In a recent report, The American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) cited the construction industry as having the greatest language divide amongst managers and workers. While taking a walk on any job site will, no doubt, have you hearing both Spanish and English spoken, there are several concerns related to the growing language gap in our industry. Construction leaders are worried about safety issues causes by lingual misunderstanding and even cite their inability to hire bilingual workers as a reason for losing bids.
And, as concerning as today’s gap is, tomorrow’s headline could be even worse – 53% of the ACTFL’s study participants expect to need more foreign language workers in the next five years. If this growing concern has not already done so, it will soon impact all aspects of maintaining a top-notch, multi-lingual workforce.
The first steps toward narrowing the language gaps in the construction industry will come via the recruitment of more bilingual workers. To hire skilled workers who speak English as a second language, Pro Echelon recommends three strategies for companies –
- Place job postings in both Spanish and English
- Search for candidates with Spanish on their published resume during the sourcing process via LinkedIn or social media
- Develop hiring materials and communications showcasing the ability to speak Spanish as a key skill in your evaluation of candidates
Not only must companies attempt to reach bilingual candidates, but current employees also need help in uniting native English-speakers with their Spanish-speaking colleagues. There are numerous strategies to address the language gaps that currently exist on today’s site.
Some companies are hiring an intermediary to translate on-site – helping to ensure that no miscommunications are creating issues as the project moves forward. A translator provides real-time accuracy and limits any miscommunication as decisions are taking place. There are, though, many drawbacks to this strategy. Most notably, the fact that one translator would have difficulty in attending to all the job site’s language needs.
As a longer-term strategy to address their language gaps, more companies are turning to training programs designed at teaching language skills that are directly applicable to working on a construction project to all employees.
These training sessions teach English-speakers key Spanish words that indicate danger, safety, or, that urgency is required. Additionally, workers are trained together (both English and Spanish speakers) so that they begin to learn points of contact at the job site when another language is needed. Each project should have a go-to Spanish-speaking worker that works as a liaison for projects where a language gap exists with English-speaking colleagues.
Building a workforce that can communicate in multiple languages is becoming a necessity. And, as tough as hiring has been given the break-neck nature of the market for building projects, adding another variable, like the need for finding bilingual candidates, may seem an impossibility.
We won’t lie – finding candidates that speak Spanish and English is not easy or fast. Training your employees to work through lingual divides is a challenge. But, having a strategy to showcase the company’s desire to grow a diverse workforce is essential.
The ACTFL’s study of constructions language gap is nothing more than confirmation of the reality of that which we see each day. We see divides in Spanish and English speakers creating safety errors, causing misunderstandings and, ultimately, providing a momentous opportunity for companies that embrace the lingual diversity of their workforce to grow.
Acknowledgment of a gap existing is the first step – the next step, though, is up to you.
Need help building a team for your future success? Contact Goliath today!