While the current economic recovery has been referred to as "jobless" because of stagnant unemployment rates, signs of an improving job picture continue to trickle in. And as the economy continues to redefine itself to meet the needs of a rapidly changing marketplace, Hispanics and other minorities may even have an edge when it comes to landing the new jobs that are being created.
Today, many companies are looking for minority candidates to help them establish "cultural competence," the ability to respond and gain the trust of consumers from various cultural backgrounds. "Now, more than ever, companies are looking for the best and the brightest candidates that can offer their firms diverse perspectives. Employees from different backgrounds and ethnicities are more creative and offer insight into communities otherwise unreachable," says Myrna Marofsky, president and co-founder of ProGroup Inc., a diversity consulting agency. "The consumer market is becoming so diverse that companies are being forced to hire candidates able to supply the inside track to gaining consumer confidence."
Ms. Marofsky says companies operating in areas sensitive to cultural responsiveness, such as healthcare and medical assistance professions, particularly need to build trust, and are increasingly relying on diversity to bridge cultures. "Not everyone is trusting of companies and professions they are not accustomed to dealing with, and hiring diverse candidates is going to help ease that," she says.
Deborah New of Anthem Inc., the nation's fourth largest health benefits company and the holding company of Blue Cross Blue Shield, agrees with Ms. Marofsky. "At Anthem, diversity brings a number of benefits that align with our core values. Our 12.5 million customers are a varied group – our customer focus demands that we service their needs with a diverse group of associates who can best reflect the concerns and cultures of our members."
"Differences among people – the way they think and solve problems – generates the kind of creative thinking that leads to continuous improvement and innovation. Multilingual and bicultural candidates can bring fresh perspectives to the organization in a variety of ways," says Ms. New.
Specifically, Hispanics account for 7.7 percent of all consumer expenditures in the United States, and well-established corporations launching new products are hiring employees with the cultural insight to target them.
"At this moment, the companies leading in Hispanic recruitment are companies like AOL and ESPN that are developing new products targeting the Hispanic market, for example AOL Latino or ESPN Deportes. Also, companies that because of their size or type of business need to be as diverse as possible in order to give more to their Hispanic customers — companies like Citibank or Sony," says Eric Shannon, president of LatPro, a firm specializing in the placement of Hispanic and Latino professionals.
As of March 2004, Hispanic employment increased more than 13.8% from the January 2000 level, while U.S. employment fluctuated around a 2% increase.
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