Does your bicultural business communicate effectively?

The art of communication is difficult for most people to master. Relationships can be destroyed, misunderstandings arise, and productive environments can be negatively affected, all due to miscommunication.

Clear and concise conversations are the key to influencing others and creating powerful teams, relationships and partnerships to achieve successful results in business and in life.

Often when people think of communication, they think of the four basic types: verbal, non-verbal, written and visual. These are traditionally easy to understand and put into practice because it is what we do every day. In any language, you can clearly convey information using any of these four methods.

But working with hundreds of Northern California employers, we often come across companies with a bicultural workforce, and that changes everything when it comes to relaying information and achieving real understanding. with your audience.

In a bicultural environment, you need cultural communication as part of your information dissemination program. “Cultural communication” refers to how different cultures communicate within their own community through verbal and non-verbal means. Cultural communication can also be referred to as “intercultural communication” and “intercultural communication”.

It’s rare to find people who understand the importance of this mode of communication — and while they understand its importance, few know how to apply it in the right way. But that’s okay: if your audience has a general idea of ​​what you’re saying, that’s all you need, right?


why is it important

As one of our clients was going through their open enrollment period, benefits providers came by to give presentations on the programs available to employees. This employer’s workforce is 50% native Spanish speaking, but the 401(k) provider presentation was made to the general population in English. No information in Spanish was even offered.

While other vendors introduced themselves in Spanish, there was no tolerance for colloquialisms, commonly understood references, or a deeper dive into definitions and, more importantly, the meanings of these words. The Spanish-speaking public did not fully understand how to use their benefits and were left without even the basic information.

It’s so vital: understanding how your audience receives information and how to convey that information correctly. For employers whose workforce speaks English as a Second Language (ESL), translating a presentation or distributing translated materials is not enough support for your workforce.

An employer’s benefits program is the second most expensive item on its balance sheet (behind salaries). Often we come across companies that spend the most on employee benefits, such as medical and dental insurance, but find that many employees don’t use them – not because they don’t need them, but because that the benefit and how to use them have not been properly explained. It’s such a waste.

Alianza bends over

Alianza, the Spanish-speaking division of Arrow Benefit Group, was created to overcome language and cultural barriers and to bridge the education and service gap for a large, but historically underserved group of employees. We’ve found that the Spanish-speaking community is largely hesitant to use its health benefits because they don’t understand its options.

Additionally, emphasizing employee privacy is crucial, since many employees are not comfortable disclosing personal information directly to their employer. To specifically address this issue, business owners need to understand that it is essential to have properly translated documents with advocates who not only speak Spanish (or other languages) but know how to translate meaning and ideas behind the language.

Many workers in the ESL population want to do their best for their employers and will tend not to speak up even when they want to. They might not want to cause what they perceive to be additional time-consuming or additional trouble on their behalf for additional translation or explanation; they can say they understand the information presented to them, but often they cannot. Although it comes from a very good place and with a very good intention, it has negative ramifications.

For example, at open registration meetings, attendees have responded well to live education presentations in their language, but if along the way they have questions about a claim, they usually don’t ask. for fear of causing a problem.

Instead, they are waiting for next year’s open registration period to contribute anything. Often at this point a claim has gone to collection and a benefits specialist will need to step in to resolve it.

When it comes to getting the most benefits for everyone on your team, simple translation isn’t the answer. Instead, foster communication with a deeper message of inclusion.

We have found that ensuring employees understand what is on offer (in terms of benefits) has resulted in increased plan participation, benefit usage, savings and employee morale.

Andrew McNeil ([email protected], 707-992-3789) and Rosario Avila ([email protected], 707-992-3795) are Senior Benefits Consultants at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma.

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