Language Training

Addressing job site communication barriers with language training

Spanish for Construction Industry

On the modern job site, your construction employees are becoming increasingly diverse. Diverse in culture, perspectives, working styles, and oftentimes, diverse in language. 

The latest numbers from The Bureau of Labor and Statistics show that diversity in construction is continuing its rapid pace of growth. As of January 2020, more than 30% of construction professionals are Hispanic. 

Language diversity on the modern job site

While we celebrate our language and cultural differences on a construction site, language is intrinsically tied to communication. More and more, communication is being tied to big losses on the job site.

Since communication lives right at the heart of any complex construction organization, when it falls flat it can have drastic consequences. Research from PlanGrid reveals that more than half of all construction rework is due to poor communication, costing U.S. construction companies $31 billion every year. 

This doesn’t necessarily take into account the losses related to employees with limited English proficiency (LEP), and how their reduced ability to communicate clearly impacts safety and productivity. 

How language impacts job site safety and productivity

Safety impact

This may not be groundbreaking news, but it bears repeating. Poor communication is among the top causes of safety incidents and productivity slowdowns on the modern job site. In the US alone, construction organizations lose billions to rework, missed deadlines, and non-budgeted work. 

When you add a language barrier to the mix, things get even messier. It’s not a fun statistic to cite, but the reality is that employees with LEP receive less safety training than their native-speaking counterparts.

Less comforting is the fact that ⅕ of all work-related deaths occur on construction sites. According to the National Safety Council, just a single fatal injury can cost a construction company more than $1.1 million in hospital costs alone. This doesn’t include the host of other compliance-related costs when the unthinkable happens on a construction site. 

For those working with large machinery, safety is a life-and-death scenario. Ensuring all safety protocols are distributed to all employees—regardless of the language they speak—is critical for the success of your job site. 

Productivity impact

Make no mistake, productivity is important to every construction business—small or large. Another bit of research from PlanGrid pokes into the many inefficiencies facing today’s construction crews. 

The research shows that 35% of construction professionals’ time is spent (over 14 hours per week) on non-productive activities including looking for project information, conflict resolution, and dealing with mistakes and rework. 

More research from Mckinsey reveals that only 11% of today’s contractors feel satisfied with productivity on their job sites. 

In other words, productivity is broken in the construction industry. This is fueled by workplace issues deeply rooted in communication problems, made even worse by prevalent language barriers on the job site. 

Three ways language training can help

Let’s start with a reality check: the complex communication problems listed above will not simply vanish if you get your employees speaking the same language. You may, however, make big strides to minimize the impacts of language barriers across your construction organization.

As a result, you may see three big impacts by implementing language training solutions across your job sites. 

1. Increased safety – As mentioned above, language is the core ingredient of communication. Language puts our collective inner worlds into existence. When we’re able to communicate clearly with each other, our ability to understand the impacts of safety processes in the workplace expands. This doesn’t just mean having a basic understanding of how to use a circular saw. It also means being able to communicate when that saw isn’t working properly. 

2. Better collaboration – The research is exhaustive. When people communicate clearly they work together better because they truly understand each other. This is because communication is a relationship-building mechanism of everyday life. Language training can allow your employees to understand each other on a human level, build trust, camaraderie, and improve work processes as a result. 

3. Improved retention – Turnover is expensive. Very expensive. In fact, construction has some of the highest turnover rates of any industry. It’s no secret why: building things is hard. It’s your crew against the elements. But being a builder is also very rewarding. As an organization, you are shaping cities, skylines, urban centers, and beyond. The reality is that when you invest in language training, you are investing in your people. This will not be lost on your employees. The result? Your best employees stay longer—minimizing your retention costs.

Join construction organizations like yours already using language training

Flexible, immersive language learning tools can help set your team up for success. They can help put your organization on the path to evolving communications on a global scale so you can minimize risk and productivity loss. As a result, you’ll position your company to maximize collaboration and employee engagement in a way that aligns with your larger business strategy. 

This ultimately results in significant strategic gains across your business—from reduced retention costs and improved productivity to minimized compliance risk and better customer experiences for everyone on your construction crew. 

See how language training helped improve safety communications at DPR Construction

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Ezekiel Rudick
Sr. Content Strategist
Ezekiel helps technology companies tell meaningful brand stories through creative, data-driven content marketing. In his free time, he records and tours with his band Young Elk, and hikes the Olympic Peninsula as often as humanly possible.