Running Your Business

Effective Communication in the Workplace With a Multilingual Workforce

  • Effective communication isn't simply understanding team members, it's making them feel welcome

  • Assess communication levels so you know what type of translation tools the workforce may need for effective communication

  • A little patience—and the right tools—will keep everyone happy and able to communicate in the workplace

Posted by August 27, 2018

Communication is the cornerstone of any successful business. However, effective communication in the workplace can suddenly become an issue when you go from managing a small team of employees who all speak the same language to heading a large, multilingual workforce.

You’ll want to bridge the language gap and build strong relationships with employees, but you may wonder if you’re doing everything possible to promote top-notch communication. Here are five tips to help you do just that.

1. Assess Communication Levels

Working with a multilingual workforce creates different needs for various situations. New employees may require the help of a translator at all times, or they may understand the same language you speak but need assistance understanding idioms or translating dense business documents.

It’s a good idea to spend time working with individual employees to discover what their specific needs are. It may be important to have a translator present for these discussions so no one is left feeling like they think the other party understood, but aren’t sure.

2. Invest in Translated Documents

You want to provide the workforce with the best tools possible to complete their jobs, right? Well, while you may consider computers or machinery to be the most important tools, written policies, work documents or anything else that’s used frequently can be even more vital to the company. These materials should be translated for every language spoken at your organization. Once you translate documents, any future new hires who speak that language will benefit from prior translations—and updating older documents will cost a mere fraction of the price.

3. Hire Outside of Your Organization for Translators

If you have a multilingual staff, hiring an independent translator to help you maintain effective communication in the workplace is worth the investment. It’s great to be able to call one employee over for a quick translation on a job-related duty, but you still need to maintain proper employee confidentiality at all times.

What happens if you need to talk to an employee about their performance, or if they want to discuss a medical leave with you? A coworker cannot be involved in those conversations. An independent translator will remain impartial, so it’s important to have one present for critical discussions.

4. Invest in Multilingual Tech

If your fellow employees need technology to complete their work duties, contact the supplier to inquire whether it also offers the product in a different language. You want your team members to all use the same tech, and you want colleagues who speak their native language to utilize it without issue. Versions of the same technology that are compatible with different languages will make everyone’s jobs easier.

There are also free tools you can use to better communicate with your staff (or help them talk to each other more easily). For example, Google Translate is a very accurate tool that can boost effective communication in the workplace.

5. Host Multicultural Events

Taking steps to promote effective communication in the workplace is one thing, but changing your company culture to showcase that your organization celebrates all cultures is another. Effective communication isn’t simply understanding colleagues, it’s making them feel welcome. One way to do that is to sponsor regular events where team members can introduce their peers to their lifestyle. This can be done by potluck meals or playing music during lunch breaks. Better yet, ask your staff how they want to share their cultures!

There’s no need to be apprehensive of managing employees who do not speak the same language as you. A little patience—and the right tools—can help the workforce communicate effectively in the workplace and thus, boost morale.

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