How language training creates an inclusive workplace
Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.
These three words are transforming the inclusive workplace across the globe from the inside out.
While it’s easy to lump these together with other corporate buzzwords, that would be a mistake. These are not hollow HR themes to include in onboarding collateral. These are the three pillars that are defining, not just our business cultures, but our collective cultural moment.
From embarrassing HR foibles to disturbing abuses of authority, DE&I-related stories dominate the headlines, watercooler chats, and cocktail dinner party conversations.
Make no mistake, these conversations are happening within your organization. In fact, they are likely occurring in your own executive boardrooms. The question remains: how do business’s move beyond the lip service of DE&I and make a lasting impact that results in a more inclusive workplace?
Diversity and inclusion is a culture shift, not a box to check.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not checkboxes. They are foundational elements to propel a shift in your business’s DNA. This shift is hard-won, and often impossible without a clear understanding of DE&I.
The first step to evolving a workplace culture is understanding what that shift actually means. Let’s talk through each element of DE&I briefly.
This generally includes every way the people within your organization differ. Identity markers like race, gender, ethnicity, disability, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, and religious preferences are all key ways we are all different.
Diversity also takes into account the intersectional elements of our collective differences—everyone’s overlapping identities and how your workplace celebrates the corporate impact of such a diverse group of people coming together for a common goal.
Boiled down to its most essential elements, equity is the fair treatment and advancement of all people — while knocking down any barriers that keep anyone from thriving within your organization. Building an equitable work culture requires working for justice and fairness within every procedure, process, or operating function to ensure that all resources are distributed fairly to every employee.
While inclusive workplaces are diverse, not all diverse workplaces are inclusive. Inclusivity is an always-on approach to ensure any individual or group feels welcomed, supported, and valued. Inclusive work cultures embrace the differences of all members of the organization to ensure a sense of belonging for everyone who comes to work at your company.
Language is a direct path to promoting diversity and inclusion.
This is because language is inherently personal. We use our vocabulary to put our internal lives into words. In the workplace, this is how your employees engage with their work, while experiencing growth and maturity as they advance within your organization and beyond.
Investing time and energy into learning a new language changes the way you think. Famous linguist Edward Sapir said it best: “The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same worlds with different labels attached.”
Let’s take a look at something as simple as color. Russian has 12 basic words for color, while Dani—the native language of New Guinea—has only two: mili (cold colors) and mola (warm colors). This doesn’t mean that the Dani people only recognize two shades of color tones—they can recognize every shade of color—they just label them identically.
From the moment you start learning a new language, you are able to see things from a new perspective. Language learning creates an attitudinal shift where you are not only seeing the world from a different perspective but welcoming them with open arms—while everyday words, quips, and phrases take shape in your memory.
In short, language learning clears a path to see other perspectives and welcome the unique differences as well as the commonalities we all share—making your business a safe, equitable place where inclusivity is the rule, not the exception.
Lead-out from the boardroom.
Language training can serve as the catalyst for inclusivity across your organization, and the need for DE&I-centric executive leadership has never been more important. Research shows that boardrooms are aggressively trending that way:
- Since 2012, the number of organizations with high levels of diversity has more than doubled
- Google has allocated more than $260 million since 2014 to advancing diversity hires within their organization to varying degrees of success
- More than $8 billion is spent on DE&I initiatives in the US alone.
Yet, abundant research shows that many organizations fail at launching diversity and inclusion programs because they either try to force the function of “bias elimination” or they focus too much on problems outside of the organization. Again, diversity and inclusion is a cultural shift, not a box to check.
Cultures don’t change overnight. It requires time, persistence, and constant reinforcement of new ideas that support your DE&I efforts. Language training may just be your best foot forward. Make the fundamental aspect of your business—communication—an inclusive journey for all.
Take the best next step to evolving your DE&I program. See how you can start your organization down the path to inclusivity through language training.16