Successful Multicultural Management Thomas R.

Maloney Senior Extension Associate Department of Applied Economics and Management Cornell University In March 1999, 20 New York dairy farm operators who employ Hispanic workers were surveyed regarding their experiences with managing a multicultural workforce. The survey was conducted with owners of large dairy farms in New York State. The average herd size was over 800 cows. Of the 20 employers surveyed, 17 had employed Hispanic workers for five years or less. The country of origin for most of the workers employed on New York dairies was Mexico and most of the employees were young single men. The survey revealed that the managers who were most successful at management tended to adopt management practices that helped them to be effective. These practices when combined into a management strategy for Hispanic workers tend to create a productive and successful multicultural workforce. Dairy farm employers who are successful in managing Hispanic employees possess the following characteristics: 1. Successful employers work aggressively to overcome the language barrier, including learning to speak Spanish themselves.

When employees are sent to English classes. Other employers have provided bonuses for those employees who achieve a certain level of competence in the English language. Employees especially seem to lose interest if they have to pursue English classes off the farm. Many farm employers have effectively used interpreters on a regular basis not only to help teach Spanish and English. employers must be supportive and encouraging. Employers who learn Spanish also avoid the problem of having a Spanish-speaking employee control the communication on the farm.Many employers find that learning at least some Spanish is very important. Some pay their employees more if they know the English language and serve as an interpreter for the farm. Successful employers work very hard to encourage their . A common technique at the outset is to learn at least 40 – 50 common Spanish words. Employers who learn Spanish begin to overcome the language barrier and gain the respect of employees for making an attempt to learn their language. Many employees lose interest early if they are not encouraged. but also to translate during staff meetings and during training sessions. Many employers encourage their employees to learn English.

Successful employers make a concentrated effort to learn about the culture of their employees. they become familiar with the employees’ culture by asking them to describe life in their home country.employees to speak English and make it easy for employees to access English language instruction. There are a variety of books and seminars designed to train employers on how to implement successful cross-cultural supervisory practices. They also read about the culture of their employees and contrast it with the American culture. 3. 2. Successful employers develop an organizational culture that accepts and appreciates the differences that individual employees bring to the workplace. First. and to understand the supervisory techniques that are acceptable and unacceptable to employees from another culture. Successful employers use several strategies to develop cultural understanding. Learning about the culture enables employers to better understand their employees as people. For true cross-cultural understanding to take place it is also important for Hispanic employees to Managing a Hispanic Workforce January 2001 learn about and develop an appreciation for the American culture. They help all of their employees to recognize and .

Effective managers address problems of prejudice in the workplace quickly and directly. Successful employers take a proactive role in helping Hispanic employees to adjust to the work environment on the farm and making them comfortable with their new job. One of the realities of integrating people of different races and cultures is that occasionally racism or prejudice emerges. employment policies . rather than accept a predominant culture from one of the groups. Effective managers also create opportunities for supervisors and employees to learn about the culture of their Hispanic employees and to appreciate that culture. Successful employers establish employment policies and carefully communicate them so all employees understand the expectations for proper conduct on the job and on farm property. They insist that all employees be treated with respect and dignity regardless of race or cultural background. Once established.appreciate the differences between cultures. Studies in multicultural work environments show that when people from different national cultures begin working together it is best to create a new organizational culture which is an amalgamation. creating tensions and disrespect within the workgroup. 4.

It may also be important to inform Hispanic employees of local laws and regulations. 6. And conduct on farm property are all-important issues to cover at the time of hiring. Successful employers acknowledge their employees’ strong family ties and desire to return home periodically. Work hour Requirements. The more an employer can do to increase the chances of hiring legal Hispanic workers the more he will reduce the chances of immigration inspections on the farm and problems of deportation. particularly as they relate to operating motor vehicles. This avoids encounters with the law and also encourages respect for American laws and regulations. Successful . Employers have a legal responsibility to check for proper identification of all employees and to fill out an I-9 form and have it on file for each employee on the farm. Successful employers make every effort to hire Hispanic employees who have legally entered the United States and thereby avoid employee turnover due to deportation. 5. It is most effective to set expectations for all employees including Hispanic employees at the beginning of the employment relationship.should be uniformly enforced with all employees. performance requirements.

employers develop staffing systems that are flexible enough to allow for employees to return home for a period of several weeks or months and then return to the job. Many employees come to northeast dairy farms to earn money to support families at home and often send most of their earnings back to their family at home. Ask employees when they start work to agree to give several weeks notice before leaving employment. Managing a Hispanic Workforce January 2001 Involve employees in training their replacement and orienting them to the job before they leave. Managers often develop systems so that employees can have extended periods of time off and still fill the work schedules on the farm as necessary. Encourage employees to return to the farm after their visit home. Involve employees in finding their own replacement. These strong family ties also create a strong desire for employees to return home periodically. Some of the management strategies used to create a flexible staffing include the following: Assume at the outset that positions will have to be refilled periodically. This appears to work well since Hispanic employees have strong networks of family and friends. .

8. create the opportunity to attend local churches. and provide opportunities to get away from the farm to shop and pursue personal interests. Successful employers become involved in community relations to help community residents accept and support Hispanic employees and to help employees become oriented to the community. and sometimes local landlords have refused to rent to Hispanic employees. 7. Hispanic employees have not always been welcomed to some rural communities. It is not traditionally the employer’s responsibility to find social and recreational activities for their employees. They become advocates for their Hispanic employees so that community residents will understand the importance of this workforce to the success of the agricultural community. Successful employers support social and recreational activities for Hispanic employees that will create a quality of life outside of the job. Treat employees with respect and dignity and encourage them to become part of the farm team over the long term. Advocating for employees means helping employees . when Hispanic employees come to northeast dairy farms they often lack constructive activities in their time off. However. At times. Some employers encourage employees to join local soccer leagues.

become part of the community and helping community residents to appreciate these new residents. Managing a Hispanic Workforce January 2001 .

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