More diverse equals better business. But let’s dig in further. There are many factors that business professionals could consider:
And some ideas to make it happen
Business is international. Even if you’re not selling in other markets, other markets are selling where you are. And people have access to products across borders through a simple click. Pursuing foreign markets is a compelling opportunity product wise, labor wise, competition wise, amongst others. But it’s not without its hurdles.
Many of these hurdles are cultural. And with cultural hurdles, come language barriers. Communication directed to your audiences, clients or other team members needs to be polished and cared for. It’s vital that you and your team members understand the nuances and cultures native to the countries where you’re planning to do business.
But don’t confuse language with culture. Even English, widespread as it is, is spoken differently in South Africa, India and the United Kingdom. It doesn’t matter if it’s an official language or the primary language of business, it’s spoken in context. Gaining a deep understanding of a country’s unique culture before a meeting can be the difference between success and failure in closing a deal.
Authentic business relationships lead to better business for two reasons:
- Business is not monolingual. Even if we’re all speaking English, business styles and manners vary.
- Non-native English speakers may be more reluctant to express themselves freely. This might interfere with the ability of team members to offer their maximum contribution.
- Some cultures rely heavily on the use of body language and gestures. When non-verbal signals are being given they will not be picked up on by others.
More diverse equals better business. It’s that simple, but let’s dig in further.
Business styles and habits
There are many factors that business professionals could consider ahead of meeting an associate or business partner from a different country. There are greeting styles, how to address others, business card etiquette, communication style, and meeting agenda to name a few.
Some preconceived ideas are no more than stereotypes. Others are real. Some business cultures are relaxed in nature, others are more rigid. Some say in Denmark you’re expected to finish your plate at business meals. And that in Israel the typical work week is Sunday to Thursday. CT Business Travel created a helpful infographic that breaks down different business customs around the world. The business insider considered it useful and picked it up. The certainty this gives us is that having someone who is native and/or familiar to other business cultures is a competitive advantage that makes for better business.
Numbers speak for themselves
What does the future of your company look like?
For better business and a “stress-free” multicultural environment, there has to be enough flexibility and understanding to discuss and debate in more than one style or language. Communication doesn’t have to be perfect, but there has to be a real effort being made.
According to statistics on Fundera, companies that prioritize inclusion are 120% more likely to reach their financial goals. When integrated into businesses, diversity sparks innovation, as it brings different perspectives together to refine ideas on how to succeed in team targets.
The 2020 U.S. Census shows that between 2010 and 2020, the Multiracial population (defined as those who identify as being from Two or More Races) grew by 276%. In that same time period, the Hispanic and Latino population increased by 23%. There’s an incredible opportunity here. But it’s not language nor culture blind.
And according to a survey by Glassdoor, roughly “two-thirds of those surveyed say a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers,” which means that no matter where your talent pool is located, it’s fair to say almost any candidate will consider your company’s diversity before accepting an offer.
Sense of belonging
When people feel comfortable, it’s easier for them to gain a sense of belonging, voice out concerns and propose new ideas. You’ll have a wider talent pool and spectrum of perspectives for better business. And this is no minor win, skilled labor shortages are growing on a global scale. Out of 30 countries surveyed by global recruiting firm Hays PLC, Canada, Japan, the U.S., and Germany all rank among the top 10 places where companies are experiencing a talent mismatch.
A “gap” can easily be solved by casting a wider net to people who may even live half a world away, but have the skills you need to make your business thrive.
Back to the hurdles
However, occasionally, employees with very limited English fluency will be hired and will rely on other employees from their native country to translate directions, rules, and the like. As we said, we can’t turn our heads away from this issue. How can we tackle this? Do we need one member of the team as spokesperson? Do we need an interpreter in-house? Are there other ways? And even if we hire well enough English communicators, that doesn’t mean it’s the language in which they are most comfortable, confident, or eloquent.
There is no one answer. But there are answers. Depending on the complexity of each matter.
Making it happen
There are many hacks. And different situations, call for different solutions. Here are a few that can be built in one shot projects:
- Chat bots: there can be both internal and external chatbots. The script can be thought of and done with a UX team once. And then it can be transcreated into other languages, adapting to the different conversational styles, while keeping the company tone and voice.
- Localized manuals and guidelines: rules are rules, and it’s important for them to be shared and easily understandable for all, equally. So all your brand material and relevant company documents should also be translated, shared and be made available. This includes translations of the application user interface (UI), user manuals, product websites, marketing and sales literature.
- Web localization: different audiences, customized content. If not in style, at least in writing directions (right-to-left for Arabic or Hebrew), date and time formats, currency formatting, address formats, decimal separators, amongst others.
- Software localization: this involves adapting a software product to the linguistic,cultural and technical requirements of the target market. It helps improve the user experience. You will usually need three professionals to accompany this process:
1. A localization engineer who generates the workflow needed to enable quick and accurate localization.
2. A Project Manager who coordinates tasks related to translation and localization.
3. A QA Manager who guarantees that the localization process fulfills quality standards.
- The localization includes translating text, buttons and data fields, and UI testing, to check that the localized elements are displayed correctly in an interactive way.
Though not everything is one time only. For special occasions, you can always count on video conferencing with translation services. They are more cost efficient than live translation, but are still real-time. If there is a sensitive conversation to be had, or an important client meet, having an impartial interpreter whom you trust and can translate faithfully, is an asset.
And for a medium term basis, it’s not bad to create multilingual campaigns through subtitling and dubbing of institutional videos and training, to make sure everyone feels included. And that everyone can get as involved as they want to without their origin being an obstacle.
If you can’t implement any of this right now, there are some quick wins. For example: leave a pause before filling a gap in the conversation. Sometimes people (and not only those foreign to the language) need some more time to formulate an answer. People who are less familiar with the language have to listen, translate, think of an answer, translate. It can take just a little longer to process. And it’s only fair to provide time, they are doing double the work.
If you are on your way to a multilingual, multicultural culture, contact us at Stillman. We’d love to make your business better.