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Language Support in Human Resources

The modern workforce is more diverse than ever. The American workforce has become increasingly diversified in terms of bilingual, multilingual, and LEP (limited English proficiency) employees. 

While linguistic diversity offers definite advantages for companies that embrace the concept, it also presents a unique challenge for HR directors and other company leaders. For example, managers may wonder: "Should we invest in translation support? If so, how can we implement it effectively?"

Let's talk about some of the reasons why you should explore translation support solutions in human resources, and how you can make them work for your business.

Why Provide Multilingual Support?

First of all, let's establish why it's important to provide translation support in the first place. In addition to avoiding discrimination lawsuits and creating an inclusive company culture, there are other compelling reasons to invest in multilingual support, such as:

1. Increased employee loyalty and retention

It should come as no surprise that language barriers often prevent hard-working employees from staying with a company for many years. One study found that a lack of appropriate management skills will make employees 4x more likely to quit a job. Part of having appropriate management skills is being able to clearly communicate with your employees, including those who are not proficient in English.

Having translation and interpreting support in place can help both managers and employees to communicate effectively, leading to a more harmonious, productive workplace. In turn, employees that speak another language will be more likely to stay with the company, resulting in less turnover.

2. Better customer service

Fostering a multilingual work environment also contributes to better customer service, especially if your company is targeting a culturally diverse customer base. With enough staff on hand to support customers of different languages, nationalities, and cultural backgrounds, you'll be able to grow the company's reach and enter markets that would otherwise be inaccessible.

3. Enhanced leadership development

Finally, language support can help you to better equip your leadership team. They can help leaders to connect with and better manage all employees, as well as gain a better understanding of different marketplaces that you operate in. Encouraging such skills and awareness can enhance the company's overall performance. In fact, one study found that:

"Lower-performing companies were more than twice as likely as higher-performing companies to say they do not require multilingual skills or provide language training of any kind [for "high-potential employees"] (48 percent v. 23 percent)."

In addition to this, without translation support you could be cutting yourself off from a large pool of untapped managerial talent among non-English speaking workers.

Ways to Provide Translation Support

Now that we've discussed why translation support is so important, let's discuss some practical ways to implement it. 

Translated Materials

  • Training materials, such as employee handbooks, policies, and manuals. When you onboard new employees, these translated materials will prove invaluable. They will help new hires to clearly understand what's expected of them in terms of behavior, attendance, dress, and so forth. They can also shorten the learning curve for LEP employees that would otherwise have great difficulty in keeping up with other new hires.
  • Safety guides. The importance of translating safety materials can hardly be understated, especially in manufacturing and production environments. Each employee deserves to understand the proper techniques and equipment needed to avoid danger on the job. This is an absolute essential in terms of reducing work-related accidents and injuries, lowering worker's compensation costs, and avoiding costly lawsuits.
  • Staff development programs. In order to "up-skill" LEP employees, it is important to translate materials used in your development program into their native tongue. Whether this is for a leadership development initiative or for an ongoing training program, translation support in this area will result in a better-trained, more cohesive workforce — and ultimately a better experience for the customer.

Opportunities to Use Professional Interpreters

  • Training programs and employee development programs. It may not be enough to simply translate training materials into different languages. In order for employees to receive the full benefit from such training initiatives, you may need to hire a trained interpreter to convey the information from the course instructor to the learners. Since a 2018 report found that over half (54%) of all training is delivered face-to-face, it's easy to see why this may be a key opportunity to leverage a language access service in the workplace. 
  • Interviews. A recruiter/hiring manager may also need assistance from a trained interpreter during an interview session with an LEP candidate. In many cases, the language barrier may prevent the hiring manager from fully understanding the extent of the candidate's experience and qualifications for the open position. Having an interpreter on-hand can help to smooth out any misunderstandings, and provide the interviewer with a clearer picture of the prospective employee's suitability for the job.
  • Human resources trade conferences and conventions. Finally, when HR directors attend multilingual trade conferences and conventions, it is most helpful to have trained interpreters on hand to convey key points from the program to them. Not only is this crucial to make the most of the educational opportunity; trained interpreters can also help HR directors to network with their international counterparts from other companies. 

Leveraging Language Services to Enhance Your Human Resources Department

In summary, there are a number of compelling reasons to invest in professional language services from an HR perspective. For instance:

  • It contributes to a more loyal, less turnover-prone workforce
  • It promotes staffing practices that lead to better support for multilingual customers
  • It opens the door to identifying and training multilingual employees with leadership potential

Of course, the way you implement translation support in your HR department and company will depend on your particular business needs. Nevertheless, by investing in language services, you'll promote a more diverse, inclusive workforce — and contribute to the bottom line in the process.

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