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February 13, 2011
Benefits of Overcoming Language and Literacy Barriers in the Workplace

Do your supervisors know how to react to an evolving and more diverse workplace? Do they know the myriad benefits of overcoming barriers in language and literacy? Below is some important information to convey to your supervisors.

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Issues involved in managing non-English-speaking employees are important because of changes in our population and the composition of our national workforce.

  • The number of people in the U.S. workforce with limited English proficiency is growing.
  • In addition, many organizations are hiring employees overseas to help diversify their workforces and meet global marketing and customer service needs.
  • Organizations with non-English-speaking employees may face serious communication problems that can affect safety, quality, productivity, and morale if effective action is not taken.

Increased diversity in the workplace may create language and literacy barriers.

  • When workers don't speak English, or have limited proficiency, they cannot communicate effectively with supervisors, co-workers, or customers. They may also have difficulty comprehending the requirements of their jobs.
  • In addition to problems with speaking English, some employees may not read well either. Even in their own language, they may be illiterate or only be able to read a little.
  • Without proper action on the part of management, language and literacy barriers can make it difficult or impossible for some employees to function effectively and safely in the workplace. These barriers can also make interaction and teamwork among workers more difficult and less efficient.

When you make the effort to overcome language and literacy barriers, you may experience a number of significant benefits.

  • The workplace becomes safer when all employees can read warning signs and labels, understand safety instructions, and communicate with co-workers effectively.
  • Productivity increases when employees can understand their supervisor's directions, read written information about the job, and coordinate their efforts with co-workers.
  • Quality improves and errors decrease when employees comprehend standards and the methods required to achieve them.
  • Communications of all kinds become easier and more effective.
  • Another benefit of making the effort to overcome language and literacy barriers is better teamwork among employees. When they can communicate more effectively with one another, they can work together more efficiently.
  • Better customer relations are also a result of improved language and literacy skills, since employees can interact more effectively with customers and understand their needs.
  • Morale also improves and there is less friction and tension in the workplace when all employees can communicate easily with one another.
  • And when morale and teamwork improve, turnover goes down, allowing you to retain more good employees.

The above information comes from BLR's presentation "Managing Non-English-Speaking Employees." For more information on all the training courses BLR has to offer, go to our Employee and Manager Training page.

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