Learning & Development

Non-English-speaking workforce & workplace diversity

Companies that embrace workplace diversity enjoy a wide range of benefits. The benefits range from increased creativity to improved problem-solving. However, a Rosetta Stone survey shows that 90% of modern workforces struggle with language barriers. These barriers lead to inefficiencies, difficulties in collaboration, and reduced productivity.

“Asked about consequences, nearly two-thirds of respondents (67%) said that miscommunications were leading to inefficiency. More than 40% noted that miscommunication made collaboration difficult, and a similar percentage noted that productivity was lower than it should be due to language barriers.”
Reducing the Impact of Language Barriers, Forbes Insights

One often overlooked aspect of diversity is linguistic diversity. In this article, we will explore the impact of a non-English-speaking workforce. We will review the benefits, opportunities, and embedded workplace diversity.

How workforce demographics are shifting

The modern workforce is evolving rapidly, with people from diverse cultural backgrounds joining the corporate world. Since 2020, the shift to remote work has only intensified this development. More employees now speak multiple languages, with English only sometimes being their first.

Embracing linguistic diversity

Fostering inclusivity

To create a truly inclusive work environment, companies must embrace linguistic diversity. This means going beyond mere acknowledgement.

  • Language-themed days: Celebrate days where employees are encouraged to share about their native languages. This educates everyone about different languages. It also fosters a sense of pride among non-English speaking employees.
  • Encourage bilingualism: If a company operates in a region where more than one language is common, it can encourage using both languages in informal communication, signage, and even in meetings.
  • Language exchange sessions: These are informal gatherings where employees teach each other phrases or nuances of their native language. It’s a fun way of learning and fosters team bonding.

Benefits: Recognising and valuing employees’ languages creates a sense of belonging. It also promotes mutual respect among the team, making collaborations smoother.

Bridging the gap with language training

Offering language training programs is more than just a benefit; it’s an investment in your company’s human capital. However, language barriers, when not addressed, can negatively impact productivity. Here are a couple of ways you can incorporate language training into your current work environment:

  • Customised programs: Programs like this will often depend on a company’s linguistic demographics of its employees. For example, a U.S. company with many Spanish-speaking employees can offer English and Spanish classes. Consider your business’ primary location, followed by your target audience. Are there any frequently spoken languages that can empower your team? 
  •  Examples
    • Spain: Spanish and Catalan
    • United Kingdom: English and Welsh 
    • Ireland: Irish and English
    • Luxembourg: Luxembourgish, French, and German
    • Belarus: Belarusian and Russian
    • Singapore: English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil
  • Integration with professional development: Align language courses with employees’ professional development goals. Employees are more likely to be invested in learning when they see clear career benefits.

Benefits: Helping non-English speaking employees improve their language skills ensures more effective and efficient communication. It also empowers them to take on roles or tasks they might have hesitated to do before due to language constraints.

Benefits of linguistic & workplace diversity

Multilingual Customer Support

A multilingual workforce can be a valuable asset, especially for companies with a global customer base. It allows businesses to provide better customer support and cater to a broader audience.

Innovation and Creativity

Diversity in language often translates to diversity in thought. Non-English speaking employees can bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table, fostering innovation within the company.


In conclusion, a non-English-speaking workforce is a valuable asset that contributes to workplace diversity. Embracing linguistic diversity promotes inclusivity and opens the door to innovation and creativity.

In terms of fostering inclusivity and celebrating diversity, you can try:

  • Language-themed days.
  • Encouraging bilingualism.
  • Language exchange sessions and team building.

For employee learning and development, it’s worth considering:

  • Building customised language training programs.
  • Integrating language learning with your current professional development.

Workplace diversity: Further learning

Companies can better position themselves to thrive in today’s global business landscape by embracing a multilingual workforce. To learn more about creating a more inclusive workplace, join our workforce diversity webinar with iAM Learning this month. 

Reading list:

  1. Multilingualism at Work: From policies to practices in public, medical and business settings
  2. The Economics of a Multilingual Workplace
  3. Managing Multilingual Workplaces: Methodological, Empirical and Pedagogic Perspectives
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