Now you’re talking: top 5 ways innovation is breaking language barriers in the HR and communications industries

By Benedikt Ilg, CEO and Founder of Flip

Technological innovation has created a vast array of opportunities for people to connect and progress within the workplace. Now, more than any other time in history, we have the tools to successfully relocate – virtually anywhere in the world – to re-establish ourselves both personally and professionally. Yet, for many of the millions of global deskless workers, communicating at work can be a stressful, difficult and laborious process, often precluding them from the wider, and vital, corporate communication chains and processes.

Language and communication form the backbone of the HR industry, but the sector has long been hindered by an inability to hire across a diverse, multi-skilled range of qualified personnel. With that in mind it is becoming increasingly apparent that technology will have a crucial and complex role to play in improving communication for deskless workers, and ultimately for the HR and communications sectors at large.

Very little attention has been paid to the day-to-day communication opportunities and issues faced by frontline and deskless workers, with a study from Oni reporting that only one percent of software technology is designed for this group – a cohort that actually makes up 80 percent of the global workforce. Those numbers, when you see them written down, really depict the severity of the situation. This same 80 percent are the people who kept the world spinning during the pandemic, and yet they do not have access to the advanced, productive and necessary communication technologies enjoyed by their computer-based counterparts. The situation has proven to be a source of considerable frustration across the HR and communication sectors, with additional figures indicating that one out of every three deskless employees feels undervalued, unappreciated and neglected by their organisations.

With so little digital infrastructure aimed at frontline workers, language barriers and the inability to effectively communicate with HR departments often result in skilled non-native speakers rendered “unqualified” for a position. Alternatively, if they do get the job, the risks of potentially dangerous miscommunication, and feelings of isolation and disenfranchisement are common – and often daily – occurrences. So, how can technology break this language barrier to give hard-working, talented people the same opportunities, regardless of their mother tongue?

  • Integrated translation features

Firstly, corporations need to introduce real-time, integrated translation features, company wide. Language translation tools are rapidly taking centre stage, offering instantaneous translation across numerous languages. Businesses should leverage this technology for effective and immediate communication, whether it’s internal within the HR department or between frontline employees and the external organisations with which they interact. With Flip, for instance, staff can implement an employee app with translation features, empowering seamless communication, despite differences in language and fluency.

Digital language courses, delivered across the employee applications through a reliable third-party integration, will also be key in tearing down barriers to engagement with HR, and ultimately advancement within an organisation. While translation features are vital and can automatically aid an employee struggling with language, training courses aimed at non-native speakers can gradually improve a person’s language skills and their ability to effectively engage with their co-workers, HR department, and the overall corporate culture. It can not be overestimated how damaging it can be to a company, when it routinely loses talented employees, or fails to attract adequately skilled personnel, due to issues that are entirely solvable with a degree of ingenuity and common sense technological implementation.

Additionally, it won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that AI is dominating the tech conversation and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. AI has its place in creating an advanced, more equitable working environment for frontline employees. As it stands, to build the foundation upon which innovative, industry-changing AI can stand, companies first need to address mass digitalisation, introducing systems that will benefit not just computer-based employees, but the deskless workers whose processes have been predominantly analogue.

Looking to the future, AI has the potential to revolutionise how deskless workers interact with HR and their fellow employees. Advanced AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants have the capacity to comprehend, learn, and respond in different languages, facilitating easy communication for employees and clients worldwide. AI will be key in data analysis and predictive analytics, aiding in understanding language patterns and trends, and consequently minimising language-related misconceptions.

Machine learning (ML) can also greatly impact the manner in which HR and deskless workers interact. For the HR sector, adequate knowledge of a diverse range of languages can be a valuable skill. Companies can utilise ML algorithms to develop personalised language learning capabilities. These platforms allow users to learn new languages at their own pace, adapting to their original learning style and capabilities. This level of creativity and innovation encourages employees to actively combat the language barriers they are personally experiencing, while also promoting continuous learning in an engaging way.

Lastly, cultural intelligence platforms have the potential to bridge the gap between HR and the deskless worker in a number of ways. A respectful understanding of cultural nuances plays a crucial role in effective communication. Cultural intelligence platforms are innovative tools that provide insights into different cultures, language usage, etiquette, and norms. This knowledge goes a long way in fostering culturally sensitive communication, essential for multinational companies dealing with a diverse workforce and clientele. Additionally, it empowers HR and communications departments to manifest and maintain a safe, happy and professional working atmosphere, as well as keeping HR up-to-date with culturally specific dates of importance.

In conclusion, the advent of technology and innovation have significantly impacted the way HR and communication industries tackle language barriers. The optimised use of real-time translation features, digital language courses, AI, machine learning functions, and cultural intelligence platforms, have not only enhanced communication but also contributed to promoting inclusivity and diversity in these areas. The future undoubtedly holds more transformative innovation in store, and is sure to mould these industries to unprecedented heights.