One Language, One Team: Cultural Linguistics
World Day of Social Justice - 20 February
Social justice is centered around equality and fairness among people of various social dimensions. Equal access to opportunities should be given to all people regardless of any differences in circumstances. Equality does not mean that every individual should be treated the same way; it means that the right support must be given to each and every person, regardless of their background, according to their own specific needs, in order for them to achieve their goals.
How it relates to a company: equip your team with the right tools to allow them to grow.
In this article, we explore how words are company tools, specifically HR tools.
The relationship between language and culture
There's a correlation between language and culture. When someone learns a language, they truly appreciate it when they learn about its culture, and the stories of the people who speak it. The words used on a daily basis are learnt from the people around them, and that is what gives the language its meaning and nuance.
Employees may come from different backgrounds but they will end up being influenced and impacted by the company's values and beliefs - positively (absorbing & internalizing) or negatively (rejecting). This is why creating a healthy environment is of great importance as it will have consequences on how employees speak or react to their colleagues and clients in their day-to-day work. Individuals of the same company will eventually pick up and speak the same language, using the same terms and inflections. Values and speech shape identity and personality. It not only represents the individual identity, but represents the identity of that which a person belongs to.
A common language is key to a healthy workspace, which enhances bonds between colleagues, creating better communication and stronger relationships. Plus, channeling ideas and problem solving becomes easier within the same culture as everyone speaks the same language.
Company language and culture shape the people and company
When HR continuously improves workplace equality, they make their people feel valued, employees perform better, and this in turn increases corporate competitiveness. It also brings out a sense of belonging and identity.
It is said that unity is strength, and the start of unity is speaking the same language. Only when the entire organisation speaks the same ‘language’ will the message resonate and trickle down to every level in the organisation.
When everyone speaks the same language, it enhances comprehension & familiarity, which is fuel for trust and efficiency.
How to encourage your team to use a shared language?
- Define the common language. When you are onboarding your new hires, emphasize certain words or phrases intentionally. It is also crucial to provide detailed explanations to new joiners about the words you might be throwing around so that it is clear and they don't have to assume the meaning of it. For example, if your company has "flexible working hours" or "unlimited leave policy", new joiners could perceive this to mean many different things. Ensure everyone understands the accepted definition of terms used in a company.
- Provide enough time for adaptation. When new comers join your company, they usually come in with their own set of ideas and ways of doing things. There will be a transition period for them to adjust to a new environment and working style. Anticipating this learning curve helps everyone be more understanding during this process.
- Promote easy and honest communication. Create a method of communication where employees and new hires feel comfortable reaching out to others. Encourage employees and new hires to have consistent communication with their managers and colleagues, and be open and honest about their views. For example, it could be by making new comers feel comfortable asking questions when they just join the company.
- Allow room for mistakes. When companies create a safe environment for employees to express their opinions, share their ideas, and enable employees to learn from failures, it gives them the opportunity to be creative and educate themselves faster.