Legendary American businessman Lee Iacocca once said, “you can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Communication is a key ingredient to great leadership and successful companies. From describing your strategic vision to assigning daily tasks, it’s important to be sure your messages are being received loud and clear. However for many businesses, that’s easier said than done.
From industry to company to department to team, there are a wide variety of language barriers present at every level of business that leaders must contend with in order to ensure a productive workforce.
Ethnic and Cultural Backgrounds
Many barriers are obvious, such as an employee’s native language, but others such as cultural differences may not be as readily identified. In either case, knowledge is power. The more you know about the various backgrounds of the individuals who make up your workforce, the better equipped you’ll be to recognize and react to different cultural cues when communicating with them.
Religion can be a very divisive topic and it’s important to tread lightly when addressing the subject in the workplace. Many comments or actions that are considered completely innocent to one group could easily offend another. From serving certain foods at company gatherings to a company’s stance on various social and political issues, religion may play a major role in many of the decisions your employees make every day.
There are now four different generations working side by side in the modern workforce. And with each generation comes a different set of language barriers and communication best practices. There is a wide range of differing values, beliefs, and skills between the four groups. While it may seem daunting, knowledge is once again your best bet for effectively communicating with each of them.
The daily lingo in many companies, especially corporate environments, is a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms and abbreviations, which can be especially frustrating for new employees. A comprehensive training program will help introduce a recent hire to the unique language of their new job. However, they probably won’t be fluent overnight. Taking time to explain certain phrases or expand on abbreviations during an employee’s first few weeks will ensure they don’t get lost and overwhelmed.
Language barriers exist in every business. From companies becoming more diverse, different generations moving in and out of the workforce, and advancements in technology, it’s just a natural part of the evolving workplace. And as a result, great leadership will become more and more defined by not only how you manage the business, but also how well you manage your people.