that Hispanics represent the fastest growing population (+$50MM) and workforce community in America. They are also aware that Hispanic-owned small businesses are growing at over twice the rate of the national average (est. +$350B revenue annually). On top of that, Latino purchasing power ($1.5T by 2015) is no mystery as there is growing tension in the boardroom with indecision about how to unlock this market segment. Regardless of the escalating “Latino factor” – corporations are not being proactive enough to engage with this valuable demographic that will represent 30% of America by 2050. As such, the US economy is weakening due to the lack of investment in the Hispanic Community that will soon dictate new business models and the ground rules for Wall Street analysts.
The following is intended to bring awareness to some of the tension points corporations can’t shake and that carry tremendous economic and societal implications if not solved immediately. The goal is to highlight a few trends that identify the opportunities that are being missed if US Hispanics continue to be viewed as a recurring expense rather than a strategic investment.
I. Hispanics Must Make Banking & Financial Planning a Priority
More than half of Hispanics expect to improve their financial situation over the next year, while little over a third of all Americans can say the same. Yet, when it comes to financial planning, or even every day banking and insurance needs, Hispanics are still in the minority.
For banks and other financial institutions, they must begin to recognize that conventional banking as we know it may not be part of the traditional Hispanic upbringing. This has led to a general mistrust of banks and, when coupled with a natural skepticism, would account for the $53 billion attributed to "unbanked" Latino households according to a study by a research arm of the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business (download report: PERDIDO EN LA TRADUCCIÓN: The Opportunity in Financial Services for Latinos). Read More About This Topic Here
II. Hispanics Lead the Recovery by Occupying Walmart, not Wall Street
Hispanic growth is fueling an increase in buying power in this country that is yet to be seen in other economies. According to Nielsen’s recent study, The Hispanic Market Imperative – it revealed that if US Hispanics were a standalone country, their market buying power would be one of the top twenty economies in the world.
Given this knowledge, it's surprising that so few retailers have put much effort into learning about the Hispanic consumer and how to serve their needs. One very prominent exception is Walmart, which has been attracting increasing numbers of Hispanics to their stores by integrating them into all facets of its business, including merchandising, marketing, operations, and community outreach programs. One campaign called "The Best Heritage is a Good Education" addressed the need for higher learning while acknowledging the importance of culture - displaying a genuine understanding of what's important to the Hispanic community. Read More About This Topic Here
III. Media and Entertainment Through the Hispanic Lens Brings a Paradigm Shift
In the world of media and entertainment, we are finally starting to see a positive shift in the portrayal of Hispanics. Cultural stereotypes are giving way to cultural authenticity. The attention usually given to Spanish-speaking Hispanics is turning to the English-speaking majority born in the United States. New Generation Latinos (NGLs) are making waves and changing the conversation. Not only are NGLs influencing traditional media, they are making Hispanics the biggest and fastest growing users of online and interactive technology, mobile devices, and social media.
Hispanics represent a huge opportunity for the news media, entertainment programmers, advertisers, online content creators - you name it. But captivating this trendsetting and game changing audience will take a different approach, one the industry is just waking up to. Unlike previous generations, largely here through immigration, NGLs are not looking to quietly assimilate. They expect mainstream media and entertainment to embrace and reflect their authentic voice and culture. Read More About This Topic Here
Note: On May 7th, ABC News announced its plans to join forces with Univision News to create a multiplatform news, lifestyle and information programming aimed at U.S. Hispanics.
IV. Hispanics Buy Brands that Empower Their Cultural Relevancy
There is a growing necessity for brand marketers to provide culturally relevant content and messaging that specifically targets US Hispanics. In fact, Hispanics are the largest immigrant group to exhibit significant sustainability of their culture and are not disappearing into the American melting pot. Now that we have confirmed that cultural sustainability matters to US Hispanics, companies must become more educated about the Latino community not just as consumers – but more importantly, as people and the identity we represent as a diverse community. They must recognize that Hispanics buy brands that empower their cultural relevancy.
Hispanics in America are growing tired of being the target of new marketing campaigns by brands that are not creating cultural connectivity. In fact, Latinos are more likely to turn away from brands that are only interested in selling to them, rather than empowering their cultural relevancy. Hispanics are more inclined to build trustworthy relationships with people and companies that take the time to understand who we are and what we represent morally, ethically and culturally. Read More About This Topic Here
The United States economy is at risk if corporations ignore the impact of Hispanics in America. If not addressed immediately, severe economic and societal recovery woes will prevail. The rest of America must mature from being uncomfortable about a topic that has direct implications to their financial well-being and the future of their children. The US economy demands that we all become more educated about Hispanics as they will soon represent the core of our country. We must stop being in denial.
