Learn how to overcome language barriers in the workplace and maintain the excellent and safe service your customers expect.
Language barriers in the workplace can be a benefit to your business. That might seem like a nonsensical statement at first. After all, you need to communicate with your team, and they need to communicate with you and each other. It seems like a language barrier would make that more difficult.
There is some truth to that. There are also ways to work around it, which we’ll get to momentarily. First, how can these language barriers benefit you? No matter how you look at it, we are in a multi-lingual world. French is the dominant language in parts of Canada. You won’t have any trouble finding Spanish speakers in Houston or Miami, or San Diego. San Francisco has a large Chinese-speaking population, and you can hear Italian on the streets of Boston. That’s just the beginning.
We’re also in a multi-cultural world. There’s the Portuguese bakery, the Indian restaurant, the Ethiopian restaurant, the Vietnamese clothing shop, the Hebrew school, and more. Each one of these languages and cultures is a potential customer, and do you know who’s going to get those jobs? Someone who can speak the language.
Those language barriers in the workplace might cause some frustration, but when you have a good team that speaks multiple languages, you open the doors of your commercial cleaning business to a much wider audience. Still, we need to communicate. Here are some ideas that can help.
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Working through language barriers in the workplace for a safer, more effective environment
There are many reasons you and your team might not speak the same language. There’s also a broad spectrum where you may be able to understand each other on a very basic level or not at all. Chances are good that your employees will be working to understand your language, as they are likely surrounded by it outside of work, as well.
One way to bridge the gap and work through some of the language barriers in the workplace is to learn some basic phrases in their language. Google translate works wonders here. For example, here’s the phrase “We have a new customer,” in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Haitian creole.
Tenemos un nuevo cliente.
Chúng tôi có một khách hàng mới.
Nou gen yon nouvo kliyan.
Basic salutations are always good, too. Here’s “Good morning,” in Spanish, French, and Swahili.
Habari za asubuhi.
These phrases aren’t going to get you into a deep conversation, but they do help make connections. It shows that you care enough to make an effort. And if you have good employees, you want to do whatever you can to keep them.
You may even consider offering language courses to your team. Hire someone to come in once or twice each week for classes. While it may be a couple of hours out of the workweek, this can be a fantastic way to build those relationships and keep strong team members on your payroll.
Another very easy way to overcome language barriers in the workplace is to use software like Janitorial Manager. Your employees have to option to view messages in their preferred language. This can be especially helpful when there are changes to an account, new instructions, or sharing cleaning checklists or inspection results.
Of course, you can always use visual communication tools. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard recommends the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). That really long name just means that it’s a lot easier to identify hazardous chemicals regardless of language. By using pictograms, you don’t have to read or speak the language to understand the danger of the products you may be handling.
In short, there’s a lot you can do to help overcome language barriers. Many of them just take a little effort, and the payoff is worth it in a better, safer working environment for everyone.
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