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When to Call an Interpreter for Your Next Employee Meeting

Good, clear communication can be difficult enough to accomplish when you and your employees all speak the same language. If your employee does not speak English at all or has limited English proficiency (LEP), then the task of communicating during your HR meetings is especially problematic. Whether discussing a personal matter during a disciplinary meeting or handling ongoing training for a group of employees all at once, it is important to know when to bring in an interpreter. Here are just a few examples of when to call in a professional interpreter to assist you.


1.     Your meeting involves disciplinary action. Even if your LEP employee has been able to “get by” during the vast majority of your meetings, it is best to use an interpreter if you need anything signed involving disciplinary action, and especially for terminating employment at your organization. If you are giving an employee feedback on his or her job performance, it is critical that he or she understand both what is expected moving forward and why the meeting was called in the first place. If the employee does not understand both of these things, there is little chance that he or she will be able to implement the necessary changes to continue to move your organization forward, and protect you both from any misunderstandings if proper language access is not made available.

2.     Training your LEP employees on new material. You may also need an interpreter if you are training a group of LEP individuals on something critical to their job performance. Someone may have a very good grasp of the vernacular used for everyday conversations within the workplace, but he or she could be completely incapable of understanding specific jargon or more technical training, especially in written forms like manuals or signage. It is worth the investment to ensure your employees understand what they need to do to perform their jobs properly. This will help eliminate turnover and also ensure your company is performing at its peak if your employees do not have obstacles impacting their training.

3.     The employee requests one. This one may seem obvious, but dismissing an employee’s request for an interpreter can make your meeting very difficult. Even if you seem to be communicating well before the employee’s request, your employee knows when he or she would feel more comfortable having someone interpret instead. If your employee is comfortable communicating with you, they will be less likely to come back to you later with issues or claim that they didn’t understand what was happening at the time of your communications.

BONUS TIP! If your employee is deaf or hard of hearing, you may actually be required to bring in a qualified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter or other sufficient auxiliary aid based on Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Remember, ensuring good, clear communications between you and your employees is key to guaranteeing the best workplace environment possible. It will protect you from any potential issues that may arise from language barriers and will save you from having multiple meetings on the same subject. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and offer to bring in an interpreter, or even use a telephonic interpreting service when it will be sufficient.

How an Employee’s Culture Affects Their Motivation

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As you know, your employees do not fit inside of a “one size fits all” mold. When you add in cultural differences for those employees born or raised in another region or country, the contrasts can be stark. Knowing how to engage with your employees to ensure they are properly motivated for peak job performance can really make a difference for both your company and your employees. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your multicultural workforce:

  • Set expectations and do not assume they know U.S. standards. It is important not to assume that your employees are comfortable with the standards we may take for granted in the U.S. Be sure to explain your expectations clearly. Whatever your desires as a manager, communicate those clearly. Employees from other cultures may have such respect for their managers that they feel complaining is inappropriate and a sign of disloyalty. If you expect feedback for improvement, make sure your employee knows you want to hear from him/her and to bring issues to your attention.

BONUS TIP #1! Not everyone will feel comfortable speaking up in an open-forum type of meeting, especially if they are not completely confident in their English-language skills. A Hispanic employee, for example, may be hesitant to share opinions in this type of setting for fear of perceived confrontation or disrespect for management. If you are looking for feedback on ways to improve certain areas of your company’s culture, you may have more luck with one-on-one conversations with these employees.

  • Employee recognition preferences vary from culture to culture. In the U.S., we often recognize individuals directly for their performance and contributions. Titles like “Employee of the Month” work well for American or Australian employees, for example, but they can lead to embarrassment for employees from Asian cultures who prefer to be praised as part of a team.
  • Figure out what is important to the employee, and base incentives on this. Many American and Asian employees prioritize their career accomplishments and advancements first and may be incentivized more by monetary bonuses or the possibility of a promotion. However, employees from other cultures, like Western Europe, often prioritize family time, so they may be more motivated by the ability to earn extra vacation days or time off than the typical American or Asian worker. That’s not to say that both incentives won’t work for all employees in different scenarios, but it’s important to recognize that some incentives may work better over others for your multicultural workforce.

BONUS TIP # 2! Survey your employees. Finding the best ways to motivate your employees is difficult sometimes. If you are able to survey your employees anonymously to find out what would work best in your particular company, this may be highly effective for you. It is also a sign to your employees that you care about them and want only the best for them.

The Value of Hiring Multilingual Employees

The Value of Hiring Multilingual Employees

With ever-increasing globalization in the marketplace, having multilingual employees in your workplace can be of great benefit. According to recent Census reports, the population of non-English speakers in the United States has continued to rise over the past 20-30 years. Having one or multiple employees who speak a language other than English can give your business a definite edge in a competitive atmosphere.

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