According to a recent Nielsen's report, The State of the Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative,Latinobuying power will have grown 50%between 2010 and 2015, reaching an incredible $1.5 trillion. To put this in perspective, the report notes that if U.S. Hispanics were a standalone country, their market buying power would be one of the top twenty economies in the world.
No wonder that more than half of Hispanics expect to improve their financial situation over the next year, while little over a third of all Americans can say the same. Yet though Hispanics represent 52 million consumers in this country and the majority of population growth,when it comes to financial planning, or even every day banking and insurance needs, we as a group are still in the minority. It doesn’t help that the median age of Latinos is 28 years old – an age when most people are still looking at 30 as the distant future.
In their pursuit of the American Dream, Hispanics are failing to protect it.Yes, we may feel confident that we will improve our financial situation over the next year.But what about the following year?And the year after that?Are we doing all we can to preserve our surging buying power?Are we protecting ourselves and our families, investing for the future and planning for retirement?
Chris Mendoza is the Assistant VP of Multicultural Marketing at Mass Mutual, where they havebeen conducting an ongoing set of national research studies on Hispanic families and business owners.
According to their research, even with an improving financial situation, 33% of Hispanics named finances as their #1 stress.As Mr. Mendoza told me:“The main concerns are not dissimilar to everyone else, especially after the financial collapse.They came here for the American Dream and a better life, but it’s disappearing.So what can they do to protect themselves?”
Though their concerns may be the same, the Hispanic experience with banks and insurance is not.There are unique tension points with this market, and education is the key – on both sides – to establishing relationships that matter.To put it in simplest terms, Hispanics need to improve their financial literacy, while financial institutions must become culturally literate.
For banks and other financial firms, that means understanding that conventional banking as we know it may not be part of the traditional Hispanic upbringing.This has led to a general mistrust of banks and, when coupled with a natural skepticism, would account for the $53 billion attributed to “unbanked” Latino households (according to a research arm of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business).
Among the solutions: don’t assume all customers have experience managing their money with a bank and provide financial education accordingly, fully explaining the risks and rewards; build trust and credibility by offering culturally-relevant and language-appropriate products and services – and back it up with bilingual/bicultural staff; ensure that your mobile banking services acknowledge and support the growing numbers of Hispanics connecting to the web via mobile devices; and establishbranch office locations to better serve Hispanic communities.
Along with the latter, it’s also important to show genuine concern for the community – for example, by active involvement in Hispanic issues and sponsorship of local events. And don’t overlook other opportunities, such as reaching out to Hispanic business owners, or Hispanic High Net Worth Individuals (HHNWI), only one-third of whom have a financial plan or plan for retirement.
There are similar tension points related to insurance, making Hispanics the group most underserved by the industry.Because insurance is not mandatory or necessarily needed in most Latin American countries, its important role in U.S. society is not widely understood or accepted.It may even be perceived as a waste of money; the “live for today” mentality of the culture translates into “you can live without insurance” and contradicts the value in planning for life’s unpredictable events.With their unique backgrounds and motivations, Hispanics cannot be lumped with the mainstream on this issue and must be addressed on their own terms.
The solutions here are not unlike those for other financial institutions: understanding Hispanic insurance buying patterns, or lack thereof,and tailoring messages and marketing efforts around Hispanic cultural beliefs and care for the community; providing culturally-specific education that clearly explains insurance terminology, how it works and why it’s important to the U.S. Hispanic community; developing websites and online tools, as well as products and services,specifically designed for Hispanic small business owners and individuals; and addressing the plight of the uninsured with a comprehensive approach to helping Hispanics acquire and maintain insurance coverage through a caring partner relationship.
Whatever the industry, all of this can be achieved with the appropriate training and certification that focuses on effectively leveraging Latinos in the workplace and communicating and marketing brands in an authentic way that resonates with Hispanic consumers.
As Chris Mendoza of Mass Mutual explained it: “Skepticism can be allayed by a professional who understands the Hispanic market and challenges of the Latino community.They want strong relationships that are like extensions of family,someone who understands what’s keeping them up at night and will take care of thoseneeds. Education, a savvy agent, and a strong brand can help close the financial gap and protect their American Dream.”
