By Jesse Lent

Last month, President Barack Obama spoke at the American Latino Heritage Forum in Washington DC on behalf of Hispanic Heritage Month.

“Right now there are 54 million Americans of Latino descent: one sixth of our population, our neighbors our coworkers our family our friends,” President Obama said. “You’ve helped us build our cities, grow our economy, defend our country.”

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar acknowledged the potential of the Latino community in the workforce in a White House press release.

“Our ability to harness the resources and talent of the Latino community will only strengthen our Nation’s ability to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” Salazar said.

But how do we harness the potential of the Latino community? Here are three organizations that have innovated in the field of Hispanic diversity. Each has found a variety of methods to maximize their effectiveness.

Winning Corporate Programs

AT&T has been consistently recognized as a leader in Hispanic equality, last month, the company took home top honors from Hispanic Business magazine. The publication gave the company the number one ranking for diversity in 2011.

One main factor was a supplier diversity program that as the company’s website says “promotes, increases, and improves the quality of the overall participation of minority, women, and disabled veteran-owned business enterprises…in its corporate supply chain.”

AT&T also invests heavily in minority education, most recently through a $100 million grant to their Aspire program. Aspire was formed to reduce America’s dropout rate through funding school districts and nonprofits that provide job training.

“This initiative is our commitment to helping the next generation aspire to do great things,” said AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson. “Investing in a well-educated workforce may be the single most important thing we can do to help America remain the leader in a digital, global economy.”

Marriott International is also often singled out as an innovator within the field of diversity. The hotel chain offers a mentoring program that has received high marks from publications like Latina Style Magazine, which ranked the organization number two on it’s list of the top 50 companies for Latinas to work in 2011.

Marriott International established its diversity and inclusion program over 20 years ago, and has continued to broaden its base of minority workers. Like AT&T, the company has been known to seek out minority suppliers, even recently forming a group called the Global Diversity and Inclusion Council in order to facilitate the process. The council’s stated purpose is to work locally in order to foster partnerships throughout individual communities to invest in recruitment campaigns that focus on minority employment.

The company also formed the Committee for Excellence in 2003 promote hiring women and minority employees, and offers an annual award to the department that best promotes diversity and an inclusive work environment.

Marriott International also partners with Hispanic organizations like the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting and the National Hispanic Corporate Council by sponsoring events with speakers from the organizations as another way to broaden their visibility within the Latino community. The partnerships expand their network of potential employees as well as provide networking opportunities.

Creating Innovative Business Alliances

While not a corporation itself, the Hispanic Alliance for Career Advancement (HACE) offers a model that could help encourage diversity within any business. The non-profit group facilitates a massive network connecting corporations with Hispanic professionals. They work with both individuals and companies.

According to HACE’s mission statement, their focus is “helping committed employers recruit, retain and develop Latinos into professional roles.”

The organization does this through both networking events and more specialized candidate referrals. They also work directly with companies to offer advice on how to help Latino hires integrate freely and effectively at work.

HACE was started in Chicago in 1982 when the founders were inspired by a claim at the 1982 Hispanic Business and Economy Conference that there were “not enough qualified Hispanics” in Chicago.

While the original goal was to acquire a network of 1,000 Latino professionals, that number has since grown to nearly 40,000 nationwide, and can be a valuable resource any corporation seeking help facilitating diversity hiring.