Five Strategies for Training Hispanic Supervisors

Food manufacturers can blend traditional authoritarian Latino leadership style with a U.S.-style "best practices" mode of supervision.

By Mariah DeForest, Contributor

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Strategy 5. Creating a sense of pride by setting benchmarks to measure supervisory improvement: We measured productivity and quality performance on the lines in each department before the training started, and then several months later. This simple before-and-after comparison showed the Spanish-speaking supervisors the results of their efforts and gave them a sense of pride in their accomplishments, one key result of their training.

In each of the food processors, we reviewed the supervisors' production and reject rates with them before the training began, raising their awareness of their performance. Once they knew senior management was taking performance seriously, they realized they were being held accountable. They took the training to heart and focused on managing their departments to achieve better results. Said some Mexican-American supervisors:

"I never knew from one day to the next just how much waste we were getting at the mixers. Now I know the exact amount on each line as well as the total day's output of good product. I can see right off by the case counters if we have a problem or if we're on the right track with a new idea. It saves a lot of time and material."

"I never knew if my department was doing better over the year or not. Our annual bonus is based on the amount of improvement, but there was nothing on record to go by. Now I know how I'm doing and can prove it. It gives me a tool to motivate my workers with."

LESSON No. 5: Make sure supervisors know their performance is being benchmarked. This becomes the basis for realistic goal-setting. Benchmarking underlies meaningful targets to shoot for, and training gives supervisors the tools to hit them. Having metrics available for supervisors to rate themselves also helped improve productivity in 19 of the 23 food producers.

As retail grocery chains find the low-wage non-union competition from the Walmarts and Coscos of their world becoming a larger threat, they are putting ever greater pressure on their suppliers to hold down prices and pass along the savings – at least some of them – to American consumers. These pricing pressures will continue. For food processors of all types, this means continued pressure to boost employee productivity and cut per-unit costs.

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