Today’s workforces are increasingly diverse and multilingual. If you’re an international company, you’ll know that such workforces bring considerable business benefits, including introducing different ways of thinking, helping you to reach a wider range of customers and enjoy company growth.
But it also throws up challenges, especially when it comes to effective communication.
One area of workplace management where this is keenly felt is in the sphere of health and safety. Protecting the health and well-being of workers is a business-critical issue. Staff are key to the success of an organisation so it is crucial that this most precious resource is protected.
If you employ staff who come from different countries, and don’t all speak the same language, then the effective communication of health and safety information will be central to reducing the risk of injury and illness in the workplace.
Everyone on your staff needs to be able to access the information and advice they need to do their job properly – and safely. And management teams are increasingly recognising just how important it all is. A recent poll of more than 300 respondents by HRinfodesk.com, for example, found that 45% agreed that health and safety training should be multilingual.
However, teaching employees about health and safety processes and workplace rules and regulations can be difficult when they speak another language. So if you’re looking to communicate health and safety guidance across your diverse workforce, here are five ways you can start develop effective techniques for communicating health and safety across languages.
1. Ensure all health and safety signs are multilingual
Ensure all workplace health and safety signs – such as fire and emergency exit signs, keep clear signs and food preparation signs – are available in all the languages used in your workplace. Importantly, ensure you work with a professional translation company so that your health and safety communication is 100% accurate.
2. Run an awareness day
If you’re a new company, one way to introduce your health and safety policy to your staff is to run an awareness day where you communicate its key points. Vocal communication, workshops and interactive sessions are all effective ways of getting information across – and making sure it sticks. You could employ translators and offer translated health and safety literature to the staff at the day.
3. Offer a multilingual e-learning programme for remote workers
If you have remote workers, don’t forget about them. You might have a team of drivers who never come to the office, or couriers who post parcels in different countries. Or freelancers who work from home.
They are still employed by you, so should fall under your health and safety obligations just like all your other workers. E-learning – learning online – is regarded as a great way to teach staff health and safety processes. Think about rolling out a multilingual initiative.
4. Ensure your workforce diversity is represented on your management teams
Large companies often have dedicated health and safety management teams. If you employ people who speak a variety of different languages, think about including some of these people on your health and safety team. It’ll help all your staff feel represented and, crucially, they’ll be able to feed back if they feel any aspects of your health and safety communication is ineffective.
5. Run refresher sessions
Refresher sessions are a valuable way to measure the efficiency of your health and safety communication. Have your staff taken in the information and retained it? What’s more, health and safety guidance can change. Most firms make sure they run booster sessions – say once a year – or schedule ad-hoc guidance updates when legal regulations are reformed or amended. Again, translation and interpretation services will be crucial.