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Narrowing The Latino Career Chasm With Culturally Relevant Coaching

Forbes Article by Forbes Council Member, Joe Frodsham

Latinos are now the largest ethnic minority group in the United States at almost 19% of the population, and they comprise 21% of the millennial generation. However, fewer than 5% of executive officer positions are held by Hispanics, according to the Corporate Inclusion Index published by the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR).

Latinos are not rising in the ranks, and they are leaving corporate America. Losing talented Latino employees is a widespread problem for most companies. According to HACR, the average attrition for Hispanic employees is 20%.

Why are Latinos not rising in the ranks of corporate America? At a high level, it is an issue of inclusion and adaptation. Companies and leaders need to be more aware and inclusive of the needs of their Latino talent. My company has found that culturally relevant coaching can be effective in addressing the Latino career gap.

Cultural Script

My company has synthesized the last decade of research on Latino career progression to surface the consistent barriers encountered by Latino professionals. We validated this research by qualitative focus groups and an extensive validation study to identify 14 key predictors of Latino career success. This empirical look at Latino career progression highlighted key cultural scripts that can limit Latino professionals. At the core of these cultural scripts are the following beliefs and behaviors:

Cultural Belief: Respect for authority. Behavior: High deference — Not sharing alternative opinions and insights to authority; not speaking up.

Cultural Belief: Loyalty and self-reliance. Behavior: Lower networking —Not actively building relationships across levels, functions, companies and industries. 

Cultural Belief: Harmony and humility. Behavior: Lower self-advocacy — Not actively stating and pursuing what they want and feel is just and right.

These pervasive cultural scripts are often valued, and even core to the Latino worldview and identity. These values should be embraced. However, as Latinos operate in companies, their cultural script (beliefs and behaviors) often lead to the perception that they are not “leadership material” and/or the perception of being “more of a soldier than a leader.” The misalignment of common Latino beliefs and behaviors with the beliefs and behaviors rewarded in most organizations is a core and causal reason for the pervasive Latino career stagnation.

When working with Latino members of your team, it’s important to start a dialogue about necessary skills and self-insight without challenging their identity and culture.

Coaching Latinos For Enlightened Career Navigation: Three Steps

Given the pervasive cultural scripts, below is a three-step approach for coaching Latino professionals for greater career success.

1. Develop Awareness Of Their Cultural Script — For most of us, the concept of “culture” is a bit ethereal and can mean a lot of different things. However, for career enlightenment purposes, there is value in exploring core beliefs and associated behaviors. Along with the cultural beliefs consistent with the Latino culture, there may be additional beliefs that emerge that may result in behaviors that are not serving them well in their career.

Exploring the core beliefs on career “success” with the question, “How is that working for you?” will create the self-insight that is core to influence and enlightened career navigation.

For example, one coachee believed that not questioning their boss was a sign of respect and should result in approval and promotion. However, as they considered the fruits of that belief, they realized that it may be a reason they felt unappreciated and stuck in the same analyst role for over four years. Their high deference resulted in their not being noticed or advancing.

2. Surface The Real Corporate Culture Expectations — Every company has a set of cultural expectations, mores and values that may or may not be explicitly stated. Surfacing these “honest and real” cultural expectations uncovers the path to enlightened career navigation. The participant needs to identify the behaviors that are rewarded in their company by exploring two questions:

  • Viewing those who have been successful — What actions and behaviors are rewarded above all else at the company?
  • Viewing those who have not been successful — What actions and behaviors are not rewarded and even discouraged formally or informally?

For example, one coachee heard his company constantly state that they are a meritocracy that rewards performance; however, when analyzing what was actually rewarded, they saw that real keys to success were building client relationships and strong presentation skills in larger meetings with management.

3. Define Career Context Beliefs And Behaviors And Make A Choice — By surfacing their career scripts, and unmasking the behaviors of success within their company, the coachee is in a position to make enlightened career choices. For some, these may be behaviors that they choose to use within their job/career but not in their life outside of work. For others, they may choose to adjust behaviors in all aspects of their life, or make no changes at all. The goal is to make an enlightened career choice based on who they are, what they feel is right and what they want to achieve.

For example, one coachee committed to initiating conversations with key stakeholders within her organization and to speaking up and asking for an expanded role. However, the “how” was very important to her — she wanted to operate in alignment with her desire for respectful relationships where she always listened and considered others’ viewpoints. 

This three-step process applies pervasive Latino cultural scripts to the uniqueness of each individual and situation. Businesses should work to understand these cultural differences and potential challenges. In doing so, leaders create a more inclusive work environment for everyone.

As seen in Forbes.