Workplace interaction… It’s practically a nuanced art form to balance all the relationships and conversations we have in a work day with those around us. But this becomes even more pronounced when language becomes a stumbling block because of a heavy foreign accent or insufficient English language skills. And communication breakdown has a shockingly high cost for companies and personally for the international worker.
The U.S. Department of Labor just released its 2015 data detailing the demographics of the foreign-born workforce in America. Of the 26.3 million foreignborn workers, 47.4% are in environments that rely heavily on English language skills.
That’s a lot of people who probably do not speak English as their primary language!
The Cost for Business
When communication breaks down, it results in a hemorrhage of money – in the billions – for business.
In The Holmes Report survey, each company lost an average of $62.4 million… from breakdowns that included employee misunderstandings, misinformation, and job function.
Miscommunication in the workplace comes in a variety of forms. One common form is a literal misunderstanding of the English language between those millions of foreign-born professionals and their co-workers.
The Personal Cost
As I explained in a previous article, foreign nationals who have a heavy accent are often misunderstood at work and out in the community, are not working up to their potential because of misunderstandings, and may be disengaged with their coworkers and communities.
Research is showing businesses are ignoring this human component of project management.
Gallup reports that failed and overbudget projects can often be traced back to management tactics that ignore the human, emotional, and social aspects of employees. Merely controlling the rational processes (budgeting, deadlines) of a project is not enough to prevent project failure.
Furthermore, new research just recently released from IMPRINT (Immigrant Professional Integration) is showing how crucial social support and English language skills are for the success of foreign-born workers in America. IMPRINT surveyed over 4,000 college-educated immigrants in six major U.S. cities, and found their success was tied to their support system:
In fact, those who have “many” friends and family were also more than twice as likely to to have achieved career success as those with “no” friends and family.
And, improving their English proficiency also influenced their degree of professional success:
The key to success for our businesses, cities, and individual international workers and their families lies in social immersion and continued English language skills.
How Should Business Respond?
If you’re a business owner or Human Resources manager with multiple foreign-born professionals working for your company… engage them about their accent.
Offer to pay for intensive seminars at work on accent reduction with a qualified speech pathologist.
Offer ongoing individual accent reduction training at your workplace.
Invest in your own company by investing in the clear speech and support system of your foreign-born employees.
This is exactly what I do for corporations –including Oak Ridge National Laboratory – and my courses have improved the speech clarity of international professionals by up to 70% in as little as 12 weeks.
How Should You Respond as an International Professional?
Talk with your company about your desire to reduce your accent – they may never have thought of this or know that this training is available!
If there are several immigrant professionals in your workplace, come together to engage your company on this issue, and to support each other in your accent reduction.
But also don’t wait for your company to take the lead – there are steps you can take today to get started on clearer speech.
One easy step is to enroll in my online course coming up June 9!
This course combines the support system you need with individualized training from me using my proven methods.
AND, it’s at a much lower rate than my usual one-on-one instruction – which makes it perfect for asking your company for reimbursement for this invaluable training.
Register here and find out about all the great resources this course provides!
Investing in clear communication has payoffs for everyone.
Companies: Reduce your bottom line from miscommunication and prevent costly project failures.
Individuals: Improve your professional and earnings success.