Crossing the Employee Language Barrier with Janitorial Software

In industries like the janitorial one, language barriers often present a challenge. This is one of the reasons the industry experiences such high employee turnover rates. The first and second-generation immigrants who work in cleaning companies often feel disconnected, underappreciated, and underutilized, largely because there’s a communication gap. One of the ways that you can successfully learn to communicate with these employees who may speak very little English is through the use of janitorial software.

Communication is Key

OSHA requires employers to provide safety training information to all employees, so it’s important that all of your employees are able to understand the required information. This includes product usage instructions, safety manuals, and task checklists in employees’ native languages. This is especially true if they will be working with hazardous chemicals or potentially dangerous equipment. Your workers must have the ability to review pertinent safety information and be able to ask questions and receive clarifying responses in return. Bridging the language divide can be difficult for several reasons. First, finding bilingual supervisors who can translate safety and cleaning instructions accurately can be challenging. Second, some companies hesitate to financially invest in providing bilingual safety training or hard copies of multi-language manuals. Third, too many promising employees are simply never given the chance to show their capacity for quality performance due to their interviewer’s fear that they won’t understand important information. However, bridging the gap isn’t too hard if you use janitorial software. Here are three ways to bridge the language divide at your company:

1. Leverage Your Janitorial Software

Experts encourage managers and supervisors working with English as a Second Language (ESL) employees to avoid verbally speaking quickly or in jargon. They recommend that instructions and training are provided with word choice that approximates to about a sixth grader’s reading level. This simple language approach does not imply a low literacy level or lack of education to your employees. Rather it helps to create a respectful opportunity for your employees to learn how to connect and engage in English, as well. To reinforce your one-on-one training efforts, you can also learn how to maximize the functions of your janitorial software to help you communicate appropriately with all of your employees. For example, you could upload warning labels and material safety data sheets in the employees’ preferred languages. Secondly, with attachment-sharing capabilities, you can scan and post copies of instructions and/or photos of labels in various languages within your janitorial software. Refer to these links during training sessions so that employees know where to find them when needed.

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2. Utilize Colors, Symbols, and Videos to Communicate Important Messages

An article published in the Occupational Health & Safety magazine suggests utilizing interpreters to translate safety signage and manuals for specific workplaces, “There is an increased use of symbols to describe hazards. The use of videos for training in both English and other foreign languages is on the rise because this communication method seems to be more effective in getting the point across.” It is important that you then maintain consistency across each of your locations. In order to avoid added confusion, every time a certain color or symbol is used, it should always mean the same thing – i.e. the colors used on equipment, signs, and containers of chemicals could use red to show danger, yellow to demonstrate a lesser degree of hazard, orange to use caution, and green for safe cleaning supplies. The master list of whatever these visual reminders look like should be kept easily accessible to employees within your janitorial software.

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3. Provide Access to Translation Features on your Website and Janitorial Software

Google Translate is a helpful tool for easily translating cleaning instructions into the languages of your choice. Some janitorial software companies provide a single button on their websites for a quick adjustment into popular languages. Utilizing a janitorial software app messaging is another way to communicate through a translated version.

  • Include photos for tasks and inspections. Take photographs of high priority tasks at your clients’ locations and include them in the appropriately translated cleaning checklist that is customized for each location. Although this may initially take a little bit of time to put together, it will prove to be a useful method that helps your employees stay aware of expectations. Using the photo upload feature of your janitorial inspections software can also be a useful tool for visually demonstrating and explaining acceptable and unacceptable quality levels to your employees.
  • Take a Step Towards Them Try to learn some of the commonly used industry words in their language. This will help your employees gain confidence in your respect and appreciation of them as they work to learn the English language. As you and your supervisors make efforts to understand your ESL employees and their culture, you demonstrate the value you place on helping them bridge their existing culture and language gap.
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Build Communication Bridges with Janitorial Software Don’t let the fear of a language barrier stop you from hiring and training quality employees. If you believe the applicant won’t likely be able or willing to do the work it would take to do the job well, make that determination and stand by it. However, if you feel that with the right amount of communication cultivation, you’ll be able to support his or her growth and performance improvement, it’s time to get down to work! One of the most important parts of your and your supervisors’ roles is to ensure that each of your cleaners is well-trained and prepared to accomplish the tasks that your customers hire you to do for them. This job will require that you are prepared to accommodate employees who are not proficient or native English speakers. When you demonstrate your willingness to partner with them in their efforts to establish a career with you, you will build trust, loyalty, and likely gain (and keep!) a valuable asset to your own success in the process! Let Janitorial Manager come alongside you to help enhance and improve your communication and productivity – Connect with our team to schedule a FREE live demo of our janitorial software today!