Language Barriers: Breaking Down the Wall to Employment in Wyandotte County, Kansas

Language Barriers: Breaking Down the Wall to Employment in Wyandotte County, Kansas Main Photo

23 Oct 2023


In today's competitive market, job seekers often face a myriad of challenges on their journey towards attaining their dream positions. One of the biggest challenges for workers in countries where English is not their native language, is the language barrier.

"Breaking down language barriers between employees and employers is not just about communication; it's about building bridges to success. In Wyandotte County, Kansas, we understand that diversity is our strength, and by finding solutions and strategies to overcome language barriers, we unlock a wealth of untapped talent and potential,” explained Greg Kindle, President of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council.

Undoubtedly, language proficiency holds substantial sway over an individual's pursuit of employment. Mastery of English is a crucial asset for effective engagement with potential employers, especially for those whose native language differs. Insufficient language skills can result in misunderstandings, miscommunications, and a subsequent decline in a candidate's confidence in their ability to excel in their chosen role.

The Significance of Communication Skills in the Workplace

The significance of robust communication skills, encompassing both written and verbal aspects, cannot be overstated in the employment context. Industries like customer service and marketing place a profound emphasis on effective communication. Job seekers grappling with language barriers may find these roles particularly daunting.

Diversity as a Valuable Asset in the Workplace

Modern employers recognize the immense value of a diverse workforce. Multilingual employees bring unique perspectives, experiences, and linguistic capabilities, opening doors in sectors where bilingual or multilingual talents are in high demand. This diversity fosters creativity and innovation, providing businesses with a competitive edge in the global market.

Fluency in English is not a universal prerequisite for all employment opportunities in Wyandotte County, Kansas. Roles in construction, manufacturing, and other similar fields often revolve around hands-on tasks that demand minimal communication. In such cases, language proficiency may play a negligible role in job suitability.

A Multifaceted Approach to Overcoming Language Barriers

While language proficiency undoubtedly influences job prospects, it constitutes just one facet of the complex employment landscape. Experience, skills, and education are equally pivotal considerations for employers. Job seekers grappling with language barriers can embark on a multifaceted journey to enhance their language skills. This may involve enrolling in language classes, engaging in conversation with native speakers, and immersing themselves in cultural activities to gain a deeper understanding of the language.

Strategies for Effective Communication

Managers are pivotal in mitigating the challenges posed by language barriers. They can employ various strategies including the following:

  • Promoting language training
  • Addressing cultural differences
  •  Using plain language
  • Employing a translator or interpreter
  • Using visual aids
  • Encouraging employee cultural exploration

Effective communication transcends language barriers and lays the foundation for cohesive, productive teams.

Promote Language Training 

While it may not completely eliminate all challenges in multi-language work environments, encouraging language training can significantly reduce them.

One of the ways Knit-Rite, a Wyandotte County medical textile products manufacturer, supports a diverse staff is through meaningful and inclusive communication practices. “We have offered ESL classes for our non-native English speaking employees before. We also have bilingual managers to help aid in communication. We have an employee who is deaf, and we have a manager who signs. Our company has also invested in software that makes it easier for employees who speak different languages to understand each other. When someone speaks, it types what the person has said out for the other employee,” Director of Human Resources Marley Eckman explained.

Address Cultural Differences 

Cultural disparities can lead to workplace issues, even seemingly minor ones. Employees should be educated about various cultural nuances, ranging from seating preferences to communication styles.

Use Plain Language with Colleagues 

Using straightforward language can proactively mitigate many problems arising from language barriers. When employees communicate with non-native English speakers, they should strive to be direct, concise, and avoid unnecessary verbiage in emails and presentations.

Employ a Translator or Interpreter 

While some employees may be proficient in a second language, hiring a professional translator can rectify mistakes and misunderstandings, especially when discussing complex ideas. Employ a translator to translate vital documents in the office, such as company policies, benefits information, or newly implemented regulations.

Relying on individuals with school language courses or casual language proficiency can result in noticeable errors that a professional corporate communications expert would avoid.

Use Visual Aids 

Visual elements can significantly enhance comprehension. Incorporate infographics, photographs, and diagrams in presentations and emails to ensure clarity.

Encourage Cultural Exploration 

Language is intertwined with culture, making a multilingual environment an excellent starting point for cultural exploration. Encourage employees to learn common phrases and idioms in other languages and explore differences in cuisine and traditions. Facilitate discussions about diverse cultural approaches to specific situations or holidays.

This not only offers career growth opportunities but also personal development. Interacting with people from various countries and cultures enriches one's understanding of the world.

Wyandotte County Economic Development Council’s Efforts to Break Through Language Barriers in the Workplace

The Wyandotte Economic Development Council has worked to fine-tune the customized Business English as a Second Language (ESL) Program and now have three businesses on board and several others that are interested in the program. The program provided on-site ESL training to improve communication and upskill employees, to three businesses and 45 employees.  

Creating an Inclusive Work Environment

In today's diverse workforce, fostering an inclusive work environment emerges as a paramount responsibility for managers. A heightened awareness is critical to discern when language and cultural differences can be accommodated or adapted. Inclusivity is not just an ethical imperative; it also enhances team dynamics, fosters creativity, and boosts employee morale.

“When we embrace inclusivity, we foster an environment where every voice is heard, every idea is valued, and every worker can thrive. By working together to solve these issues, we don't just improve communication, we increase productivity, and in doing so, we create more opportunities and jobs for the people of Wyandotte County,” noted Kindle.

Within a modern, diverse workforce, it's increasingly common to manage teams with members who speak different languages. Language barriers can pose formidable challenges to effective communication, making it arduous for managers to provide clear direction, set expectations, or offer constructive performance feedback.

Addressing language and cultural differences is a nuanced endeavor. Managers must carefully assess which elements can be reasonably accommodated and which require employees to adapt. Open dialogue with employees is essential, as it solicits their input on how to navigate these complexities effectively.

In a world characterized by linguistic and cultural diversity, fostering an inclusive work environment empowers employees to thrive, irrespective of language barriers, thereby enabling them to realize their highest potential and contribute positively to their organizations' success.

Let Wyandotte County Economic Development Council (WYEDC) help you and your business harness “The Power of the Dotte.” Our mission is to promote and strengthen Wyandotte County’s economy through innovative approaches to programs, partnerships, incentives, and leadership in industrial, residential, office and retail markets. Contact us today and follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook!


Add to Report View Custom Report