Today’s businesses are more global than ever before! Thanks to technology, we can now find new opportunities and expand our marketplace internationally at the touch of a few buttons. However, as valuable as this is, it presents its own unique challenges.

Communication is key to any successful business, but sometimes it can feel like we are speaking a completely different language within our own team. What if we are?

What may make sense to employees from eastern cultures may not make sense to those from western, and vice versa.

What are the main challenges of having a multilingual workforce?

Language Barriers

For many individuals working in your team, English may not be their native language. They might have difficulty communicating their concerns, sharing opinions, or even understanding a task.

Cultural Differences

An employee from a western country may be more inclined to speak up, or question when something doesn’t feel right. Whereas an employee from an eastern culture may have been taught to never question the boss, even if you think they are wrong.

If cultural differences like these are not considered, it could cause a lack of cohesion and become confusing for other team members.

Technical Challenges

An employee from a western background may be familiar with the Google Search Engine, while an employee in China could be completely foreign, as they use Baidu Search Engine.

It’s important to remember that we cannot take our understanding of technology for granted. All countries have different developments in technology, so employers may not always be familiar with the software specifically used in that country.

Decision Making Process

Cultures have unique styles of making decisions, based on social norms, values, tradition, etc. In some cultures, those in authority are expected to make decisions quickly and assertively, while in other cultures, the authoritative figure will take their time, gather as much information as needed, and even consult other team members.

What is the solution?

The correct and most effective solution to all these challenges is thoughtfulness, cultural understanding, and a diplomatic approach.

Hosting monthly sessions around general cultural awareness and proactively engaging in a friendly manner with your employers and colleagues about their culture will make them feel understood and valued. This will also help build better communication and understanding both ways.

What are the benefits of having a multilingual workforce?

Although having a multilingual workforce has some challenges, this is strongly outweighed by its abundant benefits, such as:

1. More empathy and respect

Being a business open to diverse cultures will give a real sense of inclusion and value, as well as further understanding of other cultures.

2. Increase in creativity

Having a team of diverse workers can boost innovative ideas and fresh perspectives.

3. Language diversity

Having a team that speaks multiple languages can prove beneficial, especially when working in the department of Sales, Customer Service and Marketing.

4. Expanding your business

A multilingual workforce can help your business grow in different geographical and demographic areas.

5. Increase in profits

According to some studies, multicultural workplaces can solve problems faster than workplaces with cognitively similar individuals.

While it is important to have a lingua-franca to allow cross-cultural communication, it is also important to celebrate the linguistic diversity of a company.

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