With the Internet, social media, and more recently the rise of remote employees, a multilingual workforce has become the norm.
Many companies now have a very diverse workforce coming from different cultures, different countries, and different languages.
In this multilingual context, effective communication becomes a real challenge for team managers but is key to keep employee engagement up, motivate the team, manage it and overall keep employees happy.
So you might wonder, how can you be communicating effectively and lift this language barrier while working with multilingual employees?
Being a travel and team building agency for Americans implanted in Paris, France, let us tell you that we know about that topic.
Multilingual employees, tourists, guides, partners… Every day we turn all of those differences into clear competitive advantages. Read on our best tips below and learn how to do it too!
1. Establish an Open Communication Policy With Your Multilingual Employees
When team managers and employees speak several languages, it can result in miscommunication and confusion among workers.
Implementing an “open door” policy can be as simple as a suggestion box or a simple chat to establish an open flow of communication between the workforce and management.
You can even ask employees for direct input about improving their workplace, and then integrate those suggestions into the company culture and operations. This empowers staff because it instills feelings of acceptance, confidence, and appreciation at the workplace.
The information collected will also give management and human resources insights into employee perceptions, preferences, interests, and areas for improvement.
2. Lift the Language Barrier
Do you work with a multilingual workforce? So what? Many solutions exist to support your team and to help all team members understanding each other.
To tackle communication challenges, some companies hire interpreters for employee orientations, training, and other important meetings. And as long as he does the job right in his alone time, everything is fine!
Another solution is to hire other bilingual individuals or leaders in the team, who can work closely with the Limited English proficiency (LEP) employee to communicate the day-to-day tasks, report achievements, and monitor progress.
You could also translate corporate materials into all spoken languages in the workplace, such as employee handbooks, compliance rules, and other policies. This way, all employees have pertinent information in hand and can stay up to date with company news, updates, and the employer’s products and services.
One of the most effective ways to translate easily and quickly notifications is also by using a translation application or software. There are many solutions on the market, but easy and free ones include Google Translate and Deepl. It uses real-time technology, so it can translate in both directions, which helps to improve the quality of translations.
3. Organize a Diversity Day at the Office
When you decide on hiring people from different parts of the world, you should be ready to embrace that multicultural environment you are creating.
A great way to do so is by organizing a diversity day at the office. Schedule a team building activity or full day where all the staff come together and share basics about their common language, their cultural norms, habits.
You could even ask them to bring local food, music or movies. The objective is to open mids in this new country, develop interpersonal communications and build new relationships within employees.
Remember not to single out any specific minority in your workforce because you want everyone to feel included. This can bring LEP individuals and English-speaking individuals together to work better as a team.
Pro tip: This is also a good exercise for sales teams to train for situations when their interlocutor doesn’t speak the same native language.
4. Install Trust
When a language barrier exists, LEP employees may converse with coworkers who speak the same language in their native language.
This behavior not only isolates them from their English-speaking co-workers but also creates an “us versus them” stigma. It can be a sign of vulnerability and possibly hostility or lack of confidence at work.
To combat this, it’s a good idea for senior management and executives to take initiative to learn common phrases in their employee’s mother tongue. This enables them to facilitate communication with the staff and communicate that they appreciate and care about the well-being and comfort of subordinates.
5. Challenge Your Multilingual Workers and Reward Them With Responsibility
Identify the strengths and talent of the multilingual speakers of your team and assign them special projects to use their specific skills.
These employees will be able to contribute to other departments and can capitalize on the environments in which they feel comfortable and in return, can lead to nice benefits for the company.
6. Offer Language Training
Provide your monolingual peers and yourself with some classes to learn a new language!
Not only will it participate in the inclusion of all non-native English speakers, but it can also develop employees’ knowledge and professional skills.
Human resources can also develop an English learning program that is specific to workplace terminologies so they can learn English in the workplace.
It is a great way to celebrate and encourage differences.
7. Turn Differences Into a Competitive Advantage
Multilingual capabilities in a company can actually result in great benefits.
First, think about it. The more employees you have from another country, the more you are fitted to conquer new markets and expand your consumer base. Simply, they know the cultural norms, the differences between the markets you are in and you intend to enter, and will be of high value in your expansion strategy.
Those high-skilled collaborators can also give you great access to contacts and experts located in other countries. Everything flow betters when you want to connect foreign organizations or businesses.
Thirdly, know that multilingual workers can help the company with customer support.
They could also look for ideas and opportunities abroad to reduce costs, save time, or improve processes. For example: Look for new suppliers.
If you are part of the businesses that are targeting a global expansion, you now know what you can do now!
FAQ on Multilingual Workforce
What is a multilingual workforce?
A multilingual workforce stands for describing an ensemble of employees who speaks two languages or more.
Do multilingual people get paid more?
Multilingual employees can earn more if they answer a need or help overcome challenges the company is facing.
In this case, their mastering of several languages can indeed be rewarded more significantly than other partners.
Is it important for employees to speak multiple languages?
Multilingualism is important for collaboration between team members. It can facilitate the management of multidisciplinary teams that are deployed overseas or cross-nationally.
As stated before, many benefits can also come from the fact of hiring associates that can easily speak different languages, such as for international business, supporting clients, understanding foreign cultures and markets, and so on.
Whether you’re a small business or part of a larger organization, having several language speakers in your team can only be a positive thing, as long as you follow those tips!
If you don’t know how to deal with multicultural teams, then you’re facing wide-understanding challenges that might affect your business. It’s primary to make sure that all employees understand the missions, projects, and vision of the company.
On the other hand, if you can handle team members coming from different parts of the world, many benefits will rise! Those members are perfect to help to bridge gaps between multidisciplinary teams, bring a new vision to a project, broaden general knowledge, open minds in your talent team, or even facilitate the company’s international growth.
And you, are you part of a multicultural team? Do you speak several languages? What is your experience with dealing with language challenges in the office?
Thanks for reading, and until next time!