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Jo Hartley

Bilingual or multilingual staff can be a company’s greatest asset, especially for organisations with worldwide offices or those with clients overseas.

Many studies have shown the benefits of having bilingual staff.

A Penn State University study found that bilinguals are better at multitasking and prioritizing. Others studies found that bilinguals are able to process information faster and easier than monolinguals and perform better on tasks that require conflict management.

But the benefits don’t stop there.

Here are some more reasons why providing language training for your existing employeesor hiring bilingual staff is a great idea.

Help expand your business

If your company is expanding or considering expanding overseas, bilingual staff can help cement international relationships and give your business a competitive edge.

“Bilingual employees can assist with initial market testing, scoping the size of the market and attending to any new business,” says Mark Saba, CEO of Lexigo, a translation and communication company.

Saba notes that bilingual employees can help with cultural insights for meetings, communication methods, building rapport and any business pursued in export markets. Additionally, they can assist with translation and localisation.

“Having qualified bilingual or multilingual staff shows potential customers that the organisation is making the commitment to go into new markets and meet and service their demands,” says Saba.

Bilingual employees can also help businesses expand locally and capture market share. Think banks or telephone companies with campaigns that promote ‘we can speak your language’.

Create a diverse work environment

An organisation with bilingual speakers is appealing to job seekers who are looking for a diverse workplace. Similarly, a diverse workplace provides current bilingual employees with a sense of inclusion.

A diverse workplace means that employees can learn about other cultures and any possible barriers are broken down.

The mix of diverse backgrounds also brings a range of different talents and experiences resulting in variety of creative concepts.

“It’s been proven that bilingual speakers tend to have a higher relational intelligence,” says Saba.

“This can add to the diversity of ideas in the organisation, as well as change the dynamic of the culture in terms of organisational values, goals, and internal and external relationships.”

Provide a boost for staff

Having bilingual employees in the workplace can inspire other employees to learn another language. If they do, they get all the benefits associated with being bilingual, as well as a feeling of pride to have acquired this new skill.

And happy staff means a happy workplace. A University of Warwick study found that workplace happiness led to a 12% increase in productivity.

Bilingual staff can also set a new benchmark for other employees.

“It has been suggested that bilingual staff are better skilled at multitasking,” says Saba. “This could raise work expectations of staff around them and increase productivity.”

Build your online presence

For companies with overseas offices or international clients, an online presence is essential. Bilingual employees can help develop target market content and SEO with their understanding of specific cultures and language translation skills.

They can also research what other local competitors are doing and provide feedback and recommendations based on this. Similarly, they can help gain a bigger following on social media and screen posts before they go live.

“Bilingual staff can help with live communication across social media channels,” says Saba. “This ensures that nothing gets lost in translation and the correct messages are relayed to the appropriate market.”

Having a live chat function on your company website that is managed by appropriate bilingual employees means that customers have instant communication in a language they understand.

Employee professional development opportunities

Language and culture training is highly beneficial to your company and is an enticing employee benefit.

Employees are given the opportunity to gain a new skill, as well as a better understanding of other cultures.

“Cross-cultural training allows employees to not only understand other cultures, but teach empathy in dealing with people in general, whether they be multilingual, same language or monolingual,” says Saba.

“Learning another language helps people think differently and consider different points of view,” he adds. “This can help in almost any facet of an organisation regardless of employees’ roles.”

If you want to give your business a competitive edge, start hiring bilingual staff or providing language training today to them. There’s never been a better time.