Jun 07, 2016

Communication challenges threaten software engineers

In the fast-paced tech industry where every moment counts, having a highly engaged team of software engineers is critical to business success. Highly motivated team-members work harder and faster, think more creatively, and stay longer at their organization. As growing tech companies continue to search for and hire more of their best software engineers from around the world, English communication challenges are becoming a large threat to engagement and talent retention.

96% of engineers in Lingo Live’s English program surveyed, including a significant portion of the advanced and expert students, said they would enjoy work more if they spoke better English.

English challenges and cultural differences affect the engagement of non-English speaking engineers in three big ways.


1. Feeling their Impact

Non-native English speakers often find it difficult to express themselves adequately in meetings and group settings. Lack of confidence in their speech prevents them from speaking up, and even for advanced speakers, forming a persuasive argument in English can be a challenge. As a result, their great ideas are often passed over for other solutions. In fact, in a survey of engineers in our program, 77% of learners report having ideas dismissed because of language difficulties. The failure to see their ideas chosen and implemented can cause these employees to feel less valued and more dejected over time. They feel less involved in the success of the organization as compared to workers who can communicate their suggestions well. Communication barriers can prevent employees from seeing their overall impact causing the engineer to withdraw and look for employment elsewhere.


2. Receiving Recognition

In many instances, when an idea is finally implemented, those with English difficulties fail to receive the proper recognition and praise for their contribution. When engineers work in teams, the most confident speaker generally presents the project to stakeholders whether in a formal meeting or in less formal gatherings. The person presenting the idea often receives most of the recognition and praise and those less confident with English communication are overlooked simply because they were not the primary presenter. This lack of recognition has a momentous impact on employee engagement and Gallup cites it as the number-one reason people leave their jobs.


3. Socializing

Socializing with coworkers in and out of the office has a significant impact on the happiness and engagement of employees. ESL engineers can often feel left out of the workplace social environment because of a lack of confidence to fully enter the English-speaking community. Failing to connect with their coworkers perpetuates the lack of confidence speaking up in meetings, makes networking and upward mobility difficult, and can diminish the loyalty they feel towards their team and the company as a whole. Linguistic and cultural training can help them to find their own authentic voice in English  to fully join their workplace community.

Managers of non-native English speakers must take measures to create an inclusive environment to ensure team motivation and productivity remains high.


– Jenny Tannenbaum

Interested in reading more?

Check out The Cost of Turnover for Software Engineers and The Silent Threat to Workplace Satisfaction.


Communication, Tech

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