Being Monolingual is a Privilege: Foster Inclusivity With Language

Boost employee retention, raise engagement, and increase recruitment with language.

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Whenever anyone tells me that their business doesn’t have any language learning needs, I know for sure that person is a native English speaker.  Native English speakers in most English-speaking countries make up just about the only population on the planet who can never feel like they should speak another language. It’s no coincidence that they can also be the most unsympathetic to those who live and work in their second, third, or even fourth language.

How Offering Language Training Can Boost Employee Morale

I’ve spoken to many American business leaders who know their employees speak dozens of languages.  Many depend on immigrant workforces and know that the primary language of their manufacturing floor, construction site, or kitchens is Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, or any of dozens of other languages.  They often hold the immigrants in high regard: they say they work hard, do quality work, and the business couldn’t run without them.  But they’re also content with a status quo in which a large portion of their workforce can’t communicate effectively with the organization.  They’re content when a population of employees can’t be promoted beyond a certain level and can’t perform specific job tasks because of their language abilities.  They’re content, in other words, with their monolingualism.

I don’t think they ever ask themselves what it’s really like for their employees.  Maybe they know from engagement survey data that theirs is an excellent workplace, and their employees likely feel happy and grateful.  But this is only half the story.  Are the non-English speakers even taking the survey?  Do you understand them? 

The Impact of Multilingualism On Your team

I often see organizations list communication as a critical factor in their success, but how can an organization prioritize communication when it doesn’t support people in learning each other’s language?  And how many companies celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion while a portion of their employees is excluded from so much by not sharing a common language?  

There’s an enormous opportunity here to make a difference.  Offering language training can boost employee engagement, morale, and retention.  It can build community and a sense of inclusion.  And it can enrich the experience of all employees, not just the language learners.  The benefits don’t stop there.  Language training affects the life of employees not just at the workplace but in every aspect of their lives, and having a multilingual workplace is a great way to grow market share.  

It’s time for that native English speaker to invite non-native speakers into the conversation.  If the size and shape of a company’s language program can be defined by those who want it, it will make a difference.  

If you're interested in learning more about bringing language and culture to your organization, we'd love to show you how to customize a program that unites your workforce. Contact us today. 

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