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.

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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.