Improving employee engagement across language barriers

How do we define “employee relations”?

Employee relations has typically been defined by HR experts as the relationship between employees and their employer. Given the significant amount of time that staff spend collaborating daily with peers, Entrada expands the definition to include employee-to-employee relations, and employee-to-manager relations.

How well do employees work with employees who don’t speak the same language? Do they know each other? What do those relationships look like? Does it matter to business outcomes? What is the dynamic between supervisors and staff?

Unspoken conversations between employees have a silent impact on productivity and retention alike.

Day-to-day interactions with coworkers leave the greatest impression on employees. Better relations across language gaps improves productivity, operations, morale, and even customer service.

If you have multiple languages in your work environment, consider putting these ideas into practice.

1. Survey staff about employee relations and language barriers

Ask about trust in the workplace. Seek to understand the level of confidence in clarifying questions with managers or coworkers. Include the perceived impact of language barriers on productivity and efficiency. What is the employee process to resolve customer service issues if the customer doesn’t speak the same language?

Ask limited-English speakers what interest they have in language training. Ask them what else they need to feel strong in their work environment.

2. Create an environment to faciliate employee connection across departments

Think of your company’s stated values, and question how they apply to your front-line workers. If this is new, consider carving out five minutes during weekly check in’s or monthly all-hands meetings.

Include short activities or icebreakers that are comfortable for adults. Reach out for some of our favorites!

3. Promote lifelong learning experiences — for ALL employees

Often we find that companies are quick to promote learning for some of their staff, but not all of their staff. Non English speakers quickly find themselves with fewer opportunities and benefits than those around them. This reality is but one of the reasons that English is a crucial skill in the work environment.

Does your company offer education credits? We find that to be true in most cases. How can this benefit extend to your non-English speakers?

4. Complete team building activities every other week to create touch points

Facilitate teamwork on the company floor.

Once you identify areas that your staff want to improve, create challenges and check-ins to encourage progress.

“Employees are our most important resource and there is staff communication gap. I feel like Entrada opens up potential to a lot more. Employees are comfortable telling you, ‘I don’t understand,’ or, ‘Can you repeat that?’”

— Stephanie Hantman, Outbound Manager, Rent the Runway

5. Distribute stories and news across internal channels

Use an existing employee communications app or internal bulletin board to share success stories and feedback on activities.

Profile employees and their language learning experiences, translating stories so all employees are able to participate and engage in the process.

Consider highlighting cultural aspects and holidays relevant to different countries.

6. Assess available tools and programs for workplace language training

Look for workplace English programs, like Entrada ESL, that seamlessly integrate into the workday and focus on employee confidence. Confidence is the key factor in improving employee relations.

7. Measure the impact

Use the initial engagement survey as a starting point to set up a monthly or quarterly survey or scorecard for employees.

Report on results monthly when getting started so you can assess whether your initial metrics and goals align with your programming.

We’re here for you.

Reach out if you need guidance on how to connect with your team:




Providing a strong, positive voice in the conversation about ESL needs, immigrant and domestic workers, and compassion for our neighbors.

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Entrada ESL

Entrada ESL

Creating a communicative, compassionate workforce and society. Teaching staff English while they work to upskill and improve operations.

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