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Overcoming Language Barriers In A Deskless Workplace


Lawrence Barker

Having a diverse workforce can bring all kinds of benefits to your team and company. But it also creates unique challenges—challenges that are keenly felt when your workforce is mostly deskless.

One of the most obvious of these challenges is the difficulty of communicating well across language differences. This challenge is felt across many different industries, but it may be felt strongest in supply chain and logistics companies.

Here’s a deeper look at this unique challenge, and what you can do to meet it head on. 

The reality of language barriers in diverse workplaces

The challenges of language barriers are felt in a number of ways across the typical workplace.


If slogans such as “safety is no accident” are true, you don’t want any confusion around your guidelines when it comes to maintaining a safe work environment. You can’t afford a misunderstanding when communicating to your team about safety regulations. But language differences can cause important safety details to get lost in translation. 


You’re paying for certain benefits that you hope will create satisfied employees who stick around for a long time. But did you know that at least a third of them don’t actually understand the benefits they’re enrolled in? Although it’s hard to find a statistic that confirms this, that number is likely much higher in workplaces with language diversity. 


Keeping your team up to date on best practices and workplace procedures is essential. If you’re an operations manager, you know doing this is hard enough to do when everyone speaks the same language fluently. The minute you add other languages into the mix, the difficulty increases exponentially. 


Scheduling in logistics companies can feel like a nightmare. When you layer in language differences, you’re taking a complex challenge and making it even more complicated.

Whether it’s these or other challenges you’re facing, it might seem easy to default to English and assume your team will get on board. Many companies try that. But it’s a move that will ultimately create more confusion and dissatisfaction. It’s also an approach that means you’ll miss out on the opportunities that embracing language diversity provides.  

Here’s why you should embrace the reality of language differences in your deskless workforce (and how Anthill can help). 

Benefits of embracing language diversity in the workplace

Let’s start with the most obvious benefit: clarity. As you can see in the examples above, increasing the clarity of your communication by using your team members’ preferred languages can keep people safe, increase your ROI, and more. And it’s not as hard to do as you might think.

What other benefits are there to embracing language diversity? 

Increase engagement

We’ve all been too busy or bored to respond to that company survey or take advantage of that open door policy. Now imagine how much easier it would be to pass up on those opportunities when you know a language barrier will make the communication difficult?

For leaders, this is often a frustrating problem. You’re trying to build a better workplace for your team, but they’re unresponsive.

If you lead a deskless team that’s always on the go, you have to think outside the box. Instead of lengthy surveys or in-person meetings, you need to find other creative avenues to engage your team. Doubly so if you’ve got a diverse workforce with varying levels of English proficiency.

By communicating in a team member’s preferred language via easy-to-use channels, you can eliminate barriers to engagement that could seriously improve your bottom line.

Build trust

Trust is the DNA of a healthy and productive workplace. Studies show that people at high-trust companies report:

  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 40% less burnout

Building trust with a deskless workforce can be difficult because a deskless workforce is a more decentralized workforce. You don’t have everyone sitting in the same space all the time, so you can’t count on face-to-face time with your team to help relationships and trust develop naturally.

Language is an intimate and personal thing, and finding ways to communicate with your deskless employees in their preferred language is a great way to start building trust. Anthill makes it easy to get started on that today. 

Communicate value

Let’s face it: language proficiency isn’t the same thing as language preference. Just because people on your team have passable English skills or can understand the core aspects of their job, it doesn’t mean English will connect with them in a meaningful way. Defaulting to English for everything can—often unintentionally—make non-native English speakers feel undervalued or out-of-place.

Imagine how your employees would feel if you let them know you’ve invested in a service that can open up two-way communication in over 100 languages. That investment signals how much you value them. You’re willing to meet them where they’re at. Instead of a soulless corporation, you’ve suddenly positioned yourself as an employer who cares about staff preferences and strives to connect in a relatable, personal way. 

Recruit and retain

Recruiting and retaining skilled team members has been harder than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As workplaces become more dispersed, it’s harder than ever to find and keep the people you want on your team.

Embracing diversity can help tremendously with this challenge. While it’s not specifically talking about deskless workplaces, Glassdoor’s research shows that 76% of job seekers are looking for a diverse workplace when they set out on the job hunt. That means that if you go beyond enduring diversity and choose to embrace it, you can set yourself apart in the eyes of the top talent in your field. 

Don’t let language barriers hold you back

Communication is always complicated. Language barriers can make a difficult problem even harder. It’d be easy to keep ignoring the language diversity in your workplace and just hope nothing negative happens.

But is that really what you want?

With that approach, you’ll miss out on a boatload of benefits and opportunities. Don’t ignore diversity, embrace it by using Anthill to enable open, ongoing communication with your deskless employees through text messaging. It couldn’t be easier to start today!

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