The benefits of adding multilingual talent to organizations

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What are the advantages of adding #multilingual talent to organizations?

Inclusion, variety, diversity: this is what the long-term success of organizations largely depends on. And that means not only recruiting talent from different racial, age and gender backgrounds, but also embracing different cultural and linguistic points of view.

Why is it important to create a work culture where there are no barriers of any kind?

The contribution of language diversity

Cultures and values consist of a complex set of factors, linked to attitudes, beliefs, values, mindsets and practices. In this sense, diversity is not only about recognizing physical, racial, age and gender differences, but also about making room for all types of behavior, experiences and ways of understanding the world.

To create greater opportunities and add innovation and competence, company leaders have noticed the importance of multiculturalism, understood in an holistic way. It is the different languages, traditions, beliefs and cultural heritages that contribute the most to conversations and processes.

Organizations with sustainable DEI[1] initiatives demonstrate a 20% increase in inclusion, which corresponds to greater effort at work and intention to stay, as well as higher employee performance. Source: Gartner

“In addition to age and culture, language is another aspect of diversity that, in my opinion, is not taken into consideration enough. While communication and interactions can be conducted in English, certain messages can get lost in translation for those who speak English as a second, third or even fourth language,” warns Carl Hung, CEO of Season Group, in an article published in Forbes.

Therefore, when people are able to function in their native language it becomes the key to their performance and engagement. “From more effective communication and higher levels of cultural sensitivity to increasing levels of trust among employees, multilingual people are without any doubt assets in a linguistically diverse company,” Hung adds.

A San Antonio, Texas, resort and spa agreed to pay US$2.6 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit stemming from a policy that prohibited employees from speaking Spanish. Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Christine Trodella, Director of Americas at Workplace, adds her insight: “With language comes a whole added set of cultural nuances, gestures, sense of humor and body language cues. It’s the different perspectives. It’s a different way of looking at things and thinking about things, and just learning about different cultures. I think that makes us much richer.”

Inclusive language maximizes engagement

In addition to including bilingual or multilingual people in work teams, another key point that should become a priority for companies is the way they use language to communicate with their employees. As with other company behaviors, the language used on a daily basis in every internal communication must be inclusive.

The high level of belonging to the workplace was linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk and a 75% reduction in sick days. Source: Harvard Business Review

“Inclusive language is the recognition that words matter and that word choice can be used, intentionally or unintentionally, to include or exclude others,” says Deloitte. In short, it is about “helping people who have been historically marginalized (because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability status and/or other aspects of their identity) to feel included”. In this manner, they mention four tips that allow for inclusive language to be put into practice:

-Use language that prioritizes people and focuses on the individual rather than their identity.
-Draw on neutral words related to gender, sexual orientation, and other distinguishing qualities.
-Consider the historical context, implications, and origins of words and phrases.
-Listening to others when they share words or phrases they find harmful.

Therefore, among the six key traits of highly inclusive leaders are curiosity, cultural intelligence, collaboration, commitment, knowledge, and courage. As in any other aspect of life, adding nuances, new perspectives and particularities can be challenging but will always be enriching.

[1] Diversity, Equity and inclusion