With an increasingly diverse population, it is becoming even more important that businesses large and small adapt their own workforces to meet the changing needs of its customers as well as to be able to more effectively reach new audiences for their products or services. One of the most effective ways to achieve greater workforce diversity is through hiring more bilingual (or multilingual) employees. While more than 80% of the population of the United States speaks English only at home, multilingualism has been rising steadily since 1980, with Spanish alone recording a jump from 5% of the population in 1980 to approximately 14% as of 2015.
According to a study from the New American Economy, postings for bilingual positions grew from roughly 240,000 to 630,000 between 2010 and 2015. Furthermore, the fastest growing segment of these bilingual jobs was for higher-level positions, such as managers and engineers. Among the most high-demand languages were Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic.
Incorporating more bilingual employees into a company has many advantages. Not only does it allow a company to reach additional markets for its products and services, but can also provide better service for existing customers whose primary language is not English and improves the overall workforce and office environment by adding greater diversity.
In fact, on this latter point alone, studies have shown that companies which emphasize diversity in their workplace are 35% more likely to receive greater financial returns than companies that do not focus on diversity. Diversity, however, is not just about multilingualism, along the ability to speak more than one language is certainly a step forward on the road to greater diversity. Multilingual employees also often bring differing and unique perspectives with their respective skill-sets. Not to mention, studies have demonstrated that people who speak more than one language have more creative problem-solving skills, more rational decision-making skills, and much more.
Some of the key industries that have already embraced the importance of bilingualism among their workforces are the advertising & marketing, healthcare, business/finance, and government industries. Many other industries are starting to take notice and working towards building up their respective multilingual talent pools.
Of course, there are many different types of bilingual positions and employees, and there is no single solution to fit all of these diverse needs. For example, recruiting a bilingual receptionist or office manager is a much different process than recruiting a bilingual engineer or staff attorney. In addition to the typical recruitment process that includes a job posting, review of resumes and qualifications, interview, and sometimes testing, recruiting for bilingual candidates involves the added dimension of verifying their language abilities, authenticating educational credentials and experience overseas, and speaking with professional references that may not speak English.
This is where a professional staffing agency that specializes in multilingual personnel can help, particularly for small businesses that do not have robust in-house human resources departments, but even for larger businesses that do not have the foreign language background to manage this more complicated process. A multilingual services staffing agency will typically already have access to a large pool of qualified resources in a variety of industries from which to select candidates. They can also assist with the translation of foreign language documents (such as credentials), test candidates in their language skills (both in English and the foreign language) and subject matter expertise, and manage foreign language reference checks.
A staffing agency can also work with businesses to define the job description so as to fit the specific needs of the company best. For example, does the company need a bilingual employee to answer phones or deal with customer services issues in the foreign language, or will they be involved in translating important client documents and interpreting for international business negotiations. These considerations are crucial when hiring a bilingual employee, as simply being bilingual does not qualify one to handle tasks typically done by professional, certified translators and interpreters.
In conclusion, there is no better time than now for businesses to begin building a more multilingual workforce. From better serving their existing clients to gaining access to new markets and improving the overall diversity of their workforces, the advantages of “going multilingual” are innumerable. Moreover, working with a staffing agency that specializes in the multilingual staffing field can not only assist in finding the right employees but also in developing an effective and comprehensive plan for meeting a business’ future multilingual staffing program needs.