Managing Non-English Speaking Employees

Don’t allow language to be a barrier, making you miss out on qualified job candidates. Consider these tips.

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We’re in the middle of a labor shortage.

With more jobs than workers, companies are increasingly willing to hire anyone who’s willing to work hard. In some cases, that might mean onboarding new employees who are eager and qualified, but not necessarily proficient in English.

Whether you’re working with a complete non-English speaker or simply someone whose English is recently learned, resulting in the occasional communication barrier, there are a few simple steps and strategies you can use to ensure a healthy, efficient team dynamic.

Find a bilingual instructor

When it comes to training new hires, you really can’t afford significant communication lapses. This is especially true when it comes to health and safety protocols. In fact, if you leave any ambiguity in the way health and safety measures are conveyed, you could be exposing your whole company to considerable risk.

One way to avoid all of this is to hire a bilingual instructor to come handle onboarding and team training. If you can’t find (or can’t afford) a bilingual instructor, see if you have a bilingual employee who can provide some basic translation services. Offer some basic incentives for employees willing to step up and help in this way. Even something like a $50 gift card may be sufficient.

Be simple and straightforward

When communicating with non-English speakers, the last thing you need is to get muddled in technical language and jargon. Simplicity is usually the best approach. Keep directions as short and as to-the-point as possible and try to use the most basic language you can. Visual aids and diagrams may also be helpful as you communicate certain processes or procedures.

Seek bilingual resources

When it comes to company-specific policies, you’re probably going to have to generate training materials on your own. But when it comes to more universal topics, including OSHA guidelines and job site safety stipulations, you should be able to find bilingual or non-English training materials with relative ease. Posters, videos, and training manuals can be especially helpful.


Often, the best way to teach someone isn’t through explanation but rather through demonstration. For example, if you need to instruct a new hire on the best way to unclog a drain or to use a particular piece of equipment, your best option is to do it yourself. You may even have new hires shadow experienced employees for a day, allowing them to witness important processes.

Translate written documents

As an employer, you are obligated to make a good-faith effort to communicate with all of your employees, regardless of their linguistic ability. This means providing written notice of important workplace policies, such as disciplinary practices or PTO policies. You may have all of this information included in an employee handbook. You’ll likely want to hire a translation service to help you put that handbook into language your employee can understand, ensuring there is no lack of clarity.

With these tips, you can overcome any communication barriers that exist between you and your employees, in essence opening up a whole new world of qualified talents.

About the Author

Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic, a full-service professional writing company. She is a published ghostwriter and editor, and she's currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California and Dublin. Since founding Grammar Chic in 2008, Clark, along with her team of skilled professional writers, has offered expertise to clients in the creative, business and academic fields. The company accepts a wide range of projects; often engages in content and social media marketing; and drafts resumes, press releases, web content, marketing materials and ghostwritten creative pieces. Contact Clark at


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