Diversity and Inclusion, Learning and Development

How language training supports diversity and inclusion

How language training supports diversity and inclusion

It shouldn’t be a big secret that the cultural spotlight has been shining directly and brightly onto the subject of diversity and inclusion (D&I). Media headlines are rife with stories of inequality both in the workplace and in broader society—all disheartening to see, hear, and read. Outrage is palpable over how biases and prejudicial worldviews have impacted workplaces all over the globe. 

It’s even more difficult when we see these stories play out in our own communities, homes, and yes, workplaces. Since 2016, nearly $500 million in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims are paid out each year, and that’s just in the US.  

These financial losses are more than just a business deficit, they signify a larger cultural deficit across organizations in nearly every industry. This signals that workplaces have a long way to go in making the right decisions to ensure that everyone in your organization is included and truly heard. 

True diversity and inclusion initiatives make space for everyone regardless of race, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, and the language they speak or don’t speak…yet. 

Why diversity and inclusion is a language issue.

Language barriers present a critical D&I issue to be addressed.

Let’s start with a simple breakdown of what we’re talking about when we say the words “diversity” and “inclusion.”

The best way to think about diversity in the workplace is to think in terms of the people who occupy your workplace. This isn’t the ideal state of who should occupy this space, but an understanding of the people who do. Diversity encompasses every member of your current organization. 

Inclusion, on the other hand, is related to diversity but a distinct concept. SHRM very succinctly defines the nuance of inclusion as, “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.”

Language is where diversity and inclusion intersect. By ensuring that each member of your organization can be heard across cultural and language barriers, you are setting your organization to lead your respective industries on D&I initiatives. 

Overcoming language barriers is a major step towards organization-wide inclusivity.

In the simplest of terms, investing in overcoming language barriers across your organization means that you truly care about giving each employee a voice. Ignoring these problems shows the exact opposite. It shows that as an organization you are fine with leaving certain groups out of critical communications in the hopes that they will just “figure it out.” 

Language, specifically, lives at the heart of all communication within your organization. It’s how employees express gratitude, exchange ideas, and share pain points, and offer critical solutions that drive your business forward. 

Overlooking language barriers within your organization is not just irresponsible from a D&I perspective, it can truly hinder your business. 

4 questions to help identify meaningful language-driven D&I metrics 

Start your D&I language efforts with these 4 questions.
  1. Is representation a priority? An effective, global language policy should use existing diversity benchmarks within your organization so you can measure exactly how well your business is developing D&I-driven language training policies. This all starts with getting the most accurate picture of your current diversity landscape.
  2. Do your recruitment and retention policies paint a clear picture of diversity at your organization?  How diverse is your workforce? Do you have accountability policies in place to help you get a clear picture of your organization? A holistic retention strategy includes language training as an additional element of professional development across your business.
  3. How engaged are your Limited-English Proficiency (LEP)? Language barriers are presented in many forms on-the-job. One common result of a non-inclusive language strategy is that job expectations are lower for LEP employees, and as a result, they are often stalled in their careers. 
  4. Has professional development stalled specific employee groups? A recent survey of Rosetta Stone® Enterprise users revealed that 60% of employees will stick with an employer longer if they provide language training as part of their professional development plans. For LEP and multilingual employees, language training is the next best step to help them evolve their careers. Making that investment shows that your organization is invested in making D&I a priority. 

It may be time to assess your organization’s language policy. 

The reality is that even the most inclusive organizations among us still have a lot of work to do. So if you read the above questions feeling overwhelmed by the work ahead, you’re not alone. It’s not easy work, but it is essential as we aim to build teams that truly represent everyone in our respective communities around the world. 

Ready to start evaluating how language can have a real impact on your company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives? Talk to a language expert!

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Ezekiel Rudick
Creative Services Manager
Ezekiel leads the Rosetta Stone® Enterprise creative team by using a combination of thoughtful design and creative storytelling to tell meaningful enterprise language training narratives. In his free time, he records and tours with his band Young Elk, and hikes the Olympic Peninsula as often as humanly possible.