The research at Mass Mutual revealed a key lesson: One size does not fit all.What works in one part of the country may not work in another. Do you have an individualized approach to reach the Hispanic community on a market-to-market basis? Do you have a cultural marketing strategy that includes local marketing, education and recruiting field work?Do you have relevant financial products and services for Hispanic consumers with distribution in place to reach these markets?
Learn more at www.CenterforHispanicLeadership.com or follow us on Twitter @HispanicTalent
Follow Glenn Llopis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GlennLlopis
As I begin this series, I dedicate these blogs to young Latina professionals who are the leaders of the future. Women of my generation, baby boomers born between 1946-1964, have spent our careers fighting different battles and learning very different lessons than the next generations that follow us. Having said that, I believe that our experiences shed valuable light on the current political and economic realities that youngerLatinas are facing. My hope is that future leaders can stand on our shoulders and see further as a result of our struggles. Much has changed since the late sixties when I graduated from college and began my professional life as an organizational consultant, researcher and university professor. Unfortunately, much has not changed. Latinas were then and continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions in all institutions and sectors. I was considered a rarity when I achieved academic and organizational positions of authority. My background was traditional working class which meant that my father had a high school diploma and worked in a steel mill while my mother was a stay-home worker raising eight children. I had no role models for pursuing an education or a professional career. When I encountered sexism or racism, I was unprepared to even recognize much less confront those experiences.
One of my passions as a researcher and consultant has been understanding Latina professionals and supporting their development as leaders. Frequently young Latinas want to know how I have overcome the barriers I have encountered and want advice about how to deal with the challenges they face. Older Latinas tell me their “war stories” about how they have broken through glass ceilings and how they continue to struggle to balance demanding careers with their over-committed family and community lives. I see great benefit in having us engage as Latinas across these generational divides. There is much we can learn from each other. I can see that my daughter’s generation of young women have special skills and self-knowledge that my generation didn’t have. I want to better understand how gender roles have changed and how they are forging new partnerships with their male counterparts in the work world. I don’t agree, however, that gender is no longer an issue or that women have achieved equality in today’s society and I worry about the impact of naively claiming victory over sexism or racism. There are still too few Latinas seated around the table when significant decisions are made or where power is wielded.
In future posts I will explore the complex range of factors that maintain the current state – some are very real organizational barriers and others are equally powerful self-limitations that we have come to accept as normal.
A recent example demonstrates my point. In the current election frenzy, there is much speculation about the role Latinos will play in electing the next President in 2012. A recent article by Carlos Harrison on February 20th in the Huffington Post went so far as to ask “Who could be the first Latino President of the U.S.?” He conducted his analysis without a single mention of any prominent Latinas who would even be considered. It apparently didn’t even seem worth mentioning that only men were worthy of his speculation. If this were the 1950s, I might have been prepared to be ignored – but in 2012, really?
So the challenges to Latinas being taken seriously as leaders and power brokers in this country continue to be significant. Strategies to address these challenges require sophisticated and nuanced analyses. I invite Latinas from various generations, sectors and regions to join me in asking these tough questions. And I hope we won’t rest until we find answers that matter. Dondeestanlasmujeres? We are neither invisible nor are we silent – our voices need to be heard now more than ever before.
Hispanics will control $1.2 trillion dollars of purchasing power in 2012, yet most brands are still struggling to earn the loyalty of this key group. In order to cultivate long-term business growth, your organization will need to make a serious commitment to this community.
At a time when Hispanics in America are looking to establish their authentic voice and identity, they’ll embrace those brands that seek to create a meaningful long-term relationship, a relationship that grows organically and helps Hispanics gain influence. Brands that reach out to the Hispanic consumer with an authentic and dedicated approach will dominate their respective industries.
Cultural Characteristics Are Crucial to Your Brand’s Success
Research conducted by the Center for Hispanic Leadership (CHL) has identified the following six inherent characteristics that not only define Hispanic leadership (download ebook) but also show organizations how to most effectively market to Hispanic consumers:
- Immigrant Perspective: See opportunities others don’t see
- Circular Vision: Lead and manage change
- Latin Passion: Pioneer new possibilities
- Entrepreneurial Spirit: Humanity fuels innovation
- Generous Purpose: The spirit of giving to the community
- Cultural Promise: Serve to leave a family legacy
Whatever industry you’re in, your organization must become a natural part of the growing Hispanic consumer community. Your brand must earn the relationship that you seek.
