How to Build a Multilingual, Multicultural Team That Works

Mar 26, 2021
How to Build a Multilingual, Multicultural Team That Works

We have the tools and the tech to build teams that span the world. But creating a multilingual, multicultural team that functions as effectively as it could take more than simply using the right video calling software. That’s why some of the most successful globe-spanning companies are focusing on everything from employee engagement strategies to translation services. In this article, we’ll look at how to build teams successfully when you’re working with staff from different countries, cultures, and linguistic backgrounds.

How to bridge cultural and linguistic barriers to build a successful team

Globalization and enhanced connectivity have opened up the world like never before. You can now scour the planet to find the best talent, no matter which country the individual in question may live in. Of course, once you’ve found them, you need to keep them. 

If you’ve not used employee engagement strategies before, now’s the time to start. The way that you interact with your team – even with potential hires – speaks volumes about your business. So before you start posting job ads, sit down and work out some of the basics. Ask yourself:

  • What conditions do I need to put in place to ensure employees want to give their best? And that they are able to do so?

  • What can HR do to improve employee engagement? 

  • What are the goals and values by which the company will operate?

  • How am I going to motivate staff spread around the world to contribute to the success of the company, in addition to their own wellbeing?

  • Are there any additional considerations that I need to build into my approach in order to engage employees from different countries and cultures?

  • Are there practical details to be taken care of, such as the use of translation services to connect with employees in other countries or setting up payroll services that deal with multiple currencies?

Employee engagement strategies take time to get right, but it’s time well spent, particularly when it comes to engaging employees in other countries and cultures. Let’s explore this through a couple of examples. 

 Working examples – from translation services to tech

Having a clearly understood set of values is something that can bond employees together across multiple cultures,” explains Ofer Tirosh. As CEO of Tomedes Translation Services, he has been managing a global team of translators and other language professionals since 2007. The company provides translation to a global client base. Its translation services include customer care and quality as a priority, with every team member focusing on this. This is true no matter what their particular role may be. 

“But it takes more than simply trotting out a list of values and expecting people from different backgrounds to interpret them in the same way,” continues Tirosh. “It’s about ongoing communication and trust that works both ways; about building a culture in which every individual wants to achieve the same goals, rather than simply feeling obliged to do so.” 

James Hirst, COO of API management company Tyk, agrees. Trust and communication are the heart of the company’s ethos. So much so that staff enjoy a number of benefits, including unlimited paid holiday and no set working hours. The company has expanded rapidly around the world in the last couple of years and now employs staff in 27 countries. Key to its success has been a focus on the employee experience. Hirst explains: 

“We devote a lot of time to thinking about diversity, equality and empathy. We use a culture of radical responsibility to enable staff to fit their work around their lives, rather than the other way round. Trusting people and treating them with kindness is something that spans every culture.

Employee-Centric Engagement, Internal
Communications, and Recognition

Start Free Trial

The benefits of effective employee engagement

Both of these companies have found that effective employee engagement strategies can create a culture where staff are keen to understand and appreciate their differences. This results in happier staff, reflecting well on the company and driving up retention rates. Everybody wins. 

A quick word on languages

One complexity of building a multicultural, multilingual staff team is language barriers. Some companies require that all staff are fluent in the business’ main language. Others use translation services to engage with teams who speak different languages, or use corporate language training to support staff to learn another language. 

This is not without cost. However, Fluency Corp has shown that an employee’s lack of fluency could cost a business as much as $69,900 over five years. What is the going rate for translation services? Far less than that! 

There’s no right or wrong approach to this, provided the focus remains on positive, empathetic, trusting communication, regardless of the language(s) being used. Indeed, keeping these values at the heart of any business are key to unlocking its full potential. 

 

A New Way to Manage
Frontline Workers and Remote Teams

Start Free Trial
HR Cloud®