Whether your business is profit-driven or mission-driven, it is likely that cultural and linguistic nuances affect your ability to grow, understand your consumer, and capture market opportunities. But let’s go further: Do your internal hiring practices and culture reflect your external brand and mission?
Envision the 75 percent of the world that does not speak English and the 21 percent of Americans who speak a language other than English at home now and the estimated 40 percent by 2030: chances are you serve at least one of these demographics or will need to prepare to in the near future. Because when language matters to your consumers, it matters to your business too.
Conversis reports that one in six U.S. businesses have lost business opportunities due to a lack of foreign language skills. It turns out that monolingualism hurts economies, too. Research is just starting to demonstrate the negative economic impact on monolingual countries of what one economist terms, “the gross language effect.”
From running global operations with multilingual experts to growing the reputation of your brand as a business ready to engage with customers and clients of different backgrounds, language matters for profitability—even if your home base is in the U.S.
If your business relies on translators to get the job done, not only do you put your brand in their hands, you risk missing out on business opportunities and the ability to connect in a real way with partners, consumers, investors, and even competitors.
Your brand is likely your most precious commodity as a business. But is your brand truly global? Most businesses would like to believe they play a role in shaping the future of the global economy and workforce. But what does it say about your brand if your workforce is monolingual or not equipped to communicate with consumers, partners, and investors from a different cultural background?
International brands must have respect for the local cultures in which they do business—and there is no better way to achieve a level of respect and understanding of a new place than by arriving equipped with the language training they need to engage with locals. Sending staff without language skills or cross-cultural awareness is a surefire way to undermine your reputation.
In 2015, Northern Illinois University surveyed Illinois businesses to link language with the state’s economic competitiveness. The results are revealing: One out of two (49 percent) employers report that by 2020, it will be important when hiring a college graduate that they speak more than one language; and three out of five (58 percent) businesses indicate that bilingual employees will attract new customers with specific language backgrounds to their organization.
Two out of three (65 percent) employers believe hiring college graduates who are bilingual will improve the competitiveness of their organization and approximately four out of five (78 percent) report that the ability to communicate effectively in more than one language is helpful for customer relations.
The Illinois businesses indicated Spanish, Polish, and Mandarin as being the most useful languages for their organization—reflecting the state’s demographic shifts, heritage communities, and where Illinois businesses operate abroad. Language matters for developing a trusted relationship with your customers.