Engaging With Multilingual Employees 

Global businesses are reaping the benefits of hiring people who speak a second or third language. Gone are the days where English was the only ‘lingua franca’ accepted. Employers are now endorsing multilingualism, allowing them to tap into a wider international work scenario.

In today’s global society, diversity and equality stand as crucial business standards that everyone must comply with. Together, they help build a workspace which promotes inclusivity and equal opportunities for all.

It’s this ethos which attracts and retains highly skilled people, like multi-lingual employees.

They’ll feel supported, respected, and valued – which in turn will lead to loyalty and success.

Read about the benefits of hiring employees who speak English as a second language, laws on equal opportunities, and how to engage with multilingual employees.

benefits of second language workers

There are several benefits for why you should hire multilingual workers.

It doesn’t matter what industry/ sector you represent – from hospitality to AI technology, all businesses can benefit from hiring people who are multilingual.

Multilanguage-skilled workers bring higher levels of creativity and innovation. They also bring individualism and inclusivity, which is something you can’t find in homogenous workplaces.

Let’s look at other benefits which second language workers bring:

Grow connections between cultures

Cultures and languages are not separate tangents. With languages, you can channel connections between two or more entities.

As an innate skillset, multilingual workers bring this advantage to the business. They bring different ideas, opinions, and thoughts. And it’s this very aspect that strengthens rapport between you and your clientele.

They can help foster an environment that seeks to develop further awareness and respect for all cultures and ethnicities. This can be reflected through their colleagues and customers.

Strengthen client rapport

Building a solid connection with customers should be at the heart of any business agreement.

Multilingual employees can strengthen the relationship with clients through common languages. And it’s this advantage which provides unequivocal security and familiarity.

Boost performance and morale

You should provide multilingual employees with the chance to utilise and develop their skills.

Your employees become valuable assets for your business; whilst they personally gain additional experience and achievements.

Access to international markets

When an employee can speak a foreign language, they can provide a route into international markets and clientele.

You can entrust them to function independently; handling deals with sensitivity and care. And whilst they develop themselves, businesses gain access into markets which might have previously been non-existent to them.

Equal opportunities for second language workers

From work practices to cultures, you must provide equal opportunities to all employees– no matter what their background is.

Under the Equality Act (2010), employers have a legal duty to safeguard their staff from inequality and injustice. Ethnicity and race are characteristics which are protected from unlawful prejudice. The nine characteristics include:

  • Age.
  • Disability.
  • Gender Reassignment.
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership.
  • Pregnancy and Maternity.
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief.
  • Sex.
  • Sexual orientation.

Despite this legal obligation, more than a third (36%) of UK employees have experienced workplace discrimination, harassment, or victimisation.

Mistreating an employee because of their ethnic background or language skills–could lead to legal action. They could raise discrimination claims to employment tribunals, which can result in facing costly legal fees and business penalties.

That’s why it’s so important to champion equal opportunities throughout an employee’s career. It helps you meet legal obligations and portrays your business’ moral values. You’ll also be able to attract and retain your best staff and customers.

How to engage with second language workers

Actively onboarding multilingual employees and championing equal rights is a great first step. But the work doesn’t stop there.

Your next, and most crucial step is to engage with them. You must be able to support employees, despite any language barriers you might have. It’s a vital part of business, especially when it comes to things like health & safety, or career development.

Here are some steps in engaging with multilingual workers:

Assess their language skillsets

The first step you should take is assess your employee’s language skills and see what it extends to.

This can be done through setting language tests, as they can easily establish the level of their abilities. Standard language tests can include reading, writing, and listening.

In most cases, you might not require your employees to have highly advanced language levels. Or even require them to fluently speak in the ‘Queen’s English’. Depending on what your business needs are, you can decide when or how to engage their talents.

Provide cultural awareness

During training and development sessions, you can encourage workers to share their own personal ethnicity, background, and lifestyle.

It’s a more productive approach for providing cultural awareness. And more importantly, it helps you avoid assumptions and stereotypes.

It’s also a great step to incorporate into your inclusive management training. In the end, all employees can grow awareness, value, and respect for other cultures.  

Support their welfare

It’s vital to ensure multilingual workers are well cared for during their careers. It’s very common for them to face problems with expressing themselves or understanding concept, especially if English isn’t their first language.

Support their welfare by keeping open communication with them. And provide additional support and empathy when it comes to certain workplace requirements or tasks. You could also incorporate a mentoring scheme, pairing up people from different backgrounds to work together.

Utilise multilingual technology

In today’s society, translation apps and technology are readily accessible to all businesses. You can easily utilise multilingual aids, through voice recognition and interpretation software.

These allow you to assist second language employees during their work. And if they are dealing with international clientele, you can use the tech to translate documents and facilitate dialogues.

Be a business that champions diversity and equal opportunities

For a business to succeed, it needs to meet the requirements of its market–and the current marketplace is beautifully diverse.

So, be a business which champions inclusion and equal opportunities. From your onboarding steps to promotional process, treat all employees with fairness and impartiality–regardless of their language background.

You’ll soon see productivity manifest into accomplishment. And it all comes from engaging with unique and individually talented multilingual employees.

Author: Kate Palmer – HR Advice and Consultancy Director, Peninsula UK

Photo credit: Christina Morillo on Pexels

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