As the world of work becomes increasingly international and diverse, addressing inequalities surrounding accent bias at work is essential for an authentically inclusive culture.
In this article we cover how speaking style can affect non-native speakers, and how organizations can step up to bolster diversity.
As the business world becomes an increasingly global and digital space, growing a transnational workforce can often happen as a natural result of expansion. Despite the prevalence of non-native speakers in the world of work, the career progression and organizational reputation of those who speak English as a second language is indubitably stunted. Non-native speakers are statistically less likely to be hired, less likely to be promoted, and more likely to earn less than their native co-workers (Hosoda & Stone Romero, 2010; Gluszek & Dovidio, 2010). Actively empowering non-native speakers and unraveling accent stigma means substituting possible communication costs for a motivated workforce capable of cultivating sustained success.
“I would argue that having a diversity of speaking styles within the workplace is one more facet of the kind of cultural inclusivity that is now proven to enhance productivity.”
Ali Hackett, Personnel Today, 2021
The hurdles that non-native speakers face when establishing a career are not always driven by a lack of language ability. Although language ability can motivate integration, biases surrounding non-native speakers are often rooted in the corporate and organizational practices that limit integration in the first place.
Cultural attitudes towards accents often lead to a false impression of a non-native speaker’s competency; regardless of how fluent they might be.
“The perception of lack of fluency of nonnative speakers can lead to subtle forms of discrimination, underevaluation of foreign employees’ competencies, and fewer career opportunities.”
Language Diversity, Non-native Accents, and their Consequences at the Workplace, 2018.
This bias of perceived difficulty in communication often starts from the hiring process itself. Research from the U.S General Accounting Office in 2012 indicates that 41% of employers actively filter out candidates with accents from the recruitment process — thereby curbing their talent pool, and potentially increasing the risk turnover as a result of not hiring right people, first time.
“I was trying to ask a question and I could not find the right words to come out. I did not feel good. I felt stupid. I think they think I was stupid too”
Anonymous Participant, Language Diversity, Non-native Accents, and their Consequences at the Workplace, 2018.
Non-native speakers that do make it through the hiring process can face heightened levels of anxiety and fatigue in the workplace and intuitively avoid difficult situations that could highlight their weaknesses and reinforce co-workers’ impressions of them as incompetent (Derwing, et al., 2008.)
This low-risk avoidance approach reduces the political opportunities that non-native speakers have in the workplace by reducing their level of interaction and participation in pivotal matters and feeds into a cycle of misrepresentation and discrimination (Huang et al., 2013.)
For organizations, this translates into missing out on potentially crucial ideas from international figures at a decision-making level — counteracting the prospective benefits that a diverse workforce can offer.
Despite the context, workplace culture is just as susceptible to positive change, as it is negative. Fuelling a positive culture shift should start with re-evaluating leadership to ensure that leaders across the organization are setting an optimal example by leading with empathy to enable each employee to perform at their best.
“Hiring professionals and new-venture investors must recognize and avoid the potential pitfall of accent-related bias if they want to bring in the best.”
Harvard Business Review, 2014.
At 10x Psychology we believe hiring should be dedicated to finding the best person for a role; regardless of who they might be, or where they are from. All of our assessments provide the 5 different language options to empower candidates to fully showcase their talent.
10x Hire has been built around this ethos and provides organizations with an opportunity to focus on establishing the Personality, Motivations, and Competencies of every candidate to find the best possible person for a role.
For those in recruitment, 10x Talent enables recruitment consultants and their clients to benefit from a central, streamlined platform to that provides ranked lists of top candidates, tailored interview guides and prompts and flexible key competency selectors to enable the best hire every time.
The industry-leading psychometrics behind our Solutions have been specifically developed to be culturally neutral, simple, and job-related. In our research, there were no significant differences in performance between native, and non-native speakers within our English solution indicating that our psychometrics enable each group to perform at their very best.
Our psychometrics provide non-native speakers with an invaluable opportunity to skip past the bureaucracy of a foreign recruitment process and showcase their talent in a purely objective way.
10x Optimize reinforces a better way forward for employees and organizations by streamlining the professional development of all of your employees in one place. The Personality, Motivations and Competencies of each employee are comprehensively compiled onto our interactive dashboard, from where you can locate unspent talent, and identify where development needs to take place.
We’ve made promoting that development simple — 10x Optimize can nudge the professional development of your employees in the right direction on a personalized basis. This empowers non-native speakers who may be fundamentally competent and talented to benefit from additional development in other areas such as resilience to bolster their performance on one secure, user-friendly platform.