Latino Growth Signals Need for Change

 -  7/27/12

Latinos are changing mainstream U.S. culture, but companies aren’t adapting fast enough to capitalize on talent and marketplace opportunities.

By 2025, one-fourth of the U.S. will be Latino. But the implications for the Latino population are already hitting economic, educational, marketplace and workforce agendas.

According to a November 2010 study from the Selig Center for Economic Growth, at 50 million strong, Latino purchasing power is $1 trillion and rising at a rate of $100 billion annually.

Half of the children at today’s playgrounds are Latinos. Economically, by growing at three times the rate of the rest of the population, Latinos accounted for half of the U.S. population rise in the past decade. The United States is already the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. March 2011 numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate by 2020, 20 percent of the workforce will be Latino.

The U.S. is in the midst of a Latinopalooza, a cornucopia of Latino cultural touchstones that are changing everything about U.S. culture. Salsa has surpassed ketchup in U.S. condiment sales. Dulce de leche ice cream is in demand. Mexican restaurants are some of the most common ethnic eateries in the county, and, in 2010, the New York Times noted the soaring popularity of Peruvian food. This raises questions for both Hispanics and mainstream Americans about race and ethnicity, culture and identity. Latinos are changing the U.S. And they, in turn, are being changed by it, which has profound implications for diversity workforce management strategies in today’s organizations.

On the Job
Latinos have a participation rate in the workforce of almost 68 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly three-fourths of the predicted growth in the labor market by 2020 will be due to Latinos. Corporate America’s efforts to win the war for talent will be contingent on its ability to attract the Latino worker. This will require adapting to Latino worldviews and making distinctions between preferences and requirements, as diversity expert Roosevelt Thomas, chairman and CEO of Roosevelt Thomas Consulting & Training, has said throughout his career in speeches and workshops.

Despite their market impact and demographic strength, many Latinos are sliding to the margins in corporate life. In Latino Talent: Effective Strategies to Recruit, Retain and Develop Hispanic Professionals, Robert Rodriguez, president of DRR Advisors, writes, “Along with discrimination, Latinos are also the victim of common negative stereotypes including being perceived as being too passive and lacking the conviction necessary to be a good manager, of being too emotional to fill leadership positions. These stereotypes often are the result of a lack of understanding about how cultural principles and traditions common in the Latino community impact actions and behaviors.”

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