Hispanic Heritage Month – September 15 through October 15 – is a time for Americans to recognize and celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of Hispanic Americans. This year’s national theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope,” which invites us to reflect on how great our tomorrow can be if we hang on to our resilience and hope.
“To me the importance of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is about building a better sense of community,” said Ever Hernandez, Lead Benefits Specialist at Unum. “Sharing our experiences and diverse backgrounds can help someone better understand our perspective, and highlight not only differences but, more importantly, similarities that we have with all other races.”
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.
The choice of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30-day period.
“As a Hispanic, it is important to acknowledge the culture and to acknowledge our differences,” said Jesmine Rivera, Voluntary Benefits Specialist at Unum. “It helps to break the stereotypes to talk about your heritage, your upbringings, where you grew up, and what makes you ‘you’ as a Hispanic person.”
At Unum, it’s important for our exemplary customer service to translate to all of our clients. That is why Spanish-speaking employees play a key role in driving business results.
“My perspective as a Hispanic person drives business results right on the front lines,” said Ever. “The ability to speak to someone in Spanish, or to translate documentation written in Spanish, allows for not only a timelier decision on claims, but also eliminates the need to utilize interpretation services which can be costly.”
“When I first started in the contact center, many of the calls I’d take were from Hispanic customers calling to cancel policies,” said Jesmine. “Through conversation, I learned they didn’t understand these policies, so being able to communicate with them and explain in detail in Spanish would drive them to understand that this is something necessary. It helps their confidence in us as a company, and it helped reassure them that they do have a good product in their hand.”
Building an inclusive and diverse culture within the company not only helps improve our business practices, it also helps create an environment where diverse talent can thrive.
By embracing the things that make us different, we create an open and honest environment where people are unafraid to bring their authentic selves into the office every day.
“Unum has always been a place to be your authentic self,” said Ever. “Whether that is participating in some form of organized sport/recreation, something artistic, through service to our community, or one of the multitude of other avenues available to us. There are so many opportunities available to flex your skills, get outside your comfort zone and learn something new.”
“It means everything to be your authentic self,” said Jesmine. “It means peace of mind, if you come into the workplace feeling like you have to shelter who you are, you would feel suppressed. It messes with your mind, it affects your work, your mood, and everything around you. So coming into a place and being able to be who you are without fear of any kind of repercussion, judgement, or fear is very liberating.”