Advantages of Hiring First Generation American Workers

by Bornheimer, Kathy Wednesday, July 06, 2011
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With the increase of immigration into the United States comes the increase in the children of this generation. This future workforce will eventually become the current workforce.

The three highest groups of immigrants are Hispanic, Middle Eastern and Asian populations. The immigrant generation settles into a community and offers work skills that are needed, as well as contributing to that area socially and culturally. The children of that group offer similar benefits and more. This group is not only bilingual, but also bicultural: an additional advantage!

This generation is immersed into two cultures; the old world and the new world as were their European predecessors from the previous wave of immigrants in the early 1900s. Often they are in extended families, rich in oral history from the “old country”. This encompasses language, traditions and often continued diversity through personal relationships, such as marriage, as they settle into a community. Most still have friends and family in their country of origin.

This first generation American truly lives in two worlds. If anyone were to be a visitor to their homes they may observe:

• The youth fluently speaking in the language of origin to parents, grandparents or extended elders.
• English spoken fluently, but with various degrees on levels of regional dialect of the language of country of origin.
• Individuals equally versed in the culture of both countries with the willingness to share those cultures with everyone.

This is the group from which to draw from if you need workforce skills in dealing with these issues. These skills can be beneficial externally (global customers, vendors, partners or an offshore workforce) or internally--tapping the influx of immigrants locally/regionally or nationally, or your new emerging workforce within your own community or location for national companies.

Many of these language and cultural situations must be approached with a good understanding of diversity within diversity. A few examples are:

Hispanic or Latino There are many differences in language or culture depending on country of origin. Mexico is not the same as Puerto Rico, Central America or South America.

China This is a huge country with multiple regions and languages. Mandarin is not the same as Cantonese—different communication styles are needed for the two groups to work effectively together.

Take a cue from Puerto Rico and businesses in Quebec, Canada. When you call those organizations two things can occur. If a real person answers the telephone it is in their local language. All the English speaking caller has to do is start speaking in English and the employee switches easily to that language. With automated phone systems the option of language is given right away. English is still the universal language of business.

Again, by employing the first generation American, training in language and culture will be minimal or unnecessary. Start early to find and secure the cream of the crop in your area High Schools and Colleges. Some of these young people can be influenced by the negatives of the American popular culture quickly. They can actually lose the attitudes that can provide you with the advantages of their parent’s generation.
Groom your existing workforce or activity recruit this group for your front line supervisors. This is actually more important for issues of workplace safety, and uniformity in following corporate policies/procedures. In other words; good business practices. This is especially true in specific industries: food (service or manufacturing/distribution, healthcare or construction).

Don’t go it alone
Develop relationships with organizations, associations, agencies or High Schools/Colleges that have a heavy population of these groups. Establish partnerships to have allies assisting you in finding the best.

Benefit from the knowledge of the language, customs and the ability to form solid relationships based on commonalities. This is necessary to succeed in a global economy.