How language services support diversity and inclusivity in the workplace

Jul 15, 2021

Diverse and inclusive workplaces are good for business. They lead to increased innovation and creativity, with higher rates of employee engagement and retention, which of course equates to overall increased profitability. However, a recent study by McKinsey Diversity wins – How Inclusion Matters indicates that businesses in the financial services, healthcare and technology industries have a way to go. While employee feelings on diversity were marginally more positive than negative, sentiment on inclusion lagged behind at only 29% positive. Without inclusivity, none of your diversity efforts will succeed. 

The core elements of inclusivity are equality, openness, and a sense of belonging for everyone. All three of these areas are highlighted in the McKinsey report as areas of concern. In an inclusive workplace culture employees feel both valued and that they add value to an organisation.

How important is communication in fostering inclusivity?

For HR professionals in multinational companies language barriers present one of the most significant challenges. Studies indicate that the vast majority of organisations continue to struggle with language barriers in their day-to-day work. 

Put simply, an employee’s lack of language proficiency in your company’s de facto language can lead to damaging consequences both internally and externally. Not fully understanding procedures, practices and role requirements creates productivity loss, lower efficiencies, and higher staff turnover. On a more critical level language barriers are listed as the cause of 25% of workplace accidents.

Language and culture are more nuanced than pure proficiency. While your team members may be competent in your company’s de facto language, they may find it easier to receive information or express themselves in their native language. A member of staff may appear to be fluent in your company language, yet feel nervous to speak up or appear to deliver sub-standard work. In some environments admitting you do not understand is much more difficult than others. This is why it is important to have language services available to your staff across your organisation and internal communications streams. 

Interpreting and translation can go a long way to fostering trust and creating a truly inclusive workplace. If you provide your team with guidelines in their native language, they’ll understand them better. If you offer the option to give feedback in a language they’re most comfortable in, they’re more likely to contribute. If you provide training in more than one language, there will be a higher uptake. Language is powerful and effective communication establishes a sense of belonging for everyone.

The impact of the pandemic and new working environments

A diverse array of languages in a workplace can either divide or unite it. It’s understandable how an HR professional can feel overwhelmed now that the workplace includes people’s homes and a myriad of online communications platforms , such as Slack, Teams etc. It’s time to reassess if your existing D&I policies include our new hybrid working environments. Do your employees still feel a sense of belonging across all these new platforms? Do they feel confident and valued?

It is a new challenge to keep a remote workforce from becoming disenfranchised, without even considering language proficiency. Video and chat platforms have had a greater impact on those with lower language proficiency. We know that not everyone feels confident to speak up on these platforms if they are suffering from language based anxiety. It’s not bad news though, right now is a great time to evaluate and improve inclusive work environments for all;

The shift to technology-enabled remote working presents an opportunity for companies to accelerate building inclusive and agile cultures – further challenging existing management routines. Not least, a visible commitment to inclusion and diversity during the crisis is likely to strengthen a company’s global image and licence to operate.

Mckinsy Diversity Wins – How Inclusion Matters

We’re helping organisations deliver improved internal communications and to fill any of the gaps in their existing communications. This includes a whole range of things such as interpreters for new employee on-boarding, to interpreter assistance on Zoom meetings, to 24/7 on-demand interpreting service provision, and interpreting for disciplinary. Alongside partner agencies we can help with mapping out translated internal communications including memos, training guides, email updates, newsletters, manuals etc. Including interpreting and translation options in online working environments democratises the distribution of information and the ability for two-way dialogue.

At InterpretersPortal we specialise in delivering tailored language services that fit seamlessly into your business culture and structure. Every service is bespoke and built to your specific needs, without the hefty price tag. We’re never generic, we get to know you and build your language service to be exactly what you need it to be.  Let us show you how you too can improve your diversity and inclusivity through our language services.

Talk to us to improve your multi-lingual communications today


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