Key Issues in Training First Generation Hispanics in the Workplace

Communicating with a different culture such as first-generation, non-English fluent Hispanic employees is often a challenging task because our communication styles are processed through our own built-in language and cultural filters. It’s important to develop a training method that is more practical and applicable to their learning styles and preferences.

5 Important points for training first generation, non-English fluent Hispanics

1. First generation Hispanics in the workplace are known for not raising issues or asking questions. Even when they don’t fully understand the instructions given, they will often remain silent. Hispanic males, in particular, will generally not attempt to ask their bosses for clarification. They prefer to learn through trial and error or by watching or asking one of their trusted team members. They justify this behavior because they fear they might appear “unintelligent” in front of their bosses or “weak” or “inexperienced” in front of their peers.

2. The instruction methods used to teach first generation Hispanic employees are also crucial.  Conventional teaching principles such as those employed by the major training and development organizations often fall short of their expected learning objectives. In American style training methods, the trainer often presents the workshop by introducing a concept in a lecture format followed by a set of “key principles” that fortify the particular concept. The instructor then divides the class into teams and turns them loose to practice the skills with each other. The groups usually prefer to be independent and rely on the facilitator only when they get stuck.

More often than not, this training method is almost always ineffective when applied to first generation Hispanic employees. In a learning environment, this group wants and needs constant guidance, not sudden independence.

3.  Involve the English speaking employees as a source of training or mentoring. They can help to promote a culture of appreciation and trust. The team leaders can help to ease the tension first generation Hispanics experience during learning curves by making every learning opportunity a time to foster growth and trust!

4. During a training session, always be aware of your own effectiveness and the impact you are having as a trainer. Be in touch with the way you are communicating your messages, your delivery style and body language. Different cultures interpret certain physical actions differently and sometimes not so favorably. Above all, be patient and let the learning process sink in through the use of real-life examples and much-needed repetitions during the skills practice sessions.

5. Always assume that your instructions or suggestions will not be carried out as perfectly as you would like the first time the skills or concepts are introduced. Remember that repetition and patience are the two most powerful tools in your training arsenal especially; when teaching a new skill to first-generation, non-English fluent Hispanic employees. Be prepared for mistakes, nervous reactions and learning bumps. Training sessions are excellent opportunities to demonstrate your outstanding leadership abilities.

Hispanics appreciate sensitivity to their needs

Front-line Hispanic employees are often thrown into their new workplaces before receiving the adequate, introductory training. The challenges and pressures involved in learning a new skill as well as their inability to adequately communicate in English makes Hispanics in the workplace feel doubly vulnerable.

By following these steps to clear communications, first-generation, Hispanic employees will appreciate your sensitivity to their special communication issues and learning needs.