Why should you communicate in multiple languages?
The Center for Immigration Studies reports that English isn’t the main language at home for 21% of America. Although many residents are bilingual, more than 25 million say they speak English at levels they would rate as less than “very well”.
This number will continue to grow. And indicates that even if you have a solid internal communications system in place, you can’t assume that all of your employees are understanding the message.
The EEOC (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has stated that rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace violate the law. If you only communicate in English, a portion of your employees will not be able to read the message. This becomes critical when notifying associates of an emergency and helping them understand the precautions they need to take.
In addition to the practicality of it, there are overarching advantages to ensuring that your diverse workforce feels accepted and included. Communicating in more than one language shows that you value all of your employees. This leads to an expanded talent pool and better employee retention.
What languages should you communicate in?
This depends on your workforce, as there are regional differences that play a large factor in your local diversity.
That said, communicating in Spanish is a good place to start. Of the Limited English Proficient (LEP) population of the United States, Spanish is by far the most common language spoken.
Limited English Proficient women and men are also more likely to work in non-desk professions:
LEP men were more likely to work in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (15 percent versus 28 percent), service occupations (14 percent versus 25 percent), and production, transportation, and material-moving occupations (17 percent versus 24 percent) (see Figure 5). LEP women were significantly more likely to work in service occupations (45 percent versus 20 percent), as well as production, transportation, and material-moving occupations (16 percent versus 5 percent) than their English-proficient counterparts. [Source]