As we enter 2023, many of you business owners will surely be thinking about how to help your business thrive and prosper this coming year. Whether that be investing in learning and development, prioritizing company culture, or nailing down your KPIs, you plan to help your business to be the best it can be. However, a commonly overlooked issue for businesses is that of language barriers. It’s not always something we think about, as often we find a way to make things work and say “That’ll do.”
The truth is, however, that investing in the breaking down of language barriers can have a hugely positive effect on your business. In order to understand this, you must first grasp the threat that linguistic obstacles pose to the success of your business.
Let’s begin with the fundamentals. Training employees that are not on the same page is extremely difficult and frustrating. Even within companies that hold a 100% native workforce, it is always obvious if there has been a lack of investment in the time and quality spent on training. The business will lack fluidity, there will be issues of miscommunication, employees will be unclear about their roles, etc. When a workforce is poorly or inadequately trained, it shows. It dissolves the glue of the company and robs the professionalism and dependability of its name. This problem is heightened when you have a workforce of non-native speakers of varying levels.
When it comes to training a workforce of mixed language abilities, it is not enough to give orders and hopes for the best. Checking and reviewing that your employees have understood and are on board with the company policies and protocol is absolutely crucial. Of course, this can’t always be done straight away, as it takes time to build the language ability of an employee. Nevertheless, by having a language learning system in place in order to assist and facilitate the linguistic development of your staff, you will allow training to achieve its desired effect. This will ensure that no employee is left unclear of their role or how to perform it. By investing in the language skills of your employee and allowing them to feel fully comfortable and informed with their training, you give your team the best chance possible to become a well-oiled, efficient, and knowledgeable machine.
If you take pride in your business, we’ll assume that you wouldn’t show up to a business meeting in a foreign country without having a quick look over the business etiquette of that nation. It’s considerate, polite, and at the end of the day, it just makes sense. Consider this idea when it comes to having an international workforce. There are bound to be differences in culture, whether that be dress code, social values, customs, etc. Even something as simple as the variety of cuisine to be found during a lunch break can give you an insight into the diversity of your team.
By lacking an adequate learning facility, employees will be left unable to explain or discuss their culture, let alone compare it with those around them. This can leave members of staff feeling isolated, excluded, and misunderstood. By breaking down these language barriers, you allow your workforce to feel empowered and comfortable to share. They’divulge their own culture and customs, leading to a stronger and closer team. As a leader, you should take the time to consider cultural differences before implementing certain rules and company values.
As is common knowledge, a workplace with a positive environment is a successful workplace. When we talk about a positive environment, what do we mean? Well, a positive environment is one that fosters safety, comfort, and support. It also promotes trust and dependability between staff members. As well as that, it creates a supportive space for employees to grow and ascend. And, of course, it allows for cooperation and teamwork. When you think of these crucial facets of a successful business, do you think any of them can be achieved if team members cannot communicate effectively? Of course not.
Breaking down communication roadblocks is vital in order to achieve this kind of work environment. Team members must be able to use language to confide in and share with one another, to congratulate each other, to offer commiserations or a listening ear, and of course, to laugh with one another. If you want a team that can stand on its own, bolstered by the firm connections between each staff member, you must create the space for language barriers to be broken, and for communication to flow.
This one is simple. Very often, if a task is completed inadequately, it is because it was not understood. Perhaps the initial explanation was poor or rushed, or the task-doer failed to ask for clarification on their duty. Perhaps they were certain in their understanding but unknowingly got it all wrong. The danger with this is the time it steals, not only in having to re-complete tasks or re-do reports but in the possibility of a ‘chain of miscommunication’, with members of staff continuing to collaborate on a misunderstood assignment.
To avoid this, business owners must be conscientious that staff members are not left in the dark from the very beginning. Continuous clarification and open communication is the only way to prevent this. When this is achieved, there is an enormous improvement in productivity levels within the company, as employees are not restrained to fruitlessly finding clarification amongst themselves, only to inevitably report back to upper management, having wasted the company’s time and efforts. Nip this productivity roadblock in the bud and allow your workforce the best space for communication possible, so they can maximize their efforts for the company.
Miscommunication can refer to a lot of things. Primarily, the difficulty in miscommunication is that it leads to both role conflict and role ambiguity within a company. Being unclear of your role can lead to misunderstandings, increased stress, unfulfilled expectations, and unhappy employees. Miscommunication can also cause unnecessary animosity between workers of different nationalities. It can lead to a lack of a deeper understanding of each other’s character.
Not only that, but when a company lacks a platform through which an employee can communicate clearly, this leads to the business inadvertently ignoring or misconstruing an employee’s desires, goals, or current feelings toward the company. Members of staff may not feel heard or seen if they do not feel that there is an adequate receptor present. Similarly, for business owners, their objectives for the company may not be achieved if their direction is misinterpreted, leading to a lack of effective delegation. In the long run, miscommunication is a catalyst for decreased revenue and increased turnover rates. This is due to unproductivity and dissatisfied staff.
Language barriers will undoubtedly negatively affect your business; from inadequate training to cultural misunderstandings, and a sub-optimal work environment. Not to mention glaring issues in productivity and communication. It’s not a new concept that increased and effective communication is the key to successful businesses and relationships alike. So, it’s crucial that you foster this for your company. Give your employees the platform to voice themselves, and allow yourself to share your goals. Invest in breaking down those language barriers and facilitating efficient communication to make a thriving, systematic, and cohesive team!