Nowadays, nearly every business in Canada – and potentially all over the globe – has some diversity level in the workplace. It is a great asset – diversity brings fresh ideas and a multicultural view of the work environment while also stimulating creativity and innovation.
However, a multilingual workforce also presents unique challenges. With multilingual teams, miscommunication can happen frequently, and employees may have preconceived ideas about co-workers from different countries and cultures. Likewise, unclear or inadequate communication can also lead to dangerous situations, where employees have, for instance, difficulties understanding security protocols.
In short, diversity in a workforce is a good thing when it is managed well. So if you are leading multicultural and multilingual teams, you must assess if you can communicate effectively with your employees and if they manage to communicate effectively to one another. Cultural diversity creates well-rounded teams that can better meet overall business goals. However, if they are not handled properly, you will likely never achieve a positive work environment – and, as a consequence, neither a successful business.
In this article, we will explore the importance of having (and celebrating) a multicultural workforce and how you can stimulate effective communication among co-workers.
How to improve communication in a diverse workplace?
Here are five important steps that will help you overcome language barriers in your organization:
Investing in translation resources and interpreters
In international business environments, linguistic barriers can be a significant issue. If you are working with global teams, you might have noticed that, sometimes, language can step in the way and create all sorts of misunderstandings. To avoid major issues and create a healthier and safer workplace, there are a few basic steps you can take. Start by translating all essential documents, such as security protocols or training manuals. Ideally, these materials should be translated for every language spoken at your organization, so that no one feels left behind. Then, it is also worth considering hiring an interpreter. Having a skilled translator to help you maintain effective communication in the workplace can be a great investment, especially if you regularly work with teams from different backgrounds. By promoting a harmonious, unified approach to working, this professional could deeply change your organization for the better.
Offering language training to managers and/or employees
To improve your multilingual workplace’s overall communication, you should start by examining how effectively your staffing and managing teams communicate within themselves and to each other. If you determine that language is a significant barrier preventing everyone from reaching a better, safer, and most productive workplace, you should consider language training.
Even if English is the standard language used in your organization, you have to recognize that many of your non-English speakers’ employees can feel unnoticed and unappreciated in the workplace. Besides, if you work in the international arena and regularly collaborate with foreign peers and clients, having impeccable communication skills is even more crucial.
Language training schools/services, like Language Advantage, recognize multicultural and multilingual companies’ challenges and have the perfect methods to answer their needs.
Our programs, for instance, are designed to adapt to every corporation’s goals, availability, and type of business. As we understand that every organization has its own challenges and aspirations, we have developed programs that focus on real-life needs for each industry and team. If you believe that your organization could benefit from language training, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.
Emphasizing the importance of listening
Communication is, as experts say, a two-way street. This means that, besides talking, workers also need to enhance their listening skills. Developing this ability improves the overall communication in the organization, ultimately benefiting the business as a whole. Active listening may seem simple, even passive, but it requires patience and focus, along with new habits.
Remember: in the workplace, the cost of poor listening skills plus language barriers can add up to a significant loss of money and time.
As many studies suggest, most cultural disputes and misunderstandings can be prevented if people take time to listen and make an effort to connect.
And how can you stimulate this essential skill? Easy: by setting the example. Give your workers space to communicate fully and openly. Show that you care about what they have to say. Make a conscious effort to clear your mind of distractions when you need to listen actively. With these simple gestures, you will inspire all your teams to be more open and supportive while also setting the grounds for better and deeper understanding.
Respecting the cultural diversity
In simple terms, cultural diversity is about respecting and accepting people’s differences and understanding that everyone is unique. In Canadian workplaces, employees with limited English proficiency often feel isolated and unappreciated on a team. To avoid negative feelings and solitude (which often translates into an unsatisfactory work environment and low productivity), it is essential to set ground rules that focus on mutual respect and tolerance. Emotional barriers, taboos, and prejudices must be recognized and settled, as they constitute a barrier to communication and, consequently, relationships.
Ensure that all employees understand the company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. If everyone understands those principles, it will be easier to recognize and enjoy all the advantages of a culturally diverse workplace.
Making the most of a diverse workplace
Like we have already mentioned, a diverse workplace has a lot of benefits. Different perspectives, backgrounds, and opinions contribute a lot to any type of business. As such, an organization that embraces and values difference is on the right path to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and, consequently, overall productivity.
Effective communication isn’t just about understanding colleagues – it is also about making them feel welcome and integrated. So our advice is very simple: make all your workers feel welcome and appreciated, regardless of their background. One way to do so is to sponsor events where team members can introduce their peers to their culture and lifestyle. It is a great way to make team building while also fomenting cohesion, tolerance, and acceptance.
Research has shown that workforce diversity is a source of innovation. It allows you to access new markets, develop better work relationships, and explore new ideas and perspectives when it comes to making business. However, it can also bring many challenges to the workplace, especially when it comes to effective communication.
This is why you need to analyze if you are doing everything to promote top-notch communication. Simple decisions, like translating essential documents or investing in a language training program for managers, can make a tremendous difference in your organization.
Once again, if you think that language training could help you expand and improve your business relationships, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team of native instructors will be delighted to design a customized plan for your teams!