Today’s American workforce is more multilingual than ever. Studies show that as Latinos become the nation’s largest minority group, Spanish-speakers hold a significant place in our national economy. Companies both large and small can benefit from a multilingual approach – here are some simple steps to get started.
Attracting multilingual employees
First off – present your business as bilingual. If you can’t translate your entire website, translate a few key pages, or at least show bilingualism on your homepage and contact page. The same goes for marketing materials. A bilingual staff member who can field phone calls is a major plus.
The Houston Chronicle lists some great tips on finding bilingual employees, including reaching out to translation and interpreter companies that can provide references from their networks.
The article also recommends reading expatriate message boards as a way to find multilingual Americans returning home, looking for work. Here are a few we found:
Equipping your Human Resources program
Translating human resource documents is a must. Most workplaces should have the basics available in multiple languages: job applications, work contracts, safety regulations, benefits descriptions. Access to a professional translator can play a vital role across industries. A recent investigation documented 1,884 translation errors, of which 18 percent had potential clinical consequences, when hospitals rely on family members to interpret to patients. Interpreters can also shorten hospital stays for patients who don’t speak English.
Cultural Competance and Multicultural Support
Business owners can support English as a Second Language learning as easily as posting information about local classes. Many community colleges and Parks & Recreation departments host continued education English language courses. Perhaps offer your business place to be a host site for ESL classes.
Above all, recognizing the value of a multilingual workforce is the first step toward fostering a vibrant workplace community. Cultural competence is a set of behaviors which can be learned, and improved, over time.