Everyone has their own first language preferences which make them communicate and learn better. For training, this gets even more crucial to understand, especially when it comes to mandatory safety or compliance training. The knowledge in these training programs needs to be understood by the participants so that the risk of error is minimized.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that language barriers are a contributing factor in 25% of job-related accidents. For safety training, the understanding of concepts taught in the training program can be beneficial only when learners can give it their complete attention. This can happen when there is no need to first listen or read the content in another language and then mentally convert it to one’s native language. Conducting training in languages your staff is not comfortable with will lead to higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities.
Conducting the training in the native language will make learning an interruption-free process, helping the learner stay focused on the subject matter. This is important so that there is no kind of misinterpretation or confusion when it comes to understanding the essentials of safety training. The flip side of not being able to follow critical training guidelines could result in huge losses, injury and even loss of life when on the job. This is especially true in high-risk sectors such as pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, construction and manufacturing.
When organizations conduct training solely in English, they fail to take into consideration the demographics of the learning audience. Learning needs to include a thorough study of the learner’s background, culture and language preferences. The immigrant population forms a part of every workforce in this globalized world. Assuming that English is everyone’s first language would not only slow down the learning process, but it will also negatively affect productivity, participation, and outcomes. According to a report by NIOSH, language differences between immigrant workers and their supervisors and coworkers are one of the most frequently cited challenges companies face in promoting safety among immigrant workers. All this will increase training costs and reduce learner engagement levels. Such increased cost and time will affect the company’s bottom line.
Employees who get access to training in their own language will have a much better grasp of the content. This is because they have already mastered the language the training is being delivered in. This will open new opportunities for learners as well as potential customers, who would be dealt with a higher level of professionalism and knowledge. This will get extended to marketing and customer support, where languages can present new business opportunities, increase sales and improve retention levels of not just customers.
For employees, training in the native language can also act as an excellent benefit. It will enable your staff to gain new skills, and develop personally and professionally. In this age of competitiveness, employees also want to grow continuously in their field so that they develop an edge over the average group in the talent market. If companies genuinely invest in their growth through training and offer it in their own language, it will make them feel special and also give them the opportunity to continuously grow. It will also help improve internal communication, morale, and productivity. Employees will be more comfortable with the course and this will help in making steady progress.
There have been studies done in the agriculture and hospitality industries which have shown that workers who received training in their mother tongue report better understanding of and adherence to safety protocols. The number of injury accidents also reduce and there is a general improvement in efficiency and employee morale.
No matter what the industry is, even if it is one where a very few hazards are experienced, training in native language still is necessary if organizations want to get a higher ROI from their initiatives. Differences in language, education, and culture will always present a challenge in creating uniformity in learning programs. But with research, awareness and the right kind of effort, these challenges can be minimized to a great extent. There is a rise in the availability of training materials in languages other than English and this represents a host of new opportunities for companies to gain the competitive edge. The sooner they adopt it, the better it will be.