13 Mar Do All Your Employees Speak The Same Language?

We live in a technologically advanced age that enables us to work together with people from all walks of life. As an employer, you probably have employees with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. To ensure that your business operates efficiently in terms of productivity, your employees need to speak the same language. In the long run, this maximizes the potential of your business model by breaking down retrogressive language, cultural barriers and also enables them to communicate effectively.

Miscommunication occurs when you communicate an issue of importance to an employee who comprehends it as something completely different altogether. This can have significant cost implications for your business. Moreover, conflicts between your employees may occur and hinder your business model. The time, energy and resources that you use to resolve such conflicts can have dire repercussions on your business.

How Can Miscommunication Cost Your Business?

Miscommunication due to cultural or language barriers can vastly affect your organization in a negative manner. Workplace conflicts can result in hostile working conditions for your employees. In order to avoid conflicts, your employees may feign illness or not turn up for work altogether. According to a study by CPP Inc., 25% of employees avoid coming to work or feign sickness to avoid workplace conflicts.


Failures in business projects due to language barriers, among other factors, leading to workplace conflicts were noted by 10% of interviewees. One-third of the participants in the CPP Inc. study said that conflicts led to some employees quitting or being fired from their jobs.

When you lose an employee due to workplace conflicts stemming from language or cultural barriers, you may incur costs such as:

  • Cost of Recruitment.
  • Training costs pertaining to your new replacement employees.
  • Paying your former employee’s severance pay and benefits.
  • The lost investment in your former employees, especially their intellect and know-how.

These are costs you can avoid if your employees speak the same language. When they speak the same language, chances of miscommunication are reduced.

The Economists’ Intelligence Unit generated a report in 2012 where 572 senior executives were interviewed and 50% of them agreed that their companies lost major international business deals due to misunderstandings or “message lost in translation”. The genesis of such issues was probably language or cultural issues. Consequently, 64% of them noted that the firm’s plans to expand internationally were affected negatively by poor language and communication skills.

What Can You Do To Support Internal Communication?

There are a number of strategies that you can employ to promote internal communication among your staff members. They include the following:

1. Vetting During Recruitment

When you are vetting and interviewing potential candidates for job vacancies in your business, be wise. Ensure that apart from their first language, which may not be English, they are fluent in the common workplace language. As the saying goes, prevention is better that cure. You will have nipped the miscommunication problem in the bud, so to speak.


2. Avoid Discriminatory Practices

If you have a multi-ethnic workforce, ensure that you distribute the job positions fairly and equally. Favoring a particular group of people because of their cultural or linguistic background, be it the same as your or different, would be unfair to the others and may lead them to feeling alienated at the firm. Their work output will reduce or, worse still, they may quit. This will lead to your business incurring costs that you could have avoided by being fair and non-discriminating to all your staff members.

3. Establish Clear Communication Lines

Ensure that you have a system in place to address issues stemming from language or cultural barriers that may arise among your staff. Do not let issues fester for any longer than necessary. Trace the problem to the root cause and find a lasting solution.

4. Appreciate All Your Employees

Appreciate your staff member’s diverse cultures, language and ethnicity. Try and hold themed celebratory events where they can showcase their native traditions and values to their peers. This will allow your employees to appreciate each other’s roots. It will foster better relations and significantly improve communication by breaking down language and cultural barriers.

5. Reduce Internal Communication via E-Mail

We tend to use e-mails to communicate at work often. While it is understandable for a large firm to do so, small businesses could do better with a personal, one on one communication. This will improve interpersonal relationships among your staff and enable them to communicate in an open an honest manner with you as well as with each other.

6. Be Open and Transparent

Your company’s goals and objectives should be clearly set out to all your employees. This will foster loyalty among your employees. When they are privy to your company’s mission, they will be able to work together towards achieving the mutual goal.


In Conclusion

Employees are the key assets of any business and can vastly determine the success of a firm. Miscommunication among the workforce, even if present for a short period of time, can cause long term disadvantages to the entire organization if not dealt with care and caution.

It is important for you as the business owner to embrace the different languages or cultures that your employees prescribe to, set a common tongue of communication and implement it effectively. This will earn you the trust, loyalty, and respect of your workforce. More importantly, clear communication lines between your employees mean that their morale, output, and overall productivity increase and, consequently, affect the business in a positive and profitable fashion.

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