To win the trust of the Hispanic consumer, your organization must execute the following four steps:
Step 1: Business Strategy (Define the Relationship):
To define your brand’s relationship with the Hispanic consumer, you have to embrace the cultural nuances that influence how Hispanics think about the products and brands they purchase.
Why do you believe your products or services will benefit the Hispanic consumer? Although Hispanics are open to exploring new things, your products or services must consistently answer specific needs for the security of their family, children, home, education and financial stability. Your business strategy must involve building trust organically across generations. Your brand’s relationship with Hispanic consumers must advance their community and help them to get closer to the American dream.
Step 2: Brand Positioning & Messaging (Build a Trust Platform):
Hispanics in America have trouble trusting others because they’ve lived with corruption, struggled for independence, and fought for opportunity in their mother countries. How will your brand earn trust from people who are naturally skeptical about those who sell to them? Why should your audience believe that your product or service will provide them long-term opportunity and advancement? How will your brand’s message lift the Hispanic community’s voice and identity?
Step 3: Interactive (Empower Voice & Identity):
Most companies start phase I & II and never finish; they fail to connect with the Hispanic immigrant perspective. Can you provide an online experience that will encourage the Hispanic consumer to engage with your products and brands? This experience should be unique to your targeted audience. It should speak to the Hispanic community’s authentic voice, and help to build the community’s leadership pipeline.
Step 4: Technology (Expand the Relationship & Measure Outcomes):
Hispanic consumers are the fastest-growing segment of the online and mobile world today. Leverage technology to expand your relationship with Hispanic consumers and measure the outcomes of your investment.
Are you designing mobile applications and management systems to continuously interact with and become more knowledgeable about your Hispanic customers? Are you creating a social media platform that allows your Hispanic customers to feel safe when sharing their ideas? Do you have the tools to measure how Hispanics contribute to your business, corporate social responsibility, and talent acquisition strategies? Do you have loyalty programs that specifically target Hispanic consumers to assure that your relationship is authentic?
Why does the Hispanic community require a unique approach?
Most organizations are still ignoring one very important point about Hispanic consumers: Hispanics are not a homogenous community. However, focusing on these three points will help your organization capture brand loyalty and create viral local-market momentum:
- Learn the six Hispanic cultural characteristics. Your brand must speak with the community.
- Remember that Hispanics in America are a leaderless community. Help empower Hispanics as community and business leaders.
- Focus on building long-term trust. Listen carefully to what Hispanics really need.
Brands that break through the walls of doubt and connect authentically with the Hispanic consumer will enjoy profitable growth for years to come.
The United States is undergoing great change -- and at an ever-accelerating pace – during these tough post-2008 economic times, with upheavals in the political, social, and economic spheres all at once. The political mood is bitter, the social fabric is ripped in many places, and the economy continues to deliver bad news in terms of foreclosures, business failures, and high unemployment.
How to survive in this tough, fast-changing terrain? When my Cuban parents came to the United States in the wake of Castro’s revolution, the most precious possession they brought with them was their perspective. It was that perspective – their immigrant values – that enabled them to adapt, reinvent themselves and ultimately thrive in a new country, a new culture, and a new set of challenges. That’s what we need today. The following represent the six (6) characteristics that define the immigrant perspective on business leadership that will be essential for business leaders to embrace in 2012:
1. Keep Your Immigrant Perspective:
Like an immigrant who comes to a new country with nothing but faith, hope and love, all employees must not have myopia where opportunities are concerned. We need to see that opportunities are everywhere, every day, and we must make the most of those that cross our path. We need to see the opportunities that others don't see.
2. Employ Your Circular Vision:
My family – like most immigrant families – experienced crisis and change in our mother country – strengthening in us a sort of essential sixth sense, an ability to anticipate false promises and unexpected outcomes. Because our immigrant perspective allows us to see opportunities others cannot, we have wide angle vision and are proficient at anticipating crisis and managing change before circumstances force our hand. All leaders in 2012 will need to develop this ability to see around the corners up ahead.
3. Unleash Your Passion:
Our ability to inject intense passion into everything we do makes us potent pioneers. We not only blaze paths few would go down, we see them through to the end. Our passion opens new doors of possibilities that we aim to share with others. When the terrain is difficult, only passion for the quest will see you through.
