Today’s workplace is increasingly global. Even if your organization doesn’t have operations or facilities outside your country’s borders, chances are good that many of your employees come from different cultural backgrounds, often with different native languages.
Effectively communicating with everyone can be a challenge. But, as long as you follow these 4 simple rules, you can connect with a multicultural audience.
Rule #1 – Avoid informal language.
Shy away from slang, jargon, provincialisms, acronyms, and euphemisms.
- Slang: Figures of speech or invented words. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use “asleep at the switch” to describe being inattentive.
- Jargon: Technical terminology that people in a specific profession or occupational group may use. For instance, avoid using “bottom line” to mean the actual price of something or the most important point you’re making.
- Provincialisms: Expressions that people in a specific region may use. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use “y’all” to mean everyone.
- Acronyms: Words formed from the initial letter of words in a phrase. For instance, don’t use “COB” (close of business) to mean the end of the workday.
- Euphemisms: Non-offensive expressions to substitute for what may otherwise seem offensive or harsh. For instance, you wouldn’t use “let go” to mean a person’s job had been eliminated.
Rule #2 – Use short, simple sentences.
Express only one idea per sentence. Shorter sentences break up information into smaller, easier-to-process units. Stick with 20 words or less whenever possible.
- Instead of: The wellness program was outlined in the benefits packet you received on your initial day of work.
- Use: The benefits packet outlines the wellness program. You received the benefits packet on the first day you worked here.
Rule #3 – Choose words with only one meaning; avoid uncommon words.
Although someone whose native language is English might understand that “bear” can mean “to carry” or “be responsible for,” someone whose native language isn’t English, might think you’re talking about the animal.
With that in mind, image how that person might not understand “bear the cost.” A simple online search of common homonyms (the term used to describe words with more than one meaning) can reveal lists of words you may want to avoid.
Rule #4 – Be aware of words that change meanings between cultures
For instance, you wouldn’t want to give employees a special “gift” for participating in a wellness program activity if you have Germans or Scandinavians working for you. In those languages “gift” means poison.
Again, a simple online search of “English words with different meanings in other languages” can be give you an idea of some common words to nix from workplace wellness communications.
- For more on this topic, read this article: Successfully reach all employees by being mindful of everyone’s needs and wants for wellness communications.
- Also check out how your colleagues are communicating with their readers.
Let’s talk! If you need some advice to make sure your wellness program participants connect with your communications, give me a call at 800-334-4094 – or whaan@HopeHealth.com.