Switzerland is a small country with a high level of linguistic diversity. Multilingualism has been nurtured both by the country’s geography and by immigration. In addition to the four official national languages of German, French, Italian and Romansh, many other languages are spoken, including Portuguese, English, Turkish, Spanish, Serbian, Croatian and Albanian. Multilingualism is also particularly widespread among people with an immigration background. According to an assessment by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (SFSO) in 2019, this group uses at least three languages on a regular basis.
Why companies should promote multilingualism
What is the status of linguistic diversity in Switzerland? What are the benefits of multilingualism for your company? How can managers promote their employees’ language skills? Read our article to find out about the advantages of multilingualism.
Improving language skills for professional reasons
According to the SFSO, 65 percent of the population regularly speaks Swiss German, 39 percent French, 15 percent Italian and 0.9 percent Rhaeto-Romanic. The most common non-national language is English, which is spoken by 46 percent of people in German-speaking Switzerland, 43 percent of people in French-speaking Switzerland and 37 percent of people in Italian-speaking Switzerland. Although almost half of children in Switzerland encounter several languages at home, language skills are expanded mainly for professional reasons.
There are over 7,000 languages worldwide. Most of these are used in Asia and on the African continent. English is the most spoken language, followed by Mandarin. Hindi is the third most spoken language, with Spanish and French in fourth and fifth place. There are also countless dialects. While most writing is done in a standard language version, people mostly speak a dialect in their everyday lives.
Multilingualism in companies
Companies that are active internationally or in multiple country regions appreciate employees with good language skills. Whether they are involved in contract negotiations, in cooperation with service providers or, of course, in contact with customers who speak other languages – multilingual employees are a real asset. Every national language is a plus. Knowledge of English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Russian is also necessary if you want to focus on world markets.
Swiss Post Group promotes multilingualism
While in the past, employees with the appropriate language skills often had to be sought out specifically, employees now often bring those skills with them due to cultural diversity. This is also the case at Swiss Post Group, where people from over 130 nations with around 75 mother tongues work together. To promote tolerance and acceptance of this cultural diversity in everyday life, the MOSAICO network was launched in 2013. Co-chair John Léchenne explains the goals and benefits of MOSAICO.
John Léchenne has worked in fare and sales management at PostBus since 2007 and is responsible for the company-wide Fare Management department and process. He was involved in the founding of MOSAICO in 2013 and has been managing the network with Gerardina Bello since 2017.
John Léchenne, what is the goal of MOSAICO?
MOSAICO is committed to living linguistic and cultural diversity within Swiss Post Group. In this way, it seeks to break down barriers and prejudices. The network increases awareness of diversity through targeted actions such as talks or theatrical productions and promotes the understanding of different cultures. All employees should be able to live their language and culture. For example, we encourage managers to read e-mails even if they are not written in their native language.
To what extent do multilingual employees benefit?
Anyone who can speak two or three languages has a huge advantage over other applicants when looking for a job. The same is true at Swiss Post, although this varies depending on the unit. In any case, it is striking that our Western Switzerland team also speaks German. In general, employees get by well with the national languages – specifically German, French and Italian. However, English is also very popular, especially at Swiss Post Solutions. If managers want to create teams with a linguistic mix, these skills are in demand.
How does MOSAICO support employees?
The network helps employees from very different jobs to find a language tandem partner. Two employees with different mother tongues help each other to improve their knowledge of the other language. MOSAICO also provides the opportunity for discussions in German, French, Italian or English at various locations during lunch breaks.
Multilingualism at PostFinance
PostFinance employees of course also benefit from these offers. The innovative financial institution has been investing in language training for its employees for years. In this way, it contributes to each individual’s ongoing development, creates new social connections and promotes employee satisfaction. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, promoting multilingualism can also improve non-linguistic activities, as multilingual people are better able to carry out several tasks at the same time. Promoting multilingualism is an investment that is worthwhile for everyone.
Five benefits of multilingualism in companies
- Multilingual employees are better at recognizing cultural differences and usually work more effectively with intercultural teams.
- Employees who are multilingual can strengthen the team by supporting colleagues who are not fluent in other languages.
- Multilingualism helps companies to expand their reach and open up new markets, improving business relationships and increasing sales.
- The ability to speak the language of the target market increases opportunities for exports and builds closer relationships with partners and customers.
- Multilingual staff can serve customers who speak a different language. This leads to greater customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.