Language options for career training


100 Best Companies to Work For Rank: 82
Headquarters: Dallas
Employees: 1,800
Compensation: Project managers average an annual salary of $90,000.

Eighteen construction workers took a break in January from job sites around Texas to attend a class at TDIndustries headquarters in Dallas. One of the teachers was Mexican-born Alberto Sandoval, who began at the contracting services company as a plumber’s apprentice in 1998. Sandoval’s lesson plan that day had nothing to do with his expert trade. Instead he was teaching a “servant leadership” management course in his native language, Spanish.

As someone who struggled with English earlier in his career and overcame the language gap to climb through the ranks and become a superintendent, Sandoval says TD’s emphasis on active listening and talent development contribute to the company’s success: “When you have respect for people, they’ll respect you. When you earn the respect from a lot of guys, that’s going to take you a long way.”

Offering training courses in Spanish is part of a new push to expand advancement opportunities at TD, a firm with $430 million in sales where Hispanic and Latino workers make up 37% of the company’s total workforce. The new course joins the company’s many other training options, which include classes to learn Spanish and English, as well as GED test-prep offerings in both languages — some of the reasons it has been named one of Fortune’s Best Companies every year since the list made its debut in 1998. “We want our young leaders on the front lines to look up and say, ‘Wow, they look like me. I can go there,’ ” says Harold MacDowell, the company’s third CEO since 1946.

TD also prides itself on hiring people for life, not as temps on a given project. That boosts performance, productivity, and innovation across the company’s different services, which include engineering, renovations, and maintenance. So even while executing a four-year, $100 million contract for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the company focuses on lining up future projects. “We will reduce our margins to win the right work so our people don’t get laid off,” MacDowell says.

The company is 100% employee-owned, which reinforces the long view. About 1,200 people hold all the stock, at $140 a share, and senior management owns less than 20% of the pie. People department manager Jessica Pastor, who helps run TD’s Hispanic resources group, plans to grow that stockholder pool with more outreach to Spanish speakers. “Hopefully, they’ll gain a better understanding of how that investment works and how it pays out for them in the long run,” she says.

Aiming for full participation in the company’s ESOP is good business — in any language.

This story is from the March 17, 2014 issue of Fortune.

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