By 2010, there will be a shortage of 3 million workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As baby boomers retire, there will not be enough younger workers to take their places; at the same time, your best workers will face ongoing recruitment efforts, including temptations from your competition. Do you have a strategy to survive this shortage?
The recruiting, hiring, and retention of recently arrived immigrants will become a vital survival strategy, as the real growth segment in the future labor force will come from Hispanic and Asian-American workers. The predictions by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are that over the next five years the Hispanic workforce will grow to 14 percent, and the Asian-American workforce will increase to 6 percent, up from 10 percent and 4 percent, respectively. These figures do not include illegal immigrants, which are not documented by the government.
As more and more people in the building materials industry hire from these two immigrant groups, they find both rewards and frustrations. The rewards come from adding employees that are motivated, loyal, and hardworking; the frustrations stem from the language barriers and the cultural differences. The language barriers eventually decrease with time, but the cultural barriers remain an ongoing challenge. American-born managers and owners may use management techniques with good intentions, but the differences between these two cultures and the American culture often can yield bad results. Some techniques may turn out to be colossal blunders.
Here are five employee-management methods that could backfire with new immigrant employees:
Employee involvement and participation: For years, managers have been aware of the benefits of getting their employees involved. Asking employees their opinions and getting their feedback has been a key element to motivating them and keeping them happy. However, in the Hispanic and Asian cultures, the front-line workers are familiar with the boss telling them what to do and how it should be done. No one ever questions the boss. When they enter the American workforce and are suddenly asked what they think, many are puzzled or even stunned. It's helpful to explain that in the United States it is normal—and permissible—to speak up, and it makes everyone more efficient.
Delegation and empowerment: Delegation and empowerment are natural extensions of the above method, but these two concepts are often unheard of in non-English-speaking countries, where the boss not only tells you what to do, but how to do it. Being empowered to make decisions on their own is a foreign concept to these employees. To get them used to this management style, start gradually by having them first make decisions as a group.
The manager rolls up his sleeves and pitches in: American workers are only too glad to have the boss help, but foreign-born workers are stunned by this action. When you jump in alongside immigrant workers and help them, you are sending the message that you feel they are incapable of handling the job themselves. Plus, you also have lowered yourself, in their eyes, below your status. Some immigrant workers may feel so humiliated they will actually quit.
Giving feedback to individuals in front of others: Other cultures are family- and group-oriented. Singling out an individual for negative feedback, especially in front of his or her co-workers, is a degrading experience. Try giving feedback to the whole group or team. You will find they will put pressure on each other to improve. If you must single-out an individual, do so in private with neutral corrective feedback that will help them succeed.
Publicly rewarding or recognizing individuals: Again, because of the group culture, and in order to maintain group harmony, it is not a good idea to single-out individuals for public reward or recognition. They lose their place as part of the group; they no longer feel anonymous. In order to promote group harmony and maintain balance, it is best to reward the whole team instead of individuals. —Bob Losyk is the author of Managing a Changing Workforce and Get a Grip! Overcoming Stress and Thriving in the Workplace. He can be reached at 800.995.0344 or www.boblosyk.com.
Bob Losyk Certified professional speaker, author, and consultant Davie, Fla.