Strong language skills are the currency organisations need to succeed in an increasingly globalised landscape. Having a multilingual workforce improves communication, strengthens collaboration, promotes inclusion and belonging and increases career advancement opportunities. All of these add up to be a powerful catalyst for employee engagement.
Explore the power of strong language skills and how they can boost employee engagement in your organisation
Reading time: 4 minutes
Enhanced decision-making, critical thinking, creativity and cognitive function. According to compelling research in the new book, The Power of Language, these are just some of the benefits of strong language proficiency in the workplace.
What happens when you harness these valuable skills in increasingly globalised organisations and workforces? You improve communication, facilitate collaboration, enhance inclusivity and sense of belonging and advance career growth. All essential to employee experience and engagement. And to competitiveness and sustainability in today’s context of economic uncertainty, competitive pressure, challenges in talent acquisition and retention and evolving skills requirements.
Read on as we explore the power of strong language skills and how they can boost employee engagement in your organisation.
1. Strong language skills improve communication
Consider this scenario. A large organisation has decided to rationalise its product lines in 25 markets across 5 regions. Ensuring engagement during this time of transition is vital for success.
Success doesn’t largely depend on teams’ market and product knowledge. But on how motivated and committed they are to the project’s objectives. And clear, confident, constructive communication is crucial to fostering an environment where stakeholders feel heard, valued and inspired to contribute.
Employees with strong language proficiency do more than effectively communicate their ideas. They know how to actively listen to others — and respond thoughtfully. Which cultivates a culture of respect and attentiveness that ultimately boosts engagement.
Clarity and understanding
When employees have strong language skills, they can express themselves clearly, conveying information comprehensively and without ambiguity. When messages are clear, employees can easily understand expectations, tasks, and goals, leading to a shared understanding of objectives. This, in turn, minimises misunderstandings, reduces errors, and instils confidence and assurance among team members, contributing to increased engagement.
Strong language skills empower individuals to explain and discuss challenges, probe root causes, and find innovative solutions. This approach to collaborative problem-solving enhances team autonomy and commitment to implementing solutions.
Constructive feedback and recognition
Strong language skills enable employees to provide constructive feedback, participate in decision-making and acknowledge others’ achievements. This promotes open communication, cultivating appreciation and mutual respect among team members and contributing to a positive and collaborative workplace atmosphere.
2. Strong language skills facilitate collaboration
In intricate multilingual projects, the risk of disjointed collaboration due to language barriers looms large.
Strong language skills play a pivotal role in averting this risk, facilitating teamwork. They not only enhance communication but also foster a collaborative spirit, ensuring that diverse team members can contribute effectively. This collaborative approach promotes a sense of unity, minimises the risk of isolation, and positively influences overall engagement throughout the project.
Proficient communication in the workplace enables each team member to actively participate in discussions, express their perspectives, and contribute to decision-making processes. This fosters inclusivity in the workplace, creating a sense of togetherness and commitment, ultimately boosting overall engagement.
Employees with strong language skills better understand their roles and team responsibilities. This clarity minimises confusion and overlaps, facilitating smooth collaboration in the workplace without the frustrations of role ambiguity.
Multilingual teams often bring together individuals with unique knowledge, varied expertise and diverse thinking. Coupled with effective communication, this diversity sparks creativity and promotes a holistic approach to workplace collaboration. The atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding and innovation creates a vibrant collaborative landscape, motivating team members.
Collaborative projects benefit from efficient coordination. This ensures project milestones, deadlines and tasks are on time and completed smoothly. The result is less frustration and higher engagement, as team members feel a sense of accomplishment.
Linguistic competence proves crucial in challenging situations. It aids in conflict de-escalation, negotiation, and mediation when necessary. It can even help prevent conflicts by addressing issues before they escalate. Effective conflict handling translates to reduced stress for teams, positively impacting engagement in a multilingual workforce.
3. Strong language skills enhance inclusivity and sense of belonging
In complex, multilingual projects the risk of employees feeling disconnected or excluded due to language differences is a real concern.
Strong language skills shape shared goals and vision, increase empathy, social engagement and equal opportunities for active participation, connecting diverse employees. This inclusive environment increased a sense of belonging, minimising isolation, and positively impacting overall engagement throughout the project.
Shared goals and purpose
When employees clearly understand their organisation's goals and how their roles contribute, it fosters a sense of purpose, unity, and shared understanding in the workplace. This shared understanding contributes to inclusivity by aligning employees with common objectives, creating a cohesive work environment where everyone feels part of a collective effort. This, in turn, enhances employees' engagement as they perceive their contributions as integral to the organisation's mission and success.
Leaders with strong language skills can actively and effectively engage with employees from diverse linguistic backgrounds. This sends a powerful message that everyone is valued, increasing equity and inclusivity in the workplace and nurturing a sense of belonging within the organisation’s community.
Building strong relationships
In a workplace with strong language skills levels, employees forge stronger connections and demonstrate empathy, cultivating a sense of camaraderie and trust. With reduced language barriers, colleagues can develop genuine connections, more easily establish and maintain meaningful relationships, fostering a sense of belonging and social cohesion.
Strong language skills ensure equal access to information, discussions, and decision-making. Active participation creates an environment where diverse perspectives are valued, fostering fairness and equality. As employees perceive equal opportunities, they experience a deeper sense of belonging, enhancing engagement in a workplace that values and supports their contributions on equal footing.
4. Strong language skills advance career growth
Strong language skills also act as a stepping stone for career growth. And employees want to grow professionally.
According to Pew Research, 63% of employees who left their jobs cited lack of career opportunities. So, multilingual employees who are rewarded with career advancement are more likely to be engaged (and stay) with an organisation.
When employees have strong language skills, it widens their network within (and outside) the organisation. They can communicate fluently, build relationships with colleagues, mentors and industry peers, and identify and pursue career advancement opportunities.
In multinational organisations, employees with high levels of language proficiency are more likely to have opportunities for international assignments. These experiences not only contribute to career growth but also enhance engagement by providing unique learning experiences.
Effective communication and the ability to engage diverse teams are among the top skills required for leadership roles. Employees with developed language skills may be more likely to succeed in recruitment for these positions.
In an increasingly globalised workforce, the significance of multilingual employees cannot be underestimated. Strong language skills bridge cultural divides, strengthen collaboration and contribute to a sense of inclusion and belonging. By having multilingual capabilities, organisations can unlock the key to higher employee engagement needed to succeed on a global landscape.
British Council has over 80 years’ experience of partnering with organisations and individuals in over 200 countries. Our holistic, research-driven approach to learning and assessment and forward-thinking industry leading solutions empower growth and engage teams, positively impacting individuals and organisations.
Partner with us to develop strong communication and language skills in your workforce. Improve communication, facilitate collaboration, enhance inclusivity and belonging and advance career growth, fostering employee engagement today.