“Silence is the language of god, all else is poor translation.” – Rumi
The importance of multilingualism as part of the organizational business model cannot and must not be underestimated. Even though the global lingua franca is English, research shows that the world’s most utilized business languages include German, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic.
The challenges facing the multilingual organization
Therefore, it makes sense that global, multinational organizations must make an effort to manage both internal and external communication. Kamila Barbara Grzeszczyk, in her research paper titled “Language management in international business. Implementation of strategies to bridge linguistic and cultural barriers” highlights the indispensability of excellent communication in the twenty-first-century global business world. She also notes that there are difficulties when operating in a multilingual environment, including language and cultural differences.
Some of these challenges include proper and accurate translation of communication and context between global employees. As an aside, the quotation mentioned above by Rumi highlights this fact. Additionally, the move towards remote work and the hiring of foreign employees also adds to the complexities of doing business in a global world.
Therefore, the question that must be asked and answered is: “How do business processes and operations function within the context of the multilingual organization?”
The multilingual performance review process
By way of answering this question, let’s look at one element of the successful business: The employee key performance review process.
It is a well-established fact that the annual, or biannual, employee performance review process forms a fundamental part of the successful business organization. But, while the formal organizational language might be English, the communication challenges are not lessened.
There is no doubt that efficient communication between employer and employee as well as between employees themselves is a complex field that must not be underestimated. Thus, here are a few tips to help improve effective communication between local and remote staff:
Offer a multilingual employee review process
Succinctly stated, effective communication is all about the use of words and sentences within context and culture. Therefore, if an opportunity is not afforded to non-English home-language speakers to expresses themselves in their home language, especially during the employee review process, the organization runs the risk of conflict and strife as a consequence of misinterpretation and a lack of understanding between work colleagues.
Implement the 360-degree engagement principle
According to William Ng in his article titled “Steve Jobs’ Legacy: 360 Degree Engagement” and published in IncentiveMag.com, the 360-degree engagement principle originated with Steve Jobs during his tenure as Apple CEO.
The phrase “360-degree engagement” when directly translated, infers that the business organizational unit is a circle. Thus, there must be communication or engagement around the total circumference of this circle. And, to further explain the practical application of this concept, the questions that beg are: What is 360-degree engagement? And, how is it applicable to the modern multilingual, multinational company?
In its basic or most fundamental form, the 360-degree engagement model emphasizes the connection between “passionate employees, customer retention, and business profitability.” Let’s look at each of these three connections individually to determine their relevance to the multilingual organization.
Staff can only be passionate about the company they work for if there is a healthy working relationship between each other and between employees and management. The multilingual principle and annual performance review system become relevant in this context when it is a fair and equitable process, driving transparency and honesty between all company stakeholders.
Passionate, hard-working employees who believe, and own, the business aim, model, and ethos will, in principle, drive customer retention. Ergo, in the post-modern world where the marketing focus has shifted from the brand to the consumer, it is a substantial challenge to convert consumers into loyal customers.
Furthermore, it is equally tough to retain these customers and convert them into repeat customers. The opposite is also true in this context. If the organization does not have passionate employees, its customer retention model will not be successful. And, and it will lose customers rather than retain them.
Finally, without passionate, hardworking employees who drive new customer sales and customer retention, there cannot be business profitability. Thus, the 360-degree engagement principle is complete, and the business organization can only be successful when these three parts are functioning independently of each other and together as a whole.
The multilingual challenge is not going to decrease in its importance. In fact, as the increase in the employment of remote workers increases, multilingualism is going to continue to be a challenge to all business organizations, irrespective of their place in the retail lifecycle. Thus, it makes sense to implement a robust multilingual business policy now, especially within the employee performance review process. For it is here that the employees need the most flexibility, to be honest, and open about fellow employees, themselves, and management.