Onboarding And Language Skills: Supporting Multilingual Employees

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Businesses are increasingly hiring employees with various linguistic backgrounds in today's workforce. Doing this brings many advantages, such as a wide range of perspectives and increased knowledge of different languages and cultures. However, it also poses challenges when integrating these employees into the company.

One of the difficulties employers face is supporting employees who need more English proficiency. This article will explore the significance of onboarding for employees, language skills' role in their integration, and practical strategies to support their learning and growth.

The importance of onboarding for employees

Onboarding training is essential for all employees regardless of their language abilities. It lays the groundwork for success and ensures employees understand their organizational roles. For employees, onboarding becomes more critical as it helps bridge language or cultural gaps and facilitates their assimilation into the company.

importance of onboarding for employees

By providing an onboarding program, employers can make multilingual employees feel welcome, valued, and supported, ultimately enhancing employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.

Furthermore, proper onboarding reduces turnover rates and ensures employees possess the language skills to perform their jobs effectively.

Onboarding is one of the most important hiring tasks for organizations as it sets the stage for new hires to make a mark from day one. This process is also valuable for getting unbiased feedback on the first impression of your organization.

What’s more, a good onboarding process ensures new hires have an enjoyable introduction to their teams and work. It helps set the tone for future interactions, productivity, and performances. 

The importance of language skills in integration

Due to easy access to the internet and online networking tools, workplaces now have onsite and remote employees. This expansion facilitates interpersonal connections among different organizations and branches of the same organization.

Many employees speak similar languages, but many also use different languages depending on their location. Thus, when team members who speak different languages converse, language barriers become pronounced. These barriers are detrimental because they lower communication, productivity, and performance of employees. 

Hence, having language skills is crucial for the integration of multilingual employees. It enables communication among team members, managers, clients, and customers. Moreover, it helps employees navigate work-related tasks, comprehend policies and procedures, and participate in development opportunities.

Insufficient language skills can result in miscommunication, frustration, and reduced morale. It may cause employees to feel isolated, struggle with understanding instructions, or face difficulties in building relationships. 

Language barriers

However, employers can assist employees in overcoming these language barriers and thrive in their roles by providing support and resources.

It is important to note that language barriers don’t comprise spoken languages only. Since more and more companies are into diversity hiring, there is an increased number of employees with disabilities. These employees can speak sign language, and integrating it within your organization can help diverse hires significantly.

Benefits of supporting multilingual employees

More and more organizations are actively investing in multilingual employees because the return on investment (ROI) is good. Therefore, if you are considering diversifying your team, here are the benefits of hiring and supporting multilingual employees in your organization.

Increase in sales and revenue

Companies struggling to meet financial goals should diversify their workforce by hiring employees who speak multiple languages. It is beneficial because it increases interaction with customers and clients. Additionally, you can expand your business into areas where you couldn’t earlier due to language or cultural barriers.

Better customer/client retention

It’s a no-brainer that when you speak the language your customers or clients speak, their interest is more. They feel a connection because you can understand their needs better and provide customized products and services. 

Supporting your customers

Reduced translation/interpretation cost

With a multilingual workforce, you can cut the cost of third-party translation or interpretation services. For companies with offices and workforce in different countries, this cost can be significant. Therefore, hiring people who speak languages your company regularly deals with can make a sea of change economically.

Which languages are worth supporting?

For any organization, hiring decisions must be made with proper thought, and they must always increase the organization’s financial standing. Thus, when you plan to support multilingual employees, you must know which languages are worth support.

The languages you choose must increase your customer base, employee retention, client interaction, and sales/revenue. 

To get started, you must have employees who speak the following languages, as these languages are in demand in the USA.

English

It isn’t surprising that English is one of the most sought-after languages to get hired in the USA. Over 1500 million people across the globe speak English. It is a super-central language that is taught and spoken in many parts of the world. Thus, your organization must support multilingual employees who are well-versed in this language.

Mandarin chinese

Many people don't know that the Chinese language has five major dialects, and Mandarin is the most widely spoken of them. Since Mandarin is the official language of China and Taiwan (both high international trading countries), supporting this language is worth a try. 

German

Supporting employees who speak German is beneficial because it is the official language of Germany - the biggest economy in Europe. That’s not all! German is also the official language of two other economic powerhouse nations in Europe.

French

It may shock many people that French is spoken in over 40 countries. After all, it is the official language of the United Nations, NATO, and the Olympic Committee. French is an influential lounge with historic significance. Thus, incorporating employees who speak this language is often fruitful for companies. 

Spanish

Spanish is one of the top five most spoken languages in the world. Also, many neighboring countries in the USA speak this language, making it an important language to support in American workplaces. Companies usually find hiring employees who speak this language fluently easier to find than many other languages.  

Japanese

Many American businesses conduct their operations in Japan. If you are among these businesses, then having employees who are well-versed in this language is an added bonus and even necessary.

Incorporating employees who speak any of these languages can have a great impact on your business. Therefore, make sure to give importance to your existing employees who speak these languages and also inquire about them whenever you are actively hiring new talent to better your organization and its business. 

Practical approaches to support multilingual employees

Do you know that nine out of ten U.S. employers rely on multilingual employees to interact better with clients and customers? Therefore, speaking multiple languages is a strength, and organizations with diverse networks, markets, and offices should do their best to facilitate it.

Practical approaches to support multilingual employees

Supporting multilingual employees is particularly beneficial for companies with customers and clients who speak English as a second or third language. 

Want to know how you can practically support employees who speak two, three, or more languages? Listed below are approaches to take.   

Language assessment during pre-boarding

Consider conducting a language assessment before employees officially join the organization. This evaluation will help determine each employee's level of proficiency in a language and enable the organization to tailor onboarding and training programs accordingly.

Language training initiatives

Offer language training programs to aid employees in enhancing their abilities. These initiatives could include language classes, online resources, or opportunities for language exchange with colleagues. These programs must be easily accessible, engaging, and relevant to the employee's responsibilities.

Translation and interpretation

Offer translation and interpretation services to employees who speak other languages, including translating documents into those languages, like employee handbooks and safety manuals. Additionally, provide access to interpreters for meetings or training sessions to ensure effective communication.

Promote inclusivity

Develop an onboarding program that promotes understanding and inclusivity for employees. This program should introduce them to the company's values, norms, and expectations while highlighting the nature of the organization. It may also include cultural awareness training to create an inclusive environment.

Employ a mentor system

Implement a buddy or mentor system to pair new multilingual employees with colleagues who share their language and culture, as this allows for an integration process as the new employee can learn from someone who understands their background.

Foster communication

Foster open lines of communication by encouraging employee feedback during the onboarding process, allowing them to voice their concerns, ask questions, and contribute their insights towards improving their experience. Additionally, it offers feedback and guidance to help employees enhance their language skills.

Embrace diversity

Diversity

Embrace diversity within the organization by recognizing and celebrating languages and cultures represented among the staff members. Encourage employees to share their languages, traditions, and experiences to foster a sense of belonging while promoting exchange.

Conclusion

Employers must adopt a comprehensive approach acknowledging their unique language skills and cultural backgrounds to integrate and support employees successfully. By implementing the abovementioned strategies, companies can establish an encouraging environment, enabling employees to thrive within the organization.

Investing in onboarding processes and language assistance for employees benefits individuals and has significant advantages for the entire organization. It fosters a more cohesive workforce, enhances communication and collaboration, and improves the company's ability to cater to markets.

Ultimately, providing support to employees is an investment that yields productivity, innovation, and employee satisfaction.

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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