Improving communication in a multilingual workplace

Improving communication in a multilingual workplace

In a multicultural work environment, comprised of employees speaking different languages, communicating effectively can be a major challenge. Business prosperity, survival and growth depend largely on the smooth working relations between the diverse workforce. Human resource managers must come up with strategies that can foster good working relationships in a multicultural workforce.

By taking certain steps to ensure that your business is competent, if not fluent, in the languages spoken by your staff, you can encourage teamwork and gain a competitive edge in the global market.

Here are tips for improving communication in a multilingual workplace:

1) Hire multilingual staffers

Consider job applicants’ language skills in your hiring process. For example, if you have several employees who speak mostly French and you speak just English, hire a team member who speaks both the languages.

2) Emphasize on the importance of being multilingual

Consider taking foreign language courses, which will not only improve your ability to communicate with your employees, but also prospective clients. You’ll also be able to reach out to a broader range of candidates while hiring. If you can afford to send your employees to school, nothing like it! Offer to pay for their language classes as a skill addition and job perk for them. Having employees who speak more than one language is bound to bolster internal communication and benefit your bottom line.

3) Try to make non-native speakers of English feel included

Imagine being in a room where everyone is speaking a language that’s foreign to you. This is how your employees who speak English as a foreign language may sometimes feel. Work to bring these workers into the conversation and encourage their ideas and input. Make use of translators, or act as a translator yourself, to facilitate communication among all staff. If any employees show hostility toward workers who don’t speak English well, remind them of the importance of professionalism in the workplace.

4) Don’t assume any employee won’t need to communicate

Many managers make the mistake of assuming people who work independently don’t need to speak English well. However, every employee — from a programmer to a janitor — must be able to communicate with management, even if only to ask about a paycheck or to clarify assignments. Ensure you cater to the basic needs of all your employees.

5) Have translation systems in place An ideal way to deal with communication disparities, is to assign tasks to your employees using a real-time communication system, which has a translating feature, and not verbally. Because, if you think of training your employees with the most commonly used language, it will cost you more time and money. However, connecting all your employees over the cloud, will give you an ability to show them tasks that they need to perform as well as allow them to communicate with you instantly when stuck in problems.

6) Distribute informative multi-lingual materials

For employees who are not familiar with the common language used at the workplace, print and distribute important work-related documents in their own language to make it easy and quick for them to understand things going on at work.

Poor communication leads to poor performance, especially in a multilingual workplace. Understanding their limitations, and following the above practices will help you in the long run. Building a productive workplace composed of employees from different cultures can enrich an organization, on numerous levels. After all, in today’s globalized environment, diversity promotes business.

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