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Building Best Practices for Multilingual Training: How to Make Sure Your LMS Is Effective in Multiple Languages

Sarah Greesonbach | 5 min read

According to recent research from the U.S. Census, The Washington Post, and Brookings  the workforce today is more diverse than ever before: most new hires of workers ages 25-54 were people of color for the first time in 2019, the U.S. population under age 18 became “majority minority” in 2020, and it’s reported that the Latinx population will make up as much as 20% of the labor force by 2028.

But despite the obvious globalization of the workplace, it’s yet to become standard operating procedure for organizations to offer multilingual training for learning and development.

At Wisetail, we think it’s time for a change. It’s more important than ever to take an inclusive approach to training and development, offering the same opportunities for education, development, and advancement to employees even when their preferred language is not English.

The Importance of Instructional Design in Multilingual Training

Underscoring all of the learning and development and training content a company develops is the need for a solid foundation of instructional design. Instructional Design is an essential consideration for corporate training because it provides a practical and systematic process for designing effective learning. Layered on top of this foundation, a company can create learning experiences and materials that result in both the acquisition as well as the practical application of specific knowledge and skills. 

The importance of instructional design increases further when a company wants to accommodate multiple languages into a multilingual training because most of the time it’s not possible to simply translate content directly with a translator. The content must be approached as its own unique content development to account for the accuracy of the language, particularly when it comes to company-specific language that may not have a direct translation.

With these considerations in mind, here are four best practices for building a multilingual training program:

Multilingual Training Best Practice #1: Identify the company’s biggest ROI languages

In an ideal world, instructional designers and trainers would be able to provide training content in native languages for every demographic employed by the company. However, especially for companies just getting started with multilingual training, that would be an unrealistic and overwhelming first step to take.

For most companies, the most effective way to get started with multilingual training is to identify the top one or two non-majority languages used within the company and focus on designing training content around them. They can also extend these initiatives to other company-generated content like employee onboarding and newsletters, as well. 

Within the Wisetail LMS platform, this step can be facilitated by the built-in polling widget that allows employees to self-identify the languages they speak fluently. This has the added benefit of ensuring the company is acting on information employees have provided, not demographic information that may be private or irrelevant to their preferred languages.

Multilingual Training Best Practice #2: Prioritize the most important training content

Training that directly relates to health and safety is a high priority for most companies. Yet according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 25% of workplace injuries cite language barriers as a contributing factor. Combined with the fact that many companies are implementing new procedures and protocols in response to COVID-19 that require workers to be up to speed in a timely manner, and it’s clear that this is an important category to prioritize when developing multilingual training. 

Why prioritize? Because learning and development and training leaders are often limited in the resources they have for overhauling and updating programs. Much like a company needs to prioritize the languages to accommodate, they must also prioritize the most important training content to translate first. 

In this example from Studio Movie Grill, the team headquartered in Dallas opted to prioritize content around sanitation and safety for its Spanish-speaking segment of employees. The program offers an English-Spanish course that allows speakers to switch from English to Spanish and back again throughout the “Sanitation and Safety Training” course. Being able to deliver this crucial information to employees in their native language means they can comprehend it more quickly and easily, reducing the chance for misinterpretation.

Multilingual Training Best Practice #3: Capture feedback and update content regularly

Learning and development and training does not operate under the “set it and forget it” umbrella. In order for multilingual training to be effective, it’s important to capture feedback from the employees experiencing the content first hand and schedule time to update content and translations regularly. 

One way companies facilitate employee feedback about multilingual training is by developing a reusable survey using a platform like Google Forms. Typeform, or SurveyMonkey and sending it to employees at certain milestones within the training, such as before and after they complete a section of a training. 

Multilingual Training: The Future of Inclusive Learning and Development

As the global workforce continues to become more diverse, the demand for multilingual training will only grow. Companies that take steps today to begin building out these training opportunities will benefit from more specialized and informed employees today – and more engaged and loyal employees tomorrow. 

Click here to connect with a specialist and learn more about the Wisetail LMS platform.

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Sarah is a writer for Wisetail. By analyzing and condensing cutting-edge research and data, she helps L&D professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and training. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.