The smart, effective way for HR departments to overcome language barriers

By Acclaro
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The Smart, Effective Way for HR Departments to Overcome Language Barriers

The lifeblood of every successful company runs through its human resources department.

From on-boarding and training to corporate communications to new hires, communication must be specific, consistent and impactful. After all, you’re the face and voice of the company to every single employee. It’s essential that there is a clear line of communication between a company’s human resources department and their entire workforce—whether English is their first language or not.

Proper communication not only provides a safe workplace environment and properly educated associates, it ensures that companies comply with labor and employment laws.

The multilingual workforce is growing

The number of U.S. residents who speak a language other than English at home has reached an all-time high. In fact, one in five residents speaks a foreign language at home. 1

Almost half of this growing, multilingual segment has limited English speaking and understanding ability. So chances are that at least a few of your staff members will not be fluent in English. Soon, most every medium-to-large-size company in the US will have to ask a very important question:

Is your HR department equipped to communicate with your workforce in an effective manner, regardless of what language they speak?

Not providing communication options for your employees in their primary language is more than just inconvenient. In many areas, it violates established labor laws and discrimination laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which can result in legal action against your organization. Sorry for the doom and gloom.

Onsite interpretation services: a short-term solution

We love interpreters. The very best ones bridge the communication gap with ease and work extremely hard. They are a fantastic short-term solution for a company in need.

Unfortunately, onsite interpreters can be expensive. If you’re in need of actual interpretation manpower for a long period of time, you’re better off hiring a staff of full-time interpreters. Short-term needs, or periodic needs, can be costly. After all, not every company can be in the Fortune 500.

So how does a company support its workforce with a cost-effective, convenient, effective translation service?

A seamless, cost-effective solution: over-the-phone interpretation

Live Over-the-phone interpretation (OPI) services have gained traction in a variety of industries, particularly healthcare, legal and corporate HR departments.

Here’s how OPI works: When an HR staff member meets with an associate in person or over the phone that may not speak English or has limited English-speaking proficiency, they simply dial a secure, private 1-800 number and are immediately connected to an on-demand, industry-trained interpreter.

These interpreters are not hired guns from the middle of nowhere. They are professional, accurate interpreters who are industry-trained, which means they know your company, your industry and the nuances within your specific knowledge base.

OPI is a simple, low-cost, yet comprehensive solution for overcoming language barriers between HR and associates.

  • There’s no full-time investment in translation associates.
  • There’s no expensive language training.
  • There’s no miscommunication.
  • You have 24/7 access to accurate, expert translation services.

The opportunities for HR staff are many, yet it all comes down to accurate communication, compliance and the well-being of your company and its associates. Here are the most common OPI implementations within HR departments:

Recruitment and onboarding

We can’t overstate the importance of accurate communication, especially when searching for new talent and training new associates. Regardless of what language a person speaks, they need to know and understand company policies and procedures clearly.

Once a person joins your organization, it is then your responsibility to train them appropriately. Federal and state laws aside, your company has invested into each employee and will succeed as they succeed.

HR is the first and last line of defense against uncertainty and apathy. By utilizing OPI services, you can be certain that your company’s information is communicated clearly and accurately. After all, your company’s onboarding procedures were created for a reason: the successful transition of every employee into your culture.

Workplace safety

Not to frighten you again, but the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 dictates that companies must ensure safe working conditions for all of their workers. No brainer, right?

But ask yourself this: do you know if every associate—regardless of language spoken—understands proper policies and procedures? Sure, they may nod their heads and agree. But if they’re operating heavy equipment, handling hazardous materials or work in conditions that pose a risk to their health and safety (and the health and safety of others), companies must be certain that proper safety training is communicated correctly.

In the case of non-English speaking and limited English-speaking employees, this means providing safety training in their preferred language. Only then can you be assured that communication is effective.

“Safety first.” But more importantly, “safety everyone understands, first.”

Employee benefits

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to inform every associate of the benefits they are receiving or are eligible to receive. And here comes the government warning again, but the Affordable Care Act states that interpreting services must be made available to those who require it when discussing health plan options both during onboarding and during open enrollment periods.

Your company is bound by law to ensure that every employee receives the information they need in a manner that’s clear and understandable to them, regardless of language. This means that a translation service is imperative. And your choice is an expensive, onsite interpretation service or a cost-effective, seamless service.

Productivity improvement

Annual reviews are a necessity to the continued improvement of each employee Throughout the year, companies must monitor performance to confirm that staff members understand instructions, policies and procedures, of course, but annual reviews are imperative to growth. In fact, proper annual reviews cannot only improve morale, it can improve productivity.

If a warehouse sees heavy turnover in its labor force, for example, managers must continually train new employees, HR must continually hire new employees, etc. The vicious cycle continues.

But if you retain your associates, costs are minimized and efficiencies are maximized. The cultures of the most successful companies in the world are focused on continual improvement. And for your staff to be as productive as possible, you must address the good and the bad in face-to-face meetings as well as the usual corporate paperwork.

Are your internal communications to all employees as effective as they can be? Do you have the proper procedures in place to support non-English-speaking and limited English-speaking staff and maintain compliance?

OPI services are a simple and convenient way to make sure your company remains in compliance while keeping your employees in the know throughout their employment. Hiring, on-boarding and training are no-brainers when it comes to interpretation needs, of course, but the most successful companies support their staff throughout the duration of their employment. This means continual monitoring of improvement, abilities and opportunities for all employees.

Compliance is met. Morale is improved. Productivity skyrockets. Everybody wins.

If you think that OPI services could help your HR department, contact us today to learn how our services can help.


1Census Bureau
2Migration Policy Institute

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