Diversity in the workplace, it’s an important business value.
It’s the molding of different cultures that leads to greater innovation and international reach. Yet it can come with some setbacks.
65% of businesses experience language barriers between managers, executives, and workers. This can lead to issues with productivity and inefficiency for the company as a whole.
Overcoming language barriers is crucial for avoiding miscommunication and ensuring effective collaboration among employees and managers.
Bridging communication gaps can make your employees feel more connected. It can also increase employee retention rates.
Read on for 5 tips to promote better communication among a language diverse workforce.
1. Customize Communication Then Check For Clarification
When facing language barrier problems in the workplace, it’s best to speak slow, enunciate, and use a non-complex vocabulary. Try not to use idioms, jargon, slang or other phrases that may cause more confusion.
It’s important to check for clarification afterward. Leave communication lines open so employees can ask questions or receive further information on tasks later on. Allow opportunities for feedback, so employees can speak freely about what communication methods work well.
Be open about expectations for understanding and repeat yourself when necessary.
2. Translate When Needed
Depending on your location and the level of diversity of your colleagues, it’s important to have translation services available. Important documents should already be translated into most common languages and handed out with new hires.
Should a language issue arise, find a well-trusted and capable employee within your organization and have them translate.
If you’re looking to expand your team, consider making your next hire multilingual. When in doubt, it’s better to bring in a professional to ensure an important project or client is handled appropriately.
For email communication, take the problem to Google translate. It can provide a description of the email’s subject and help employees craft their response in English.
3. Offer Learning Opportunities
Employees that want to thrive in the workplace will show interest in expanding their skills. Offer classes to assist those struggling with how to overcome language barriers. Or host a Lunch and Learn and put together a 30-minute presentation.
When sharing language knowledge, put the focus on frequently used words relating to your business. It’s important for all employees to understand the basics of your industry’s shared vocabulary.
Overcoming language barriers works both ways. Say you own a law firm and have a large list of clients who speak Spanish. It can be beneficial to educate employees on tips for learning Spanish or bring in a Spanish speaking small business lawyer to bridge communication gaps between clients and co-workers.
4. Show Rather Than Tell
Get hands-on when communicating. Demonstrating rather than voicing will help reduce language barrier problems.
Get visual and use pictures, signs or hand signals to emphasize a point. Use nodding or head shaking to signify understanding. Other forms of non-verbal communication can be as effective in providing clear instruction.
5. Be an Expert in Body Language
Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it.
Use a calm and neutral tone of voice when speaking. Smile to show positive feedback and understanding. Or a simple nod or head shake can help to clear up miscommunication.
Have you heard of the 7-38-55 rule? It’s a form of effective communication that involves 7% words, 38% voice or tone, and 55% body language. It goes to show that non-verbals matter and make all the difference in how we communicate with others.
Overcoming Language Barriers from Entry-Level to CEO
Successful communication in the workplace starts from the top and trickles down. Upper management and CEOs should be as effective in overcoming language barrier as entry-level employees.
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