One of the biggest changes in the work force in the last 10 years is the influx of foreign-born workers. Employers are increasingly relying on immigrant employees to fill skilled and unskilled positions. The Nashville Chamber Employers Council reports that the multilingual, multicultural work force will soon be one of the greatest challenges companies face.

Not dealing with language and cultural differences in the workplace can results in higher administrative and production costs. Here is a short overview of where these costs could come from:

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  • Loss of time: when a supervisor takes three times longer to explain instructions, or when colleagues struggle with miscommunication and inadequate awareness of cultural differences,
  • Lower quality: when a job is done incorrectly because instructions and specifications were not understood,
  • Higher accidents or injuries: if employers cannot communicate safety precautions to employees,
  • Lower rate of promotion among immigrant workers: when efforts to improve their English language skills are insufficient or non-existing,
  • Higher absentee rate due to misunderstanding of medical benefits,
  • Impact on productivity of human resources personnel and potentially their morale if appropriate and language-specific tools are not provided to them,

Business should identify areas where language barriers are resulting in higher costs and work to match the best strategies for eliminating those barriers. Strategies include translating documents, providing interpreters for training and meetings, and improving workplace language skills.