How Can UK IT Companies Attract More Foreign Workers By Overcoming Language Barriers?

Joe Miller, general manager of the Americas and Europe at Pocketalk explores…

Currently there is a large variety of IT roles making the UK government’s skilled worker shortage occupation list. High-demand roles include IT business analysts, architects and systems designers, programmers and software developers, plus web designers and developers.

These roles are eligible for UK working visas as the IT industry needs to attract high-skilled foreign workers, who already make up a large chunk of the workforce. A quarter (25 percent) of workers in the UK Information & Communication industry (including IT) were born outside the UK – in London this figure rises to 45 per cent.

Many current and future IT professionals don’t speak English as their first language and research shows that language barriers in the workplace contribute to inefficiency, stifle collaboration and lower productivity. Also, of all industries, IT and telecoms professionals are most likely to work from home full-time, which means these remote workers can end up feeling frustrated and isolated, as collaboration and communication are easier in the workplace.

With IT organisations having to work hard to attract and retain more foreign workers to help fill roles, greater adoption of digital technology to overcome language barriers can improve productivity, reduce mistakes, build trust, boost morale and improve relationships.

Existing translation solutions 

Clearly there is a need for translation in IT, but this comes with significant costs and is not always quick to implement. For on-site IT workers, having an interpreter present is a handy solution but it comes with a relatively high cost. In addition, this option doesn’t help to foster a relationship between IT workers who speak English as an additional language and their colleagues as there is always a middle person each communication must pass through.

Also, this operation can be impractical for IT workers who move around and through different large sites, as is often required for companies fulfilling large government contracts, for instance.

There are also various software solutions available that can help but each of these options comes with its pros and cons. For example, whilst they’re relatively quick and inexpensive many of them aren’t GDPR compliant, lack accuracy and rely on users having access to a smart device – which isn’t possible in many workplace settings.

Utilising new digital technology 

Alternatively, digital translators offer an effective way to communicate and help build relationships. They can help to overcome language barriers by providing instant two-way translation, both verbally and through translating photos of words on documents.

These digital devices offer a higher level of accuracy and speed whilst also being GDPR compliant. They also tend to cover more languages including the less widely spoken ones. Our device, for example, covers 82 languages. The standalone device eradicates the need for a smart device too.

Ultimately, there is no perfect approach to language translation in IT and each company will have different needs. IT companies that make the most of digital technology will be able to attract and retain more foreign workers by improving communication, which is key for the rest of 2022 and beyond.