How Fostering Multilingualism Benefits the Bottom Line

How Fostering Multilingualism Benefits the Bottom Line

Felix Yim 09/12/2022
How Fostering Multilingualism Benefits the Bottom Line

When strategizing how to raise revenues and increase profits for your business, hiring multilingual employees might not be the first tactic that springs to mind.

But did you know that a multilingual workforce often leads to greater innovation, ease of entering new markets, and higher customer satisfaction? Truly, the positive economic benefits of fostering a culture of multilingualism at your company should not be overlooked.

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The Economics of Language

Language and economics are inexorably linked. Just look at the rise of English as the language of international business. It happened because of the economic and political dominance of Britain and the United States in the last century. However, in today’s global marketplace, reliance on a single language is proving less desirable.

Multilingualism is a powerful driver of economic activity at both the micro and macro levels. According to the World Economic Forum, “Countries that actively nurture different languages reap a range of rewards, from more successful exports to a more innovative workforce.”  For example, Switzerland (which has four national languages) credited its multilingual heritage with adding $38.15 billion to its GDP in 2008.

On a micro level, companies that invest in languages have been found to be able to increase their exports, while those investing less in language report missing out on contracts. Even on an individual level, bilingual employees can often command higher wages than their monolingual counterparts–with or without using their second language on the job.

“The rapidly growing and changing globalized economy means that language skills will be a must if the future businessperson wants to stay competitive,” says Ofer Tirosh CEO of Tomedes, parent company of Formal Translations, an online translation service that specializes in certified translation services for certificates and other official documents.

Attracting Foreign Direct Investment

When it comes to international business, bringing a multilingual team to the negotiating table gives you a distinct advantage. 

For starters, developing trust and rapport is far easier when you speak directly with potential partners rather than working through an interpreter. Furthermore, business concerns are often complex and best understood in one’s native language. Meaning, even if you and your investors speak a common language, such as English, important nuances may be lost. This makes it highly advantageous to have someone on your team who knows both the ins-and-outs of your company and the native language of your counterparty.

Selling in International Markets

Attracting and serving customers in a foreign market is much easier when you have language skills built into your company. Consider that a full 40% of customers have said they will not buy products in another language, and 29% of companies reported losing customers due to a lack of multilingual customer support. This means multilingualism gives your company a competitive edge when expanding overseas.

Having team members that speak other languages will provide you with greater insight into foreign markets before entering them, lower the cost of localizing your business content, and make it easier to serve new customers. 

The Benefits of Having Language Skills In-House

While there are lots of high quality language service providers who can offer translation and interpretation services to your business, fostering a culture of multilingualism within your company has benefits that might not be immediately obvious. 

For example, it’s been shown that the languages we speak can affect how we understand and relate to the world around us. Therefore, multilingual employees bring your company a diversity of ideas and perspectives that lead to greater innovation.

Moreover, having a diverse team can innoculate your company against biases that lead to overt or unintentional acts of discrimination, thereby avoiding bad PR and legal repercussions.

What It Takes to Attract Highly Skilled, Multilingual Employees

Rather than hiring employees specifically to act as translators or interpreters, it is more cost effective to hire employees with specific skills (e.g. sales, human resources, or tech support) who also speak two or more languages. However, these highly skilled workers are in short supply making the task of recruiting and retaining them all the more difficult. 

When it comes to attracting multilingual talent, you’ll want to begin by ensuring your company culture is inclusive and welcoming for all. Diversity of language and culture should be celebrated so no one ever feels shunned or left out.

Be prepared to pay a premium for your multilingual employees. The pool of candidates who can perform a specific job and speak two specific languages is small, making them high-value workers; they should be compensated as such. You wouldn't want to go to the trouble of recruiting and training them just to lose out to a higher paying position elsewhere. 

Next, offering services that assist team members in obtaining work visas and legal residency in the country where you need them can also help you attract and retain bilingual workers. By embracing immigration, you greatly increase the size of the talent pool you can recruit from.

Finally, it may be worth your while to sponsor language learning programs amongst your existing employees. While it may take time for these programs to bear fruit in terms of language fluency, it’s an investment that could prove to have a high ROI over time.

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Felix Yim

Tech Expert

Felix is the founder of Society of Speed, an automotive journal covering the unique lifestyle of supercar owners. Alongside automotive journalism, Felix recently graduated from university with a finance degree and enjoys helping students and other young founders grow their projects. 

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