How to Achieve DEI in the Workplace with Multilingual Training
Wisetail | 5 min read
The workforce today is more diverse than ever before. According to recent research from the U.S. Census, the number of people in the United States that spoke a language other than English at home nearly tripled from 23.1 million (about 1 in 10) in 1980 to 67.8 million (almost 1 in 5) in 2019. Furthermore, based on the 2019 data, between 30-50 percent of those individuals that are in the workforce had not yet mastered English.
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.
Taking an inclusive approach to training and development offers all learners the same opportunities for education, development, and advancement, whether English is their preferred language or not.
The Importance of Instructional Design in Multilingual Training
Instructional Design plays an important role in the development of multilingual training programs. When executed effectively, it improves an organization’s diversity and inclusion initiatives; it accommodates learners’ diverse linguistic backgrounds, promotes communication between all learners, and prompts real-life application of specific knowledge and skills.
It is also important to note, when a company wants to include multiple languages in its training, content should not simply be translated within a translator such as Google Translate or another machine translation service. 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 or compliance language that may not have a direct translation.
With these considerations in mind, here are three best practices that learning and development professionals can do to create a multilingual training program that is inclusive of all learners in the workplace:
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 expand their diversity and inclusion initiatives and 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.
Within the Wisetail LMS, 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.
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), language barriers are a contributing factor to 25% of workplace injuries. Combined with the fact that many companies have implemented new procedures and protocols in response to COVID-19 that require workers to be up to speed in a timely manner, it’s clear compliance training is important 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.
Best Practice #3: Capture feedback and update content regularly
Learning and development initiatives do 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 using the content firsthand and schedule time to update content and translations regularly.
One way companies can gather employee feedback about multilingual training is through a survey or polling tool. Within the Wisetail LMS, Learning and Development professionals can include a poll at dedicated milestones, such as before and after they complete a section of 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 now to begin building out these training opportunities will benefit from more specialized and informed employees today – and more engaged and loyal employees tomorrow.
Originally posted September 22, 2020, and updated April 7, 2023, to reflect current training strategies.