The Cost of a Language Gap in a Post-COVID Workforce
The language gap (or difference) in the post-covid workforce creates many roadblocks to the smooth operation of organizations. An increasing number of Spanish-speaking employees work in industries like construction and manufacturing. With this changing workforce, it becomes crucial for managers, HR, employees, and owners to bridge this gap to ensure efficient communication and productivity.
The language barrier’s effects on today’s organizations
- Safety Hazards: In all industries, safety is very important. A language barrier can compromise safety measures—workers may not understand important safety protocols or instructions, leading to accidents or injuries. In fact, according to a SHRM report, “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that language barriers are a contributing factor in 25 percent of job-related accidents.”
- Decreased Productivity: Confusion, misunderstandings, and errors can result from language gaps and differences. These issues decrease organizational productivity. Workers may take longer to complete tasks, and communication breakdowns can cause delays in completing projects.
- Increased Costs: Language gaps and differences can lead to mistakes organizations can avoid by talking to team members in their native languages. These mistakes can lead to delays, rework, and even legal issues. All these problems increase costs for an organization.
- Low Morale: When workers don’t understand each other, it can lead to frustration and low morale. Workers may feel isolated, leading to decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover rates.
6 Ways to connect and communicate with managers, HR, employees, and owners to team members that don’t share a common language
- Language Training: One of the most effective ways to bridge the language gap is to provide language training for English-speaking and Spanish-speaking workers. If workers can better understand one another, it increases productivity, safety, and overall job satisfaction.
- Hiring Bilingual Managers and HR Personnel: Hiring multilingual managers and HR personnel can help workers communicate without a common language. These individuals can serve as interpreters and help bridge the language gap, ensuring everyone understands essential information.
- Translate Communications: Organization sends out vital employee communications all the time, and it’s important that they reach employees. These messages should be translated—manually or via software tools—into all the native languages of their employees.
- Use Visual Aids: Visual aids such as diagrams, pictures, and videos can help display important information without relying on language. This can be particularly useful in training sessions and safety meetings.
- Encourage Multilingual Communication: Encouraging workers to learn essential words and phrases in each other’s languages can help foster a sense of community and improve communication. This encourages inclusivity and can be particularly helpful in situations where workers need to give quick instructions or warnings.
- Embrace Diversity: Embracing diversity and creating a culture of inclusivity can help reduce the impact of language gaps and differences. In addition, celebrating different cultures and providing opportunities for workers to share their experiences brings teams together and reduces miscommunications.
The costs of language gaps and differences in the workforce are high. However, companies can overcome these barriers with the right strategies. Providing language training, hiring bilingual managers and HR personnel, using visual aids, translating communications, encouraging multilingual communication, and embracing diversity can help bridge the language gap and improve worker communication. By doing so, organizations can improve safety, increase productivity, reduce costs, and create a more positive work environment.
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