Good benefit plans and on-the-job training have long been valued by American employees. Many will go so far as to accept a position with a slightly lower salary because the benefit package is so attractive or because opportunities for company-sponsored education are so promising.

Why is it then that Spanish speakers, an enormous — and growing — segment of our work force, are not participating in most benefit plans? Retirement plans and health insurance improve one's quality of life dramatically. Term life insurance and disability plans protect an employee and his or her family against unforeseen tragedies for a very modest monthly cost. Why are these facts — so self-evident to us — not sinking in to our Spanish-speaking employees?

The language barrier is only part of the problem. Benefits professionals and human resource managers can be energetic and conscientious about translating the plans or the training — and still get disappointing results. Few realize that such employees have very strongly-held negative and erroneous beliefs about all of these issues. In order to change employees' thinking and persuade them benefits are, in fact, in their best interest, these beliefs must be addressed and clarified. Some misconceptions include:

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