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Inclusive Language as a D&I Tool
& the Role of Translation

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Diversity and inclusion are more than corporate buzzwords. They are key characteristics of a successful modern-day workplace, one that disrupts, innovates, and outpaces its competition.

However, businesses that expand globally to reach and attract offshore talent are faced with a significant challenge: How can I communicate with multilingual employees while fostering an inclusive culture?

The answer is not as simple as translating workplace documentation from one language to another. In this article, we’ll explore the value of diversity and inclusion before diving into the importance of localization.

What Is Workplace Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity refers to the mix of people who work within an organization. It relates to how employees identify in terms of their cultural background, gender and sexuality, socio-economic background, religious affiliation, disability status, and age. In addition, diverse workplaces welcome workers with varying levels of professional practice and education. The many aspects of an individual’s identity influence their perspective and lived experience.

Inclusion relates to how people are viewed and treated within an organization. In an inclusive workplace, a diverse group of employees feels respected for who they are, comfortable being themselves, and connected with their peers. An inclusive workplace champions the value of diverse perspectives, talents, and worldviews and ensures all people have equal access to resources and opportunities.

diversity and inclusion and the role of translation

Why Are Diversity and Inclusion Important in the Workplace?

Discrimination against and prejudicial treatment of people based on race, gender, disability, age, socio-economic status, or sexuality are harmful and wrong. These unjust actions deny human beings of their rights and result in far-reaching destructive consequences for individuals, families, and communities.

Diversity and inclusion are therefore fundamental to an ethical organization. In addition, welcoming and amplifying varied perspectives adds significant value to a workplace. A group with diverse life experiences can tackle one problem from many different angles, uplifting productivity, unlocking innovation, and driving commercial success.

When The Wall Street Journal ranked diversity and inclusion among S&P 500 companies, it concluded, “Diverse and inclusive cultures are providing companies with a competitive edge over their peers.”

According to a McKinsey report, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to achieve financial returns above industry medians. What’s more, teams with diverse gender profiles are 15 percent more likely to outperform their competition. The research doesn’t end there. Insights from Deloitte show diverse workforces enhance innovation by 20 percent and are 30 percent better at identifying risks.

Managing a Multilingual Workforce: How to Ensure Meaning Is Not Lost in Translation

Diversity is critical, but it’s only the first step. Diverse employees must feel valued and respected for who they are and what makes them unique – in short, businesses must build an inclusive culture.

Communication is key to equality and inclusivity. If employees aren’t given the information they need to perform their duties in a way they can understand, the business will not reap the rewards of its diversity initiative. How, then, can leaders navigate communication challenges and successfully manage a multilingual workforce?

Translating content is a start. 

Like Latin or Greek in ancient history, English is today’s universal language. It is the most spoken language in the world, with 1.132 billion speakers. This figure sounds like a lot, but on a global scale, it represents about 14.5 percent of the world’s population. What’s more, the vast majority of those speakers (753 million) are non-native, which means English was not their first language.

So, translating workplace documentation, training materials, policies, videos, and other content into your employees’ native languages is a productive step toward inclusivity. But it’s not enough.

diversity and inclusion and the role of translation

Let’s say you run a customer support call center. One of your training materials – a video giving agents tips on conflict de-escalation – ends with the familiar adage, “Break a leg!” This phrase intends to encourage and uplift employees with a little humor, but when translated into Indonesian, this meaning gets lost. Your employees are confused – why is their training video wishing them harm? How does breaking a leg in the literal sense relate to customer service?

Idioms like “break a leg,” “under the weather,” and “beat around the bush” are just one example of meaning being lost in translation. Even something as simple as units of measurement (centimeters vs. inches, kilometers vs. miles, kilograms vs. pounds) can wreak havoc on the job. In the case of workplace safety documentation, misunderstandings can even put your multilingual workforce at risk of injury.

The only way to ensure the meaning of your content is successfully understood by a multilingual team is to invest in localization.

Localization Is Key to Inclusive Communication

Localization is the process of translating content and meaning from one language to another. It also ensures the finished product is culturally relevant, appropriate, and meets an audience’s social expectations.

Localization encompasses all elements of content, including text, dates, graphics, numbers, colors, avatars, subtitles, figurative language, and more.

On a practical level, localization guarantees that an intended audience – such as an offshore workforce – grasps the intended meaning. It removes ambiguities, clarifies expression, and eliminates the risk of inadvertent offense. By localizing content, leaders can be confident their multilingual employees have the information needed to excel in their roles and stay safe on the job.

Beyond these benefits, localization embeds inclusivity into all content. It ensures content recognizes cultural norms and adheres to local customs. For example, the localization process will incorporate relevant religious holidays and celebrations, update avatars to reflect society, and acknowledge cultural dietary requirements. This recognition gives multilingual employees a sense of belonging. It helps them feel seen, valued, accepted, and celebrated – not just for their output but also for who they are, where they come from, and what they believe. And that is true inclusion.

diversity and inclusion and the role of translation

Creating an Inclusive International Workplace with the Help of Experts

Intelligent and forward-thinking leaders know that attracting and retaining a talented, diverse workforce is crucial to their business’s ongoing success. However, 83 percent of leaders believe that companies can do more to foster gender and racial diversity.

If you are ready to do more, to invest resources into growing a capable and motivated multilingual workforce, please get in touch. Like you, we know diversity and inclusivity pay dividends. That’s why we help businesses like yours localize their content – from training videos to safety policies and beyond.

Gain a competitive edge on your competition and become a role model in your industry. Contact us today, and let’s start your journey toward diversity and inclusion.

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