Do You Speak All Cultures? – Guide to Effective Multicultural Internal Communication

It is becoming increasingly common for an organization to have multiple cultures, nationalities, and languages intersecting. Moreover, today, the competitiveness and attractiveness of a company are measured by how diverse its team is. When building internal communication strategies, it is particularly important to proceed with caution in multicultural companies. Besides the multitude of misunderstandings and potential conflicts, flawed internal communication can harm the success of the entire organization, productivity, morale, community life, and individual employee attitudes or commitment. Learn about the challenges and strategies for developing cultural sensitivity, avoiding misunderstandings, and fostering successful collaboration!

Disturbance in the Force: Challenges in Multicultural Internal Communication

1. Language Barriers

If team members do not share a common native language, communication is naturally a little more challenging. Even with excellent language skills, conveying information in the native language of only one party or through a third, common language can still cause misunderstandings. Inclusion and community-building can also be more difficult because the nuances of language are pushed into the background, and we opt for more targeted, streamlined information delivery.

2. Misunderstandings Arising from Cultural Differences

Challenges stemming from cultural differences can occur even if colleagues come from various parts of the same country, or even if different generations work together. The differences in cultural norms among demographic groups can be even more pronounced when teams consist of employees from other countries (continents). The goal is to establish intercultural communication, but this can fail in various ways. From failing to convey information accurately to minor misunderstandings to total disasters, such as unintentionally offending someone. What may be a harmless everyday gesture in one culture can be offensive in another.

3. Divergent Communication Styles and Preferences

Just entering a new social circle can make it apparent that the group's communication has unique characteristics that need to be understood, or even adopted. When traveling abroad (and language isn't the main challenge), we might encounter communication differences due to cultural disparities in the first café. Similar experiences can be encountered in a multicultural corporate environment. What may be friendly informality in one environment might be seen as intrusive in another. What is a courtesy formula here might carry no meaning or be entirely misunderstood elsewhere. Successful teamwork and effective multicultural internal communication require taking these stylistic differences and preferences into account.

How to Enhance Communication in Multicultural Teams?

1. Improve Language Skills, Utilize the Benefits of Machine Translation!

The company policy can guide which "common" language we prioritize. However, the larger the proportion of speakers of a particular language, the more important it may be to communicate with them in their native language or the language they are most comfortable with whenever possible. 

Language skills can be significantly improved (or even built from scratch) through corporate language training, playful quizzes, e-learning, and tests. High-quality translation services can also greatly help overcome language barriers. 

Multilingual internal communication digital platforms excellently support this. You can watch a video demonstrating how smoothly team members can communicate in multiple languages with the Blue Colibri App's automatic translator.

When job applicants experience during recruitment, pre-, and onboarding that they won't be disadvantaged due to language differences, it can have a positive impact—making them feel more confident in joining the organization.

2. Embrace Multiple Perspectives! Inclusive Organization, Respect, and Acceptance

Promoting diversity and inclusivity in a company not only aligns with social and moral considerations but also comes with business competitive advantages. Where diverse perspectives are valued, they encourage active participation; where constructive debate and dialogue are fundamental, participants are more motivated and satisfied.

Preventing misunderstandings and conflicts is important when developing the internal communication strategy of a multicultural organization, but it's a much broader task. Through education, community, and mentorship programs, help different cultures better understand each other. Make respect and acceptance a fundamental culture within the company. Teamwork becomes more effective, the community stronger, and the company more successful when we bridge and even celebrate these cultural differences.

3. Workshops, Seminars, Team Building – Enhance Cultural Sensitivity!

The goal of a diverse organization is to create a form of global communication, therefore, it's necessary to encourage colleagues at all levels of the company to approach different cultures openly and understandingly. Seize every opportunity from online courses to community events. Empathy and its development are always a priority in multicultural environments, but practicing and learning cultural sensitivity may also be necessary, so it's not enough to just expect it. Organize workshops, playful programs, events showcasing national customs, foods, etc., so that colleagues from different regions can better understand each other's cultures.

+1. Boost Communication Skills with Proper Tools, and Resources!

The importance of respect and acceptance, cultural sensitivity, understanding, and openness are fundamental to building a diverse and inclusive organization. To achieve all this, it may also be necessary to develop multicultural communication skills. Make use of technology! Use multilingual, digital internal communication platforms to connect and activate representatives of different cultures within the company. With automatic translation features, the same content can be sent in multiple languages with just a few clicks.

Last but not least, the greatest asset is: human resources! We can best understand and appreciate the characteristics of different cultures through personal experiences. Facilitate that colleagues get a more direct insight into each other through live, personal interactions. Encourage cooperation among employees from different backgrounds through training, mentorship programs, or even involving external organizations. This is one of the most important keys to shared corporate success.