How to minimise language and cultural gap in the workplace

As more businesses continue to expand their operations globally, it is necessary for businesses to incorporate diversity in their current work culture. Various SMEs and large MNCs actively practising and encouraging diversity in the workplace to stay competitive. When businesses expand globally, there will be employees coming from different backgrounds and cultures which can be beneficial to the business by achieving a more creative approach when it comes to innovating or solving problems.

However, due to people coming from different backgrounds having to work together may cause a cultural and language barrier. As a result, when conveying expectations, feedbacks and provide guidance it can be complicated and give rise to misunderstandings. So how do companies overcome and manage these barriers?

Ways to manage cultural and language barrier in the workplace

Provide diversity and communication trainings

Companies that are having a difficult time to handle cultural and language barrier in the workplace can consider hosting diversity and communication training. These training can be conducted via workshops or seminars to provide useful information and tips on how to overcome these issues. The training sessions can be conducted by your own company or engage with external vendors who are specialised in these areas.

When you host a training workshop or seminars with all of your employees it shows that everyone is aware and informed of the practices and are responsible to practice the tips given by the training sessions. Businesses who are planning to expand further can consider incorporating these training for the new employees so that they are also aware and practice the same technique.

Furthermore, the company also need to take account of the current language use in the workplace. For instance, if your company mainly focuses on the China market, you might want to conduct Chinese Language training for your employees.

Provide translation for documents

If your business have international offices, translating key documents into employees’ native language can provide a more convenient and easier way for them to understand various tasks and instructions.

Companies can also encourage employees who have doubts or clarifications to utilise Google translations as the first step before proceeding to clarify with other employees. This way it provides the employees with the opportunity to learn on their own.

Be repetitive and patient

Most of the employees might not learn or understand a new concept immediately. In order to learn and understand the concept better, they need to listen to the same concept at least thrice to fully understand and apply the concept. Managers or person that is conveying the instructions or information should be more understanding and patient if any employee has further doubts or clarifications.

On the other hand, employees should try not to make any assumptions and take the responsibility to clarify if the given information is correct to prevent any misunderstandings.

Utilise more on visual communication

Various studies have shown that using visuals is easier and more effective when it comes to communication. It is a lot more difficult to misunderstand visual language than verbal expressions. Companies can consider using visuals to communicate concepts such as utilising diagrams, infographics and images to allow employees to understand better. When there is a communication barrier in the workplace, utilising visual techniques can be beneficial as it is easier to understand as compared to using text or audio.

Encourage employees to explore different cultures

Companies with employees coming from different cultural backgrounds can sometimes lead to problems in the workplace such as miscommunication. Miscommunication may result in conflict between employees. It can be useful to educate your employees on the differences in culture to minimise conflict in the workplace.

Moreover, companies can organise and facilitate team bonding sessions to allow employees to understand one another better. Hosting team bonding sessions concerning the traditions of different cultures such as food, simple phrases and games. These sessions can further encourage and motivate employees to explore differences in cultures and traditions.

Find ways to accommodate with the difference in culture

It is known that some cultures value more on group harmony as compared to individually focused. For instance, the culture in Japan is known to be more group-centric as they value teamwork and harmony with their colleagues. Whereas the culture in America tend to be more individually focused as they are more likely to prioritise themselves over a group. Additionally, managers need to be more understanding and alter management styles when necessary.

Therefore, companies should encourage employees to be more aware and considerate of each other cultures and accommodate to ensure cohesiveness in the workplace.

Moving forward

Language barriers and cultural gap in the workplace can be challenging problem but having employees from different background and cultures can bring about innovation, creativity and provide better success for the company. As long as companies encourage and make the effort to practice, cultural and language barriers can be overcome and minimise.

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