5 keys to building a successful bilingual team

Best growth practices help build a successful English-Spanish speaking team to advance your Hispanic growth strategy.

Empowering ourselves to continually reach and serve an expanding Hispanic population and foster member growth requires building bilingual teams effectively. Attaining success benefits both team members and credit unions in measurable ways. It increases the likelihood of hiring individuals who are a good fit which in turn decreases recruiting and hiring costs and ensures member service is delivered consistently. Here are best practices to guide you in creating momentum that delivers results.

Test candidates’ bilingual communication skills before hiring

While the thought of administering oral, written and communication proficiency tests may seem awkward at first, it’s well worth it – especially in a tight job market. According to a new survey from CareerBuilder of more than 2,500 hiring managers, 57 percent have caught candidates misrepresenting themselves on their resumes. Embellishing skills or capabilities was the most common fib. Time and energy proactively spent on the front end of the hiring process increases the likelihood of attracting the talent that best aligns with organizational goals.

If you’re not equipped internally to administer the tests, consider partnering with local colleges and universities (which also offers objectivity) or identifying local partners that focus on language proficiency testing. Be sure to let candidates know ahead of time about the bilingual tests.

Offer a bilingual pay differentiator

Today’s global economy makes the world smaller than ever and the need to communicate across culturally diverse populations all the more crucial. It’s believed that two-thirds of jobseekers share the skill of being bilingual. It’s a skill companies value and are willing to pay for. According to Salary.com employees who are bilingual in English and Spanish are particularly in demand and earn between five and twenty percent more per hour than the base rate.

Keep in mind the amount of a language differential is market driven, and it’s helpful to have a clear definition of the bilingual person’s responsibilities so value can be determined. Workforce development agencies or human resource consultants are tremendous assets in answering the question, “How much compensation should an individual receive for fluency in two languages?”

Provide in-language training

Even for those fluent in Spanish, the opportunity to sharpen financial terminology is beneficial. In-language training provides an additional level of support and a variety of training outlets exist. In addition to refining a second language, providing resources to those who are monolingual but want to learn another language is a meaningful benefit. Being bilingual boots employees’ worth. According to a Workforce article about foreign language training, global language learning software company Rosetta Stone claims growth in corporate language training is the biggest trend the company has seen in the last three years. Just seven years ago, the company’s corporate clients were limited to a small percentage of Fortune 1000 companies, but today it’s one of the company’s fastest growing segments.

 Establish an internal bilingual advisory group

The notion “Two heads are better than one” can be especially beneficial in relation to building bilingual teams. Establishing an advisory group that meets regularly (every quarter, for example) offers a place for members to discuss challenges and opportunities in serving Spanish-speaking members and using their Spanish throughout the membership experience. Working through challenges aloud with others and identifying opportunities collectively provides insight that’s difficult to put a price tag on. The potential for management to share the experience bodes well for both leadership and employees – management is more engaged and gains clarity about relevant topics and employees feel supported and are validated. To optimize learning and ensure fresh perspectives, consider periodically rotating advisory group members.

Acknowledge bilingual staff for their skill

According to Cutting Edge PR, the cost of a recognition system is quite small and the benefits are large when implemented effectively. Among the benefits: Increased individual productivity; greater employee satisfaction and enjoyment of work; better retention of quality employees; and lower negative effects such as absenteeism and stress. Let this encourage you to consider ways of recognizing bilingual staff. Get creative! There are several ways, in addition to increased pay, to acknowledge bilingual proficiency. What about the possibility of designing an in-house certification process for dual language fluency? How about celebrating completion of that process by including a special symbol on name badges or business cards? Is it possible to include the certification in job titles?

Implementing some or all of these five keys provides a strong foundation for a bilingual team. Once your team is in place, maintaining open communication is beneficial. Topics such as work load, progress, successes and challenges as well as growth opportunities within the organization engage employees. The chance to move into a different position within a company can be a sensitive topic for bilingual employees. Oftentimes, it’s the bilingual skill that led them to a specific role yet from a long-term perspective, that skill shouldn’t define them. Bilingual employees should be mentored, trained in leadership and included in succession planning. As your organization moves forward, experiences will reveal additional opportunities that others will benefit from learning about. How can you share what’s discovered?

Alba Perez

Alba Perez

Alba Perez is client relations director for Coopera, full-service Hispanic market solutions company with specific focus on credit unions. Alba works closely with Coopera’s clients to implement Hispanic growth ... Web: www.cooperaconsulting.com Details

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