4. Live With an Entrepreneurial Spirit:
In America, you might be an entrepreneur. In Latin America and other developing countries, you must be one, just to survive. The ability to see and seize opportunities to build relationships, advance commerce, and better humanity is an inborn survival mechanism for immigrants – and must become one for all business leaders in 2012.
5. Work With a Generous Purpose:
It is our nature to give. We are raised to consider others’ needs as much as our own. This begins with giving inside our family when we are young, and then, when we are older, we are taught that we are a part of a larger family all around us. Our propensity to give to others from our harvest ensures us a perpetual harvest. Business leaders who adopt this abundant, glass-half-full attitude will find 2012 a year of surprising opportunities.
6. Embrace Your Cultural Promise:
Our familial style of relating brings potentially everyone within the circle. The strongest bonds in business, across the entire value chain, occur when employees, partners and distributers alike are treated like family. The treatment is reciprocated and opportunities continue to arise. Our cultural promise is that success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. Business leaders – and their companies – that embrace this attitude, and practice this skill, will thrive in 2012.
2012 – the year of the immigrant perspective. Because the times demand it, and all business leaders need to embrace the opportunities this perspective provides.
It’s not what you think. Yes, the Census counts more than 50 million Hispanics in the US. But the new prominence of the Hispanic population shouldn’t just matter because of their votes and the 2012 election cycle.
It’s time for America as a whole to understand the real value, the unique characteristics and the new types of opportunities that Hispanics can create for the country. The identity crisis that Hispanics are faced with each day has made it difficult for them to advance, thus damaging their identity and limiting their contributions to the economy.
Today, we need the Hispanic professional and the broader Hispanic community in this country to start bringing their unique immigrant perspective to work and to help solve the enormous problems facing America today.
The news media are obsessed with the illegal immigrant discussion, but that should be a side issue in a country overrun with debt, mired in a recession, and -- most importantly -- stuck in a morass of self-doubt.
Who’s going to get America moving again? The fiercely competitive global market requires everyone to begin contributing in newly meaningful and purposeful ways to the global economy. Hispanics must embrace this to-do like everyone else. They cannot afford to continue thinking of themselves as victims, and the US economy cannot afford that victim thinking either.
It’s time for Hispanics to bring their immigrant values and resourceful thinking to bear on getting America moving again. The crisis of confidence is the important issue now, and Hispanics can help.
The time has come for Hispanics to embrace their unique cultural differences and realize the power that this diversity gives them. Hispanics must recapture their authentic identities and train non-Hispanics to understand them. Hispanics must embrace their immigrant perspective, circular vision, Latin passion, entrepreneurial spirit, generous purpose and cultural promise – the natural characteristics that are inborn in their culture and that allow them to be highly effective contributors to the economy. It’s time for Hispanics to take it upon themselves to break out of their identity crisis and claim influence amongst their non-Hispanic peers.
Hispanics need to stop being viewed as victims of lost opportunities in their mother country and start being held accountable as new sources for innovation, economic prosperity, global influence and the economic revival of our country.
It’s time for Hispanics to earn the right to be more influential in America. Population growth alone does not entitle Hispanics or any other group in society to own the resources of our great country.
Until Hispanics discover their authentic leadership role, they will continue to be misrepresented and misunderstood. Today, many non-Hispanic whites believe they are financing the Hispanic population growth. Hispanics must seize the moment, take on their responsibilities, and change the role of the Hispanic immigrant in the United States. At 50 million strong, and growing faster than any other group, Hispanics must grow up now.
As I discuss this issue with executives in the boardroom and professors in the classroom, they often refer to Hispanics as second-class citizens. And because of this, Hispanic professionals, adults and children would rather assimilate and reject their essential identities. If this assimilation continues, we will lose the brilliance and innovative flair of the Hispanic population, and the US economy will suffer as a result, in the competition with the rest of the world.
Diversity management is the key to growth in today’s fiercely competitive global marketplace. No longer can America’s corporations make excuses about their lack of cultural intelligence. Organizations that seek global market relevancy must embrace diversity – in how they think, act and innovate. In today’s new workplace, diversity management is a time-sensitive business imperative.
