There are many benefits associated with a globally robust business. Studies have long shown that diversity leads to increased creativity, productivity, agility, innovation, global understanding, market insight, and stronger customer and community loyalty.
Organizations throughout the Treasure Valley are hiring and selling to an increasingly diverse workforce and customer base. However, many managers have concerns about potential language barriers that could cause misunderstandings or expose the organization to serious risks. Concerns may include whether or not employees understand safety laws, food service requirements, medical terminology or directions in general.
Effective communication is critical. During the past few years, community colleges across the nation have successfully partnered with local organizations to launch workplace language training. The intent is to support a stronger communicative approach that provides realistic solutions to meeting the immediate needs of businesses. Some of the language and cultural aspects are universal to all organizations and some concepts are industry specific.
The key is to help bridge the communication gap by teaching workplace languages: English, Spanish, Chinese or other applicable language. Many organizations in Southwest Idaho have a mix of English- and Spanish-speaking employees. In this instance, providing a blend of workplace English for those employees who speak Spanish and workplace Spanish for those who speak English is an effective approach. Multilingual organizations have stronger camaraderie among the employees and are less likely to encounter time-consuming, and potentially costly, misunderstandings.
Language programs can be completed within a couple of months using multiple learning formats and flexible hours. I have found a blended method of in-class personal practice coupled with digital tools to be a great approach. For example, CWI uses Rosetta Stone TOTALe solution as a supplement to classroom instruction to provide core language skill development and practice between sessions. This approach to training is also beneficial for displaced workers who need to acquire English language and technology skills to find alternative employment.
Workplace language training also can include vocabulary and terminology specific to the industry.
Our college recently held a nurse assisting course for an English as a Second Language group. The program included a mix of workplace English and nursing techniques specific to the job role to better prepare the participants for customer service roles.
The employers of the class participants found the training to be valuable because they experience better communication among the staff and the customers, and the managers have confidence that the employees understand instructions and safety procedures necessary to care for their patients.
Businesses that fail to recognize the importance of diversity and incorporation of communication training might find that they are unable to attract and retain the kinds of customers, employees and business partners that represent the growing diverse population. A diverse collection of skills and experiences allows a company to provide service to customers on a global basis.
BECKY SHERMAN Technology/business solutions manager at College of Western Idaho