Workplace diversity can be looked at in terms of several factors – gender, disability, religion and ethnicity. With regard to the issues that can arise when people of different ethnicities work together, one way to promote inclusion between colleagues is to tackle the cultural and language barriers that might exist.
It’s important that everyone is made to feel comfortable at work, and employers should be asking themselves what workplace diversity and inclusion looks like within their company, and what measures can they put in place to encourage equality.
Communication is a vital tool and an individual whose first language is not the same as that of their colleagues may well feel they miss out, not just on workplace chat, but on important messages from management that they miss or misunderstand.
There are some key areas to work on:
The onus is on managers and team leaders to ensure that someone in the workplace feels included if there is a language barrier. From the beginning, ascertain which languages an individual can speak and, if it’s feasible, introduce them to, or team them up with, someone else in the business who speaks the same language.
If that’s not possible, important onboarding information such as operational and health and safety procedures could be communicated visually so that the new employee is fully aware of what is expected and what to do to remain safe.
Depending upon how many different languages are spoken in the workplace, communications such as emails or signage could be multi-lingual, which is not only practical and helpful but makes workers feel more included.
Encouraging a line manager or close-working colleague to learn a few simple phrases in the employee’s own language will encourage communication, and helping the employee learn some basic phrases used in the workplace may well help them start to get to grips with the English language for example.
In some cases, where the work requires training or competence tests, getting a translator in to help out in the first few weeks might be an option.
International workers have been commonplace in the logistics industry for many years and in a good, friendly work environment, people usually find a way to communicate.
In business terms, try to make sure the correct words are used, rather than jargon or slang, and that instructions are given clearly and slowly and repeated if necessary until you’re confident everyone understands what is being said.
On a more social level, you can encourage activities such as lunch-break games or an evening out where the activity is not wholly dependent on communication – a night out at a football match or an evening tenpin bowling or go-karting, for instance – but helps to build a team spirit.
It’s also important to remind your staff to be respectful of any barriers that might stand between them and their colleagues, not only in terms of language but also in respecting different cultures and traditions, dress or food preferences. Encourage supervisors or line managers to facilitate conversations and friendships that put people at ease so they feel comfortable asking for help should they need it.
Depending on the nature of your business it could be that an employee who is fluent in another language is a great asset. It could open up communications with markets or companies abroad that have, up to now, been difficult to build upon.
Logistics companies often work across an international client base and diversity in logistics is to be encouraged. Utilising someone’s language skills presents a favourable impression and can ease the flow of information between you and your customers, whether in written communication, telephone calls to clients in another country, or hosting visits from international clients.
Finding the right employees isn’t easy and encouraging workers to join your company, stay with your company and develop their skills is not something to be taken for granted. By generating a culture of diversity and inclusion, making an effort to help someone feel part of the team and encouraging colleagues to respect and encourage their efforts to overcome the language barrier can deliver benefits for everyone involved.
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