Strategies for Managing & Communicating with Multicultural Employees

Today’s increasingly globalized world includes a growing number of non- and limited-English-proficient (LEP) employees, enriching the workplace with unique perspectives and traditions. Yet this diversity also presents a fundamental challenge: bridging cultural and language differences.

Effective communication is the lifeblood of any successful hospitality establishment. It fosters a positive work environment for employees, ensures smooth operations, and ultimately delivers exceptional guest services. When language and culture get in the way, however, both work environment and guest experience are compromised.

The good news is there are practical strategies you can implement to bridge the language gap and unlock the full potential of your diverse workforce, creating a thriving environment wherein all employees feel valued, empowered, and equipped to excel. Read on for clear, actionable steps to navigate the nuances of cross-cultural communication and build a truly exceptional hospitality experience for everyone.

Attracting and supporting a diverse workforce proves your commitment to encouraging different ideas and perspectives, fostering creative problem-solving, and engaging top talent from local communities. At the same time, maintaining a multilingual workforce can present several common communication roadblocks, including:


Hiring, Onboarding, and Training: Attracting and evaluating qualified LEP candidates can be tricky without professional translators and interpreters. And once on board, proper understanding of complex procedures, safety protocols, and company policies is essential to a safe, efficient work environment. 

Daily Operations, Feedback, and Evaluation: Unclear instructions, feedback, guest requests, or team communications can lead to operational hiccups, stalled employee growth, and a compromised guest experience. 

Employee Satisfaction and Morale: Language and cultural divides can create a sense of isolation and exclusion for your multicultural employees, hindering their integration into the team and impacting their personal and career growth.

Compliance with Legal Requirements: Failure to provide equal access to information and opportunities in different languages can lead to legal ramifications and damage to your brand and reputation.

Practical Strategies for Effective Communication

Proactively bridging language and cultural divides requires a multi-pronged approach that prioritizes clarity, inclusivity, and cultural sensitivity. Here are some practical strategies you can implement to promote effective communication:

Keep It Simple in Casual Situations: Using free online tools or apps can facilitate casual interactions. Keep in mind that these tools have limitations and often result in errors so should never be used in situations where accuracy is important.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: If an app or online tool is not available or is inconvenient, bilingual staff members could assist. It is difficult to know if they are relaying information correctly and in its totality. More importantly, it is inappropriate for conversations of a confidential or sensitive nature. Unless you are in a pinch, a professional solution would be better.

When Accuracy Matters: In situations where communication must be 100 percent accurate or confidential, turn to a language service provider (LSP) for professional written translation and spoken interpretation services. With both on-demand tools, like over-the-phone interpreting, and pre-planned service options, your LSP will become a trusted partner for all your multilingual communication needs.

In that light, let’s look at how you can better address the challenges mentioned above.

Hiring, Onboarding, and Training:

• Translate essential written recruitment and training materials, policies, and safety procedures into key languages. Consider conducting onboarding sessions in multiple languages to ensure clarity and your commitment to attracting employees from local communities.

• Pair new LEP employees with bilingual colleagues and supervisors for mentorship and support, fostering teambuilding while helping new hires acclimate to the company culture.

• Provide interpreters in multiple languages for training
sessions to promote equity or record training sessions and then offer videos with subtitles or voice-overs.

Feedback and Evaluation:

• Translate information for employee feedback meetings and provide virtual or in-person interpreters in face-to-face meetings in order to create a safe space for honest communication.

• Be mindful of nonverbal cues and avoid assumptions based on cultural differences. Pay attention to body language, tone, and preferred communication styles during feedback sessions. In-person interpreters help navigate cultural differences to avoid misunderstandings.

Offer advancement opportunities by establishing clear criteria for promotion and communicating that to your workforce across all languages.

Employee Satisfaction and Morale:

• Celebrate the diversity of your workforce by organizing events and activities to showcase the various cultures and traditions represented. This strengthens team bonds, fosters a sense of belonging, and celebrates the uniqueness of your workforce.

• Foster a culture of inclusivity where everyone feels valued and respected regardless of their language proficiency. Celebrate individual strengths and encourage open communication and collaboration.

• Encourage employees to recommend family members and friends for hire. When staff feel included and valued, they want to bring in other good employees.  

Remember, these are just starting points. Adapt and scale these strategies based on your specific needs and resources. By prioritizing clear communication, embracing diversity, and creating an inclusive environment, you can overcome language barriers and tap into the full potential of your workforce.

Wendy Pease is owner and president of Rapport International, which specializes in multilingual communications, providing language translaton and interpretation services that are accurate and culturally appropriate.

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Wendy Pease is owner and president of Rapport International, which specializes in multilingual communications, providing language translation and interpretation services that are accurate and culturally appropriate.


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