Diversity & Inclusion

How non-Hispanic supervisors can lead Hispanic employees

by Jim Davis

Between potential language barriers, cultural differences, and a political and social landscape rife with discrimination, it’s important that any employee be able to navigate whatever challenges may arise while leading a diverse workforce. Glenn Llopis, a best-selling author, columnist, and senior advisor to Fortune 500 seeks to show how non-Hispanic employers and supervisors can better connect with their Hispanic workers.    Arrows Leadership Concept on Chalkboard

At SHRM’s 2017 Annual Conference and Exposition in New Orleans, Llopis presented a session entitled “Leading Hispanic Employees (for Non-Hispanic Supervisors).” He began with some wisdom from his father, who told him “you cannot sacrifice your identity.” Identity is at the heart of Llopis’s talk. He himself admits that the topic at hand can be an uncomfortable one. It requires facing some difficult issues about bias, belief structures, and cultural differences.

For example, says Llopis, the best example of how some Hispanics might feel in the workplace comes with how their names are pronounced. About his own name he says “It’s not low-pez. It’s y-OH-p-ee-s.” It may be uncomfortable to ask someone for the pronunciation of their name, says Llopis, but it’s an important step towards respecting someone’s identity. And, if you want to practice it privately, you can always use Pronounce Names.

While understanding Hispanics in the workplace, or in general, is a complex issue, at the top level, the issue can be explored with a handful of general ideas laid out by Llopis. Here are six of those ideas:

  1. They see opportunity in everything. Llopis says that because many immigrants “comes to a country with nothing but hope and love” they must find opportunity to survive. He goes on to say that Hispanics “believe that the templates that got us here won’t get us there.” In other words, make use of your Hispanic and immigrant workers’ capacity to plainly see the opportunity that isn’t necessarily visible to you.
  2. The flexibility to anticipate the unexpected. Llopis says that “when you can see opportunity everywhere it gives you wide angles to begin anticipating crises and managing change before circumstances force their hand.” When so much rides on your capability to succeed in a new and challenging environment, you learn to see the forest through the trees. This strength can be of incredible value to any organization.
  3. The freedom to unleash passionate pursuits. Llopis says that “Hispanics are natural explorers. We like to observe, take a peek, and see where everything is.”  He cautions that you can’t let Hispanics feel like they have ownership one day and then take it away the next. He cautions “if you do this, they won’t be as committed and loyal to you.” If you give them the power to make real change in a company and to really own their work, their exploratory spirit can drive real progress in your company.
  4. The room to express their entrepreneurial spirits. Llopis says that in the developing countries “you must be an entrepreneur to survive, maximizing “resources as an instinct.”  Take positive advantage of your Hispanic workers’ entrepreneurial energy and you might be pleasantly surprised by their success.
  5. The trust to work with a generous purpose. Llopis says Hispanics are “raised to consider the needs of others as much as our own.” Treating each other as part of a much larger family “ensures a perpetual harvest.”  He says, “For us, giving comes as second nature. For us, all we want to do is give give give.” Give your employees an environment where they trust you enough to express their ideas unrestricted and uncensored.  What does this solve? Lack of intimacy, lack of influence, shared beliefs, mentorship/sponsorship, development of people, selfishness.
  6. The respect to lead to leave a legacy. Llopis credits his father with helping him achieve success. He proudly notes, “My dad helped forumate miller lite.”  Legacy matters. Llopis says, “We understand that familia is something that is an inherent part of who we are. The strongest bonds in business across the entire supply chain occur when vendors and employees feel like family. Success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue.” Those that lead to leave a legacy care about respect of their employees.  He notes, “the respected man captivates the heart and the heart doesn’t forget.”

As we transition from a knowledge-based to a wisdom-based economy,  “It’s not about what you know, it’s what you do with what you know,” Llopis says. He concluded with a very important question: “How do we as leaders become vulnerable enough to discover like mindedness within our differences?”

Llopis promised it’s “hard, really hard.” But after attending his session, I can say that it’s worth the effort.


James Davis is the Editor of a number of publications at SimplifyCompliance, including the HR Daily Advisor, THRIVE HR Magazine, Recruiting Daily Advisor, Marketing Daily Advisor, Learning & Development Daily Advisor.