What Hispanics Want at Work

Hispanics are destined to be the most important talent source for large U.S. companies in the coming decade.

The Hispanic population is growing rapidly, but its young members are very different from those in Generation Y overall. Hispanics are particularly drawn to larger, well-established firms with recognized brands. The reverse is true with Gen Y; many prefer working in small organizations and having entrepreneurial opportunities.

These preferences matter given the undeniable growth of this segment:

  • In 2002, Hispanics moved past African-Americans to become the nation’s largest minority.
  • In July 2013, California’s Hispanic population reached parity with the non-Hispanic white population, 39 percent each.
  • In New Mexico and Texas, Hispanics are expected to become the majority population by 2020.
  • On average, Hispanics are almost a decade younger than the general population.
  • The U.S. Hispanic population is expected to more than double by 2050, growing to 100 million from 44 million.

The employability of the segment is also growing. High school dropout rates among Hispanic youth have plummeted during the past 15 years, from 35 percent in 2000 to 15 percent today. Simultaneously, college enrollment among high school graduates has grown dramatically. Today, a higher percentage of Hispanic high school graduates enroll in college (49 percent) than non-Hispanic whites (47 percent) or blacks (45 percent). Only Asians (66 percent) have higher levels of enrollment.

Attracting and retaining Hispanics will require a mix of traditional and forward-thinking work options. Large employers, in particular, should prioritize developing a work environment well-suited to this group.

To understand this segment better, I recently conducted an online survey of U.S. workers ages 18 to 53. The role of work in Hispanics’ lives jumped out: 71 percent describe work as a major source of pride, and 75 percent describe it as a route to upward mobility and economic security.

With that in mind, companies should emphasize well-constructed career development options — attractive promotion possibilities and access to resources required to attain them. Nearly 85 percent of respondents said receiving needed training and development from their employer is important to create excitement and engagement at work. Almost the same percentage said being able to learn new things during work was important to create a pleasurable work experience.

Hispanics also place high value on an employer’s stability and reputation, giving large companies with well-respected brands an advantage. When considering moving to a new company, 82 percent of Hispanic workers rated the job’s long-term security and the company’s financial stability as important or extremely important.

The complication? Although attracted to stable, traditional companies, this segment is not looking for traditional work arrangements.

Often part of large extended families, with a strong sense of responsibility to family members, most Hispanics are looking for flexible, forward-thinking work arrangements. Many celebrate holidays that are not part of the traditional corporate calendar.

Ideal work arrangements include time shifting, asynchronous work and flexible schedules; 72 percent rated these characteristics as important or extremely important. Family-friendly flexibility was important or extremely important to 68 percent, and almost half said their preferred work arrangement would include a schedule that allows employees to shift work on a daily basis, as needed, to balance other responsibilities. Companies should offer a wide variety of work arrangements, with an emphasis on personal choice, to attract and retain top Hispanic talent.

The role of family in Hispanics’ work lives is also relevant because of a need to communicate workplace success with a broad community. Innovative status-related recognition such as badging that can be easily shared with an extended community will be important.

Efforts to develop attractive work options are likely to have a significant payoff in the future. Not only will Hispanics represent a large percentage of the available workforce, but also they are likely to be among the happiest and most engaged.

Tamara J. Erickson is the founder and CEO of Tammy Erickson Associates and author of “Retire Retirement.” She can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.