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How to invest in a multilingual workforce for your business

The business world is locked in a constant battle to keep up with the increasing rate of globalisation. Whether you’re a start-up serving your local community or a large-scale organisation working across multiple countries, you’ll need to have some understanding of foreign policies. You may be dealing with an international audience, have stock being imported from abroad, or be working with foreign audiences whilst running your business in your home country.

Whichever way you operate, a diverse and multilingual workforce is one of the best ways to ensure your business’ success, giving your business the chance to communicate effectively with foreign clients and suppliers. It also helps you to effectively market to a foreign audience without worrying about any potential culture clashes.

However, it can be difficult to know exactly how to best start investing in a multilingual workforce. Thankfully, you don’t need to rework your budget to make it happen.

Invest in staff training

Employing someone new, who may be multilingual, is expensive. The real living wage in London starts at £19,201, but adding on the cost of Employer’s NI plus a pension leaves you looking at an annual salary of over £21,000—and that’s the absolute minimum. You obviously want to offer a higher salary in order to attract the talent you want and need for your business. It will also be important to spend time interviewing potential candidates, which can take a great deal of time out of your working schedule, and therefore affect your profit margins.

However, offering language training programmes is a much cheaper option, allowing you to demonstrate to your current workforce that you are invested in their development by teaching them a new transferable skill. And with the looming uncertainty of how Brexit will affect British businesses abroad, it would be worth learning a European language in order to effectively close deals with foreign clients. French, in particular, is spoken in a huge number of countries, including Canada and Congo, and French organisations typically prefer to do business with those who can speak the language. It’s also one of the easiest languages to learn, and offers a strong base for picking up other Romance languages, such as Italian, Spanish, and Romanian.

You could pay for private language tutors for the whole team, or even invest in online language courses which can let employees to progress at their own pace. Online courses can be a good option for staff members who already have an understanding of the language, giving them a chance to refresh their skills, and progress at a quicker rate than the rest of the team for a fraction of the cost of a new hire.

Look for recent graduates

Setting your sights on recent graduates lets you save money by offering internships, while giving you a pool of fresh talent to pick from. There are many benefits of graduate schemes, most obviously the chance to offer a lower pay grade while testing different candidates for the role. This then allows you to offer the best performers a more permanent position. Graduates also tend to be much faster learners, as they don’t have any preexisting bad habits learned from previous roles, and are still used to being in a learning environment. This means you can train them in a manner which will be most beneficial to your business, rather than dealing with any of the steep learning curves that come with hiring experienced staff.

On top of this, hiring international students will quickly increase the language diversity within your own company. University job fairs provide an easy way to reach these students, who will have both the language and technical skills you’re searching for.

Targeted online searches

When posting your job adverts, it’s recommended that you make them as targeted as possible in order to attract the candidates you want. If having a multilingual candidate is absolutely essential, you may choose to post a translated job advert in order to reach out to the widest audience you can attract. Some job boards even let you specify your required languages when posting the job. LinkedIn, for example, gives you the option to select a language under its advanced search function when searching for potential candidates.

In some cases, you may choose to test candidates on their language skills to ensure that they are up to scratch. Whether you do this by conducting an interview in both languages, or providing a written test for them to complete, it’s important to carefully choose the right employee for your team. This may even require you to hire a translator if you don’t hold the language skills yourself. Just keep in mind—when it comes to hiring the right new employees, you can be as picky as you need to be.

Claire James

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