Discover the tech helping HR and comms professionals

Benedikt Ilg, founder and CEO of Flip, reveals the tools you could be using
Benedikt Ilg
Benedikt Ilg

Shared language is a powerful tool. It enables us to bridge the gap between cultures and continents, opening us up to new people and experiences. In the workplace, it is a collaborative device that facilitates open communication, discussion and networking, often bringing with it the chance for further development. But what about the skilled professionals eager to form workplace bonds, and to engage fully with corporate culture? Those whose status as non-native speakers hinders them from fully interacting with co-workers and the all important HR and communications departments. Recent global crises have seen a sharp rise in migration figures. In a time of upheaval all over the world, with deskless labour shortages dominating the workplace conversation, HR and communications professionals have cited significant difficulties in sourcing, hiring and meeting the needs of foreign employees. What is most frustrating about this is that much of this comes down to easily surmountable language barriers. 

Technology has and will continue to dramatically impact the world of work, yet, for reasons unknown, deskless workers – and more specifically, those who struggle with communicating within the workplace – are largely being neglected by the corporate world. Less than one percent of software is designed for non-computer based employees. If we also factor in those who do not speak the language of the host country, the figures around the software created for that group, you can imagine, would be virtually zero, if in creation at all. A diverse range of talent is crucial to the continued success of any business, particularly now, when the demand for blue-collar workers globally is at an all-time high. A report by Chron indicates that nearly one-third of HR professionals have said language barriers are a significant obstacle in the training of deskless workers. Issues such as this not only prevent the non-native speaker from advancing within a company, but greatly limit the effectiveness of HR and communications teams, often resulting in qualified people missing out on ideal roles. 

So what is to be done? Well firstly, companies and their HR and communications teams, can start by incorporating AI-based translation tools, that are multilingual, operate in real-time, and are connected via a third-party app, that can be utilised company-wide. These features would give workers who don’t have a stationary role the opportunity to converse with co-workers, HR and management alike, in their own language. Additionally, it would enable them to advance and take on more responsibility within a corporation, without running the risk of making a costly mistake due to a miscommunication. The benefits to the HR team, and indeed to the overall company, would be far-reaching, with less time and resources wasted, as well as gaining access to a wider pool of diverse potential hires. Equally, the customer experience would benefit, as language barriers can act as a significant hurdle for customer and employee communication. By offering technologies to help with language differences, workforces can become a lot more agile and effectively communicate with a variety of customers. Interestingly, a study from Unabable found that 64 percent of people would pay a higher price for a product or service if the customer experience was offered in their native language.

In HR and communications, it is vital to have a professional, yet friendly relationship with personnel. Often, when a language barrier is present, employees can feel frustrated, voiceless and underappreciated, when they fail to understand or explain workplace issues. Chatbots and virtual assistants can communicate in a range of languages and can even be designed to adapt to nuances, speech styles, and colloquialisms. This encourages employees with language difficulties to seek out assistance or advice when needed, while also enabling HR to respond appropriately and fairly to cases that require conflict resolution. By implementing and making use of various translation technologies, HR and communications teams, as well as employees, are empowered to communicate grievances effectively and avoid heated arguments and debates, which could ultimately lead to an unhappy and unproductive workplace. 

Lastly, the adoption of tools in the learning and development sphere would significantly aid HR and communications teams in reaching employees with a language deficit. The provision of training materials in a wide array of languages can be extremely expensive and may take considerable time, depending on the language diversity of the workforce. Elearning resources, powered by third-party apps such as Flip, enable organisations to target the workforce with important company information, while the smart, up-to-date translation capabilities ensure the message is not lost. Clear and easy to understand communication materials help convey information accurately, regardless of language proficiency, not to mention the positive ‘green element’ of going paperless, particularly in larger companies aiming to minimise their carbon footprint. 

There’s no doubt that the ability to communicate effectively within the workplace is a skill like any other. It is one that can be shaped and improved as we go, but language differences should never prevent a person from fully engaging with HR and communications teams, or the wider company. There may come a day when we all effortlessly speak the same language, but until then, we can certainly let technology do the talking.

Written by
Benedikt Ilg
CEO and Founder of Flip
September 27, 2023