To better understand this fast-changing terrain, I reached out to three notable diversity executives -- pioneers within their respective industries – to share their insights and perspectives regarding the future of diversity and some of the new best practices that will allow diversity to play a more strategic role in cultivating sustainable business growth:
- Dr. Rohini Anand, Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo
- Ron Glover, Chief Diversity Officer, IBM
- Kathy Hannan, National Managing Partner, Diversity & Corporate Responsibility, KPMG LLP
Make it Real or Lose Your Authenticity
Most corporate leaders pay lip service to diversity but don’t really live it. Diversity is more than employee demographics and support for a few non-profits. You can’t buy diversity, and organizations that continue to embrace this approach will tarnish their brand. If you are not authentic, consumers and employees will begin to question the sincerity and leadership of your organization.
As Rohini Anand says, “The traditional representation perspective originated from the Civil Right era. This will never go away entirely. However, diversity must go beyond this mentality. At Sodexo, diversity is embedded in our brand. The Sodexo brand is synonymous with diversity. Though the Sodexo brand is not a known consumer brand, diversity leadership defines our brand – it’s all about talent. Diversity is about responding to the needs of our clients in a holistic way.”
And Kathy Hannan adds, “Companies must take a long term strategic approach to engage diverse talent. Companies must define their role in the global marketplace. The train has left the station. You may not be where you want to be with your diversity strategy, but you need to get started!”
Executives Are Still Short-Sighted
I’m reminded of a pre-recession discussion I had with a consumer goods executive who said: “Diversity is another way of saying affirmative action and we are forced to support it in order to protect our brand in the trade and amongst our consumer audience. Diversity has no real value tangible to the growth of our business.” Unfortunately, many executives still share this opinion today.
Rohini Anand says, “Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies have been particularly effective with diversity from a marketing initiative standpoint. However, this is different from embracing diversity holistically. Companies must think about diversity beyond addressing niche needs. Diversity is not just about accessing multicultural markets. Companies must look more broadly to reinvent the way we think about how business is done. How can diversity be pulled out of this commoditized mentality? Diversity leadership must drive innovative perspectives. Companies have not yet figured out how to unlock the potential within markets and processes that must be enabled globally.”
Diversity is much more than just a multicultural issue. Diversity is about embracing many different types of people, who stand for different things and represent different cultures, generations, ideas, and thinking. As Ron Glover says, “Innovation is about looking at complex problems and bringing new views to the table. Diversity has allowed IBM to be innovative and successful for 100 years and to work across lines of differences in 172 countries, amongst 427,000 employees.”
For example, are you paying attention to the Internet and how online communities continue to grow and represent different voices and points of view – and opinions about your company?
Kathy Hannan notes, “Diversity has moved from a nice-to-have, to a must-have for companies as a strategic business imperative. KPMG has a multinational client base. We must understand their protocols, their ways of doing business. Diversity must move from just a value, to being operational.”
Anand adds, “Diversity must drive the formation of new business models. Leaders must think about the changing landscape. The economy is changing, how business is being done is changing, so the question is how can diversity be utilized as a strategic enabler in today’s changing landscape.”
And Glover says, “Diversity is a core belief of IBM in how we succeed in business. In order for IBM to successfully expand globally, we need a workforce that understands the local market. Our clients are as diverse as our employees. And there are now 5 generations in the workplace. We must focus on building communities inside of IBM to embrace differences to drive innovation globally.”
Diversity needs a Refresh
Diversity clearly needs a refresh. The misinterpretations of what diversity means and what it truly represents have limited its ability to have the real impact and influence it warrants in America’s corporations. In fact, the executives who get it today will tell you how concerned they are for their business, because their people, products, and services do not connect naturally with the new faces of America. As one executive told me, “Our business demands diversity and we are more uncomfortable with our lack of diversity preparedness than ever before. We are in trouble if we don’t fix it!” As a result, most companies have been forced to react not only to the changing face of America and but the mindsets of the global marketplace. Consequently, executives have started to confront the inevitable: a new business model that fully integrates diversity as a business growth enabler.
Kathy Hannan says, “No homogeneous talent pool can be innovative. Diversity is essential. And, there are broader implications across the whole supply chain. Diversity is about how you do business across the board.”
The Future of Diversity
To better understand the future of diversity management and its role as a business growth enabler, think back to when Information Technology (IT) was viewed as just a cost center. IT was not associated with driving business growth 20 years ago, but rather as a required cost of doing business. Just like diversity today, many people then thought IT got in the way of business. Today, IT is considered a profit center by many and a high priority for organizations as a business growth enabler. In fact, many CIOs (Chief Information Officers) are next in line for the CEO role.
