Over the past 20 years, the population of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where the Hershey Chocolate Factory is located, has experienced a rapid growth of Hispanic residents, from 5% to more than 60%. It was becoming a challenge for the company to find an English-speaking workforce, so they focused on finding a solution with the Hispanic community, creating the “Say Hola” initiative.
In place for nearly a year, the “Say Hola” program has achieved seamless integration between Spanish- and English-speaking employees, enabling the establishment of Hershey’s first bilingual chocolate manufacturing plant.
The transformation enhances Hershey’s employee experience and ensures an accessible and equitable work environment, the company reported. The program has enabled the recruitment of a more experienced workforce, improved employee retention, and reduced hiring costs.
“Say Hola” reinforces Hershey’s commitments to its communities while underscoring the priorities of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the company, professional development programs, and improved employee care and reward systems.
“On the front lines of our business, our manufacturing employees make what we do possible and are a driving force behind our recent supply chain investments,” said Jason Reiman, Senior VP and Chief Supply Chain Officer.
Reiman added that “Say Hola” is at the forefront of a wide range of new and enhanced employee support programs rolling out in 2023, including enhanced parental leave, further training, development opportunities, and local community efforts.
“By delivering exceptional and inclusive experiences for employees, their families, and the greater communities, we are redoubling our legacy commitment to ensuring Hershey is a top-tier workplace for factory workers so that people can grow within our company,” Reiman noted.
With Hazleton’s Hispanic population growing by more than 60 percent, Hershey launched the “Say Hola” initiative to equip employees with the tools and resources they need to succeed, regardless of their native language. The company said “Say Hola” is part of a people-first strategy in its factories that directly reflects the local community’s diversity and rapidly changing demographics.
Opening its doors to the changing Hazleton community with the launch of the “Say Hola” initiative nearly a year ago, Hershey sees positive results with increased employee retention and highly experienced people applying for jobs. More than 90% of workers hired now have the desired manufacturing experience, up from 50% of staff employed before the program’s launch. The community’s enthusiasm about transforming to a bilingual plant and word-of-mouth awareness has also reduced recruitment costs.
The company took the opportunity to make internal changes to grow with Hazleton and position the 50-year-old manufacturing plant as a reflection of the community. To that end, Hershey now offers:
- Training courses in English and Spanish.
- Production of all signs, labels, and forms in Spanish and English.
- Ensures bilingual employees and resources are available on the floor to support communication and introduces a 24/7 1-800 number for assistance.
The company said its partnership with its Latino Business Resource Group (LBRG) was instrumental in devising, planning, and executing the “Say Hola” initiative. LBRG remains heavily involved as Hershey continues to develop and implement the program.
As its first multilingual pilot program, the company will continue to use key learnings from this initiative to advance its people-first vision for factories and support its overall diversity, equity, and inclusion roadmap.
“The ‘Say Hola’ initiative showcases Hershey’s commitment to our people and the communities in which we live and work – both on a local and global scale,” said Alicia Petross, Chief Diversity Officer. “‘Say Hola’ has accelerated the diversity of our workforce – a key element of our DEI roadmap – and provided upskilling, improved recruiting, and retention. Most importantly, the program fosters a workplace that looks more like the communities our colleagues live in.”