Workforce development and immigration reform are hot topics in the construction and commercial roofing industries. Through their work with Bilingual America, KPOST is proactively taking steps to instill a corporate culture that is inclusive and embraces diversity and is making significant investments in developing leaders in their Latino workforce.
Recently, KPOST was the first company ever to receive the Seal of Cultural Excellence Award since Bilingual America’s founding in 1992. The award was presented to the KPOST Company executive team June 26th, 2014.
“The construction industry has been woefully slow to embrace diversity at the leadership level,” says KPOST President Steve Little, “But we believe that the next generation of leaders in construction will include first-generation Latino Americans.”
We caught up with both the Latino trainees and the KPOST Company executive team to see what impact training has had at work and at home.
Enrique Rodríguez – KPOST Company Project Coordinator
So what does it mean to be a great leader? For Enrique Rodríguez, KPOST Company Project Coordinator, it means to invest time in developing others. He knows that being a great leader means being a great follower, and investing time to develop both himself and others.
“In our culture, we work hard and are protective of what we have accomplished. That creates an environment that does not allow for teaching others to become better,” said Enrique. “Now I am secure in the fact that I can lead others, teaching them to be better than me, and still keep everything I have, or even gain more, from guiding others to reach their full potential.”
Enrique chose to truly walk in his new found lessons of leadership. He implemented many of the same teachings at home, where he now has a slightly different attitude on being a role model for his family and has noticed an immediate change throughout his KPOST team:
“Everyone has noticed the new approach I’ve taken, particularly since I make it a point to have one-on-one conversations so we can discuss how everyone can improve. I show everyone the same respect.” He went on to say “This type of behavior and focus is unusual for our industry. At KPOST, we believe in investing in our people.”
Rosa Garcia – KPOST Company Operations Administration
“I recognize that we all have a lot to learn from each other. When people from Latin countries immigrate to the U.S., we want to maintain our culture while still learning about the culture in the U.S.,” said Rosa Garcia, KPOST Company Operations Administration. “One thing I did learn from the courses was that it does not matter who you are, if you become a leader you should stay focused on treating everyone the same. You should work to be humble.”
Rosa recognizes the difficulties of having to lead by example, both at work and at home, but fully understands the need to walk the talk. Always worked to be the type of person who thinks of others before herself, Rosa thinks about how she can be a better person every day.
“It’s in my DNA to be humble, but honestly I never thought about the positive impact that might have on others,” said Rosa. “I now realize the result that can have on those around me, and am appreciative to be part of the team chosen to participate in the training.”
Luciano Perez – KPOST Company Safety Manager
“After the training, I am much better equipped to understand the role of a leader, how to navigate the Anglo culture, and how important it is to have good communication skills,” said Luciano Perez. “It was a good experience and really made us feel like a more integral part of the company.”
Luciano has to interact with varying types of people in his role, including team members, customers and executives. By having a better understanding of the differences between the Latino and Anglo cultures, Luciano feels better prepared to handle his duties at KPOST.
Luciano also understands the significance of this type of cultural integration, particularly from a leadership standpoint.
The biggest “a-ha” moment for Luciano was learning how to change his mentality to be one of service to others. He has learned that it is important to build a level of respect by choosing differently.
“Leaders live in a glass house. Everything you say, how you dress, how you approach a situation makes a difference. Using slang terms and dressing down no longer work,” Luciano said. “Now I make a point to talk to others about what their potential is and what they can do to move forward. It’s about building others.”
Keith Post – Owner and CEO
“When we decided to embark upon this journey, the primary reason was to assess where we were and how to move forward to gain a better understanding of our cultures while solidifying processes and improving our communication,” said Keith. “A major benefit was we all were able to learn a significant number of differences between the Anglo and Latino cultures which will help us improve and grow.”
The majority of the KPOST Company workforce is Latino. Add that to a growing Latino population in the region and investing in this type of training makes sense. When Ricardo Gonzalez of Bilingual America met Keith and Steve Little, KPOST Company president, it seemed like a natural fit.
Keith had a couple of lessons learned he felt were critical.
“We recognize that the Latinos are very hard workers. They come giving their all and never hold back. Consequently, they do not like to be pushed as they are already bringing their “A” game.”
Keith concluded with:
“It is very apparent that we all need to work on communication so we can continue to improve our working environment and develop strong leaders. It is important to me that our team understands I really respect them. Learning more about their culture will help me reach that goal.”
Jayne Williams – CFO and Chief Safety Officer
“One of the unfortunate realities of our industry is there are many contractors who view the labor force as a commodity, and they do not care how they treat that commodity,” said Jayne. “From day one we believed everyone is important. Our people are an asset.”
As chief safety officer, Jayne has spent time not only with the KPOST Company workforce, but with their families as well. Her message is simple, but an important one.
One of the lessons learned for Jayne was the level of pride Latinos carry for the native culture.
“I told Ricardo that I was upset that others would speak Spanish in front of me. I expected them to speak English at work. Now I realize they are simply communicating in a way that is comfortable for them. I also understand how proud they are of their heritage. Sometimes we forget that heritage may not be American,” said Jayne.
“It’s interesting how often it is the little things that will make a change, like my understanding the comfort zone of speaking their own language,” Jayne continued. “Just like we treat our people differently than many of our industry brethren.”
Steve Little – President
“According to the Dallas Hispanic Chamber and the Dallas Chamber, the DFW metroplex population will be over 50% Latino by 2016. If for no other reason, the numbers are compelling enough to make any executive team pause and wonder how to better understand multi-cultural leadership,” said Steve. “For KPOST it was a natural next step.”
Steve went on to explain:
“KPOST is a business first, and a sub-contractor second. We are always thinking ahead to what will ensure we are sustainable for decades to come. When we thought about the next steps required to invest in our company, it made sense to find a good way to invest in our workforce, which presently is 90% Latino. Success with Hispanics gave us a methodology to begin that journey.”
Steve, and the rest of the KPOST team, understands that true growth will come from a deeper understanding of their team, which in this case means understanding different cultures. Without this investment, it will be difficult to find future leaders.
“We cannot rely on society to develop our leaders. This development must come from the business community,” said Steve. “The investment in the Latino leadership program makes sense for many reasons, not the least of which is this is a dedicated culture.”
Bilingual America offers businesses Spanish and Cultural Management training to help individuals and organizations develop highly successful relationships with Latinos. The Seal of Cultural Excellence award is indicative of the commitment KPOST has demonstrated to develop leaders in their Latino workforce.
“We recognize how important it is to invest in our people; doing so through multi-cultural education has resulted in positive dividends for KPOST. Our leadership team is stronger and our ability to create a more positive work environment has created higher operational efficiencies,” said Brent McFarlin, KPOST Company Vice President. “The results are nothing short of amazing!”