By Jess O’Dwyer, below, general manager for Europe, Pocketalk
As a result of Brexit and the impact of the pandemic many UK businesses are finding themselves struggling to find and recruit the staff that they need to meet the requirements they have. With UK job vacancies still hovering at around one million, the major shortages are being felt right across the UK economy, with industries including construction and manufacturing all feeling the strain among many others.
Staff shortages are so acute in areas of the economy that some industries are taking the issue to Government level. Farming is an example. The industry has recently successfully lobbied the UK Government, which is now planning to grant 45,000 seasonal visas in 2024 to migrants who will work in agriculture.
It makes attracting foreign workers an opportunity for businesses to overcome the shortage. However, doing this presents language barrier challenges. Around one in 10 people speak English as an additional language (EAL) in the UK, a number which is rising due to migration driving the UK’s population growth.
Therefore, recruiting, training and managing workers with EAL requires support to overcome language barriers and foster a good working culture, optimise productivity, reduce mistakes, boost morale and improve relationships.
Better communication boosts productivity
Clearly there is a need for translation services for organisations to recruit, onboard, train, support and retain workers who speak EAL, but this comes with significant costs and is not always quick to implement. However, a lack of effective translation support can cause critical breakdowns in internal communication, which are often bad for productivity and costly for businesses.
In fact, according to statistics effective communication can increase an organisation’s productivity by 25%. This matters so much because a comparison of labour productivity across the G7 nations showed that in 2021 the UK’s output per hour worked was lower than France, Germany and the United States.
The comparison also found that the average output per worker for the G7 nations (excluding Japan and the UK) was 16% above the UK level in 2021. In view of this, improving communication to overcome language barriers to boost productivity cannot be overlooked.
Understanding different translation solutions
Research from Harvard Business School found that the average worker spends 31 hours per month in meetings. However, as mentioned above, failing to address language barriers can stifle communication and lower productivity in meetings and other collaborative communications.
There are numerous technology-based translation solutions available that can take away some of these pain points, and each translation option comes with its advantages and disadvantages.
Digital translation devices like Pocketalk can be utilised to instantly translate 82 languages both in audio and text making it clear for the users what is being asked or said. These devices improve communication, reduce delays in translations and reduce the need for human interpreter costs. They are also HIPPA and GDPR compliant, alleviating any data privacy issues.
There are also free translation tools available that provide instant translations but there are issues with the effectiveness of the translations in some cases and GDPR compliance issues. These tools can often lack minority languages and it’s often those who speak those languages that are most impacted by the communication disconnect.
There are also phone translation services such as LanguageLine, which can offer effective translations. However, waiting for a translator to assist in certain situations can take time and come with a hefty cost, neither of which may be practical for busy companies.
Ultimately, there is no perfect ‘one size fits all’ solution for businesses to overcome language barriers in order to access new talent. But it is something that CEOs and senior managers need to carefully consider to recruit the staff that they need to fill their major labour shortages.