CDOs (Chief Diversity Officers) will experience many of the same functional role and responsibility shifts as have CIOs. They will not only be required to assume their practitioner responsibilities, but they must also learn to play a more integral strategic role in the design of new business models. Glover notes, “Diversity is a critical leadership success factor at IBM. Globally diverse leaders are maximizing the effectiveness of our teams. IBM has recognized the importance of building teams across the company from different countries. It’s not just about leadership, but capability. Diversity is fundamentally focused on talent! Those differences create real opportunities for those who learn to master them and a disaster for those who do not.”
Diversity management will begin to develop rapidly, out from under the traditional human resources and talent acquisition roles, to assume more dotted-line responsibilities that will touch corporate strategy, corporate social responsibility, organizational design & effectiveness, corporate marketing and even sales. Therefore, the requirements to be an effective CDO will mean that they must include operating more holistically in a general management and operational capacity to ensure that diversity becomes an embedded mindset with common threads that touch all functional areas (internally) and the supply chain (externally).
Hannan notes, “Good intentions are not a substitute for accountability. Everyone must be accountable for advancing diversity.”
How you manage diversity in your organization from today forward will determine your long-term success or failure in the global marketplace.
Leadership in today’s fiercely competitive global market requires a new fresh approach, attitude and mindset. The following represents the three (3) primary differences between traditional leaders and immigrant leaders. Immigrant leaders are the ones to emulate if you are to create and sustain positive momentum in your work.
Difference #1: The traditional leader looks to increase income; an immigrant leader looks to increase influence.
The world of business is full of wealthy people who are fixated only on keeping their money. These people will always have their ups and downs. No matter how much money they have, they will not be able to avoid great misfortunes. Some of the world’s greatest moneymakers have filed for bankruptcy. Some have filed more than once. These people will eventually fail to sustain their momentum because they look primarily to increase income rather than influence.
The wealthy person without influence will always be at risk of betrayal, because people are only loyal to his money. If you want to avoid misfortune, you must increase your influence.
Influence is the greatest single force in the business world when properly obtained. True influence is earned only through the respect of others. To build your foundation of good fortune on anything but genuine influence is to build your foundation on sand.
The mortgage industry has collapsed, and many have faced great misfortune. Which ones have escaped the blow? The few who maintained genuine influence among those they work with and serve. The immigrant leader who looks primarily to earn and sustain influence with the source of all income: people.
Difference #2: The traditional leader leans on expanding creativity; an immigrant leader leans on expanding community.
The traditional leader invests in the next business opportunity. He must constantly differentiate himself from others. He must always find a way to create space in which he can be recognized. He is thus always in competition, and even at the top of his game he will not win every time.
The immigrant leader takes a different approach and instead invests the abundance of his wealth in expanding his community. His strategy for success is to increase support around him. In doing so, he leans on the security that comes from many people wanting him to succeed.
The immigrant leader’s success will be their success. This leader need only listen to the needs of his growing community in order to know how to navigate his next opportunity. The strongest brands in the world, such as IKEA, are experts in this skill, and it is the reason they are so difficult to supplant. Many desire their good fortune to continue, and thus the only way to topple them is to somehow take away the respect of the community.
The employee with the greater measure of respect and support within the company will most often get the promotion, the raise, and in general, the better opportunities. Thus the employee who sustains a momentum of good fortune that propels him up the corporate ladder is most often the one who leans on a strategy of expanding his community.
Difference #3: The traditional leader desires to make a mark; an immigrant leader desires to leave a legacy.
The traditional leader’s work makes only a temporary mark that will eventually wear off. The immigrant leader takes a different approach and thus has a much different effect. He seeks, ultimately, to leave a legacy that will bring continued good fortune to many lives after he or his company is gone. He employs a strategy to collaborate with a select few who will not only benefit from his good fortune but also be prepared to continue cultivating a perpetual harvest in the months and years after he has gone.
This legacy of good fortune is first passed to a small number of supporters in order that they themselves will begin producing a similar harvest of good fortune. The immigrant leader understands that it is not his name that must reverberate after he is gone but rather the good fortune his name has earned.
In the end, there is only individual effort, but no individual purpose.
If you want to create and sustain a legacy of good fortune, you must ultimately create a community in the business of bettering the world. This is the legacy of an immigrant leader.
|"Adversity is very big when it is all you can see. But it is very small when in the presence of all else that surrounds you."|
|-- Glenn Llopis|
|Hispanic Business Development|
|Personal Employee Branding|