Immigrant Labor Continues to Change the Face of Brand Globalization
Brand globalization conversations need to include frank discussion about immigrant populations. The recent political discussions about immigrants are almost surreal to me. My father moved us here from Mexico to Houston in the 1980’s with the hope of opening new and different doors for our family. I have done an excellent job of blending into the American culture. I’ve mastered the language, earned a degree from an esteemed University, become a successful entrepreneur (twice), and raised two first gen American Eagle Scout sons who also attended American Universities. Immigrants. We are hardworking, we are proud, we pay taxes, we employ workers and we make a positive impact on our economy. We contribute in many ways to our communities and our dreams are no different from any other American family.
The immigrant journey isn’t over for me, as my passion is about language and people and how that translates into global opportunity for people of differing countries and culture. People, language and localization are key to successful brand globalization.
What Matters Most to Your People
As companies create or enlarge international footprints, things are changing and will continue to change. A multicultural immigrant and/or international workforce is the new norm. What are U.S. businesses doing to keep up? Successful brand globalization succinctly depends on your employee language and localization strategy.
Modern business vocabulary includes terminology of tolerance and inclusion with words like, “localized”, “diverse”, “comprehensive”, “broad”, “global” and “culturally diverse”. Those are great words, but what do they actually mean? As a company, how are you creating employee inclusivity in your workplace? If you are an immigrant employee, what do you see as the realities of your inclusive work culture. Is it talk, or is it real?
Language is the Fundamental Common Denominator
What languages do your employees speak?
In what languages are you presenting safety programs? Health insurance benefits? FMLA? Technical manuals? Process improvement? Training? Those employees who speak English as a second language are at a distinct disadvantage when companies don’t consider language. They feel marginalized and struggle valiantly to keep pace. United States companies with expanding global footprints have more to consider than ever before when it comes to an international workforce. The world is still in discovery mode with respect to corporate global mobility; however, technology affords us opportunities to transcend borders and collaborate in ways we’ve never known until now.
What’s at Risk?
No one likes to govern the workplace in reaction mode; that’s no fun for anyone. However, immigrant workers are disproportionately at risk for workplace safety and health problems, with Hispanic workers in the U.S. facing the greatest risk of work related fatalities. It’s a complicated, costly, sobering statistic. [OSHA: https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy10/sh-20830-10/Advocate_Guide.pdf]
Language and Localization Pay Off
On the other hand, the positive payoffs for considering language and localization can be huge. Employees whose well-being is considered a priority are going to be exponentially more loyal. Safety programs can produce zero time-loss across the board keeping worker’s comp claims at bay. Productivity has a roadmap that everyone can read. Product can cross borders seamlessly because you’re prepared.
Over the last couple of decades, U.S. companies relocated manufacturing facilities offshore to save costs and take advantage of “cheap labor”. Over time, foreign labor costs rose dramatically along with the cost of transporting raw materials and finished product. The answer was to move manufacturing closer to the market, so the trend is reversing. This will also have a changing affect on your brand globalization.
A True Story
A friend of mine worked for a global company that moved a healthcare equipment manufacturing facility from Europe to Mexico in 2007. “How did that go?”, you ask. Quality took a nose dive and lead times where worse than unpredictable. The move made sense on paper; the company would save big on costs. But in the end, preparing to enter a new language and culture proved them ill-prepared.
These products were designed in Europe and the US, manufactured in Mexico then sold and shipped from Mexico to Canada, a new market for the company. The company was unexpectedly required to re-engineer seismic anchoring to meet Canadian specifications and then provide new as-built installation and mechanical specs in English and French. Our project Manager friend, was working on a Canadian visa and dealt with each problem finding little support from Corporate while experiencing enormous cost overrides and incompatible site conditions. The company couldn’t find local electricians and plumbers with the technical savvy and experience to install the equipment. The choice was to train local installers, which was a time prohibitive option, or, they could bring U.S. contractors across the border without adhering to Canadian foreign labor laws. Each day was a new disaster to overcome.
Sales sold it. Corporate excitedly and blindly supported the 20+ Million-dollar project and in the end, it resulted in significant profit loss and ongoing legal challenges. What happened? Little consideration was given to language and culture as well as municipal and federal government requirements.
Do you recognize any of these challenges in your international operations?
So What Can I Do to Convince My Leadership Team to Buy Into Brand Globalization?
We created the Global Language Brief for executive teams who need to have the language and localization conversation as it pertains to brand globalization. You know it will change the game. You know the benefits. This is the document you need to initiate a global language strategy that supports employee excellence. A dedicated, international language service provider can give you valuable counsel on next steps. Propel your business to international success. A strong, informed, loyal, well-trained, confident and safe international workforce is your recipe for winning in the global marketplace.
The best way to get a conversation started is to be prepared with talking points. We created our white paper “Global Language Brief” to give business leaders like you solid facts that substantiate the business case for a language strategy. We wish you the best in your business. Let us know how we can help.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: With more than 20 years experience in translation and interpretation, Flor Dimassi, CEO of Global Speak Translations, stays on the pulse of what is happening in language as it affects business. She turns language and cultural diversity into business opportunities for her clients.