Most Arubans speak four languages – Dutch, Spanish, English and a native dialect called Papiamento that is a combination of all four languages – and switch between the four languages with very little effort.
At a local grocery store, I observed that the cashiers would quickly size up a customer and, based on visual clues, converse comfortably and fluently in the appropriate language.
I’m assuming the conversations are pretty much the same with every customer and in every language: How are you today? Would you like this in the same bag? Did you happen to see the price on this item?
With few exceptions (such as when the cashier greeted me in Dutch), these astute and observant employees are able to correctly guess the appropriate language and communicate essential information quickly and effectively, regardless of the audience.
As a professional communicator, I was fascinated by these customized conversations.
Think about how many FAQ and key messaging documents we crank out over the course of a year. Now think about how seldom we consider that the single message or data point needs to be interpreted differently for different groups of employees.
For example, for some audiences, it’s enough to simply state that a program or policy will change on a certain date. For others, additional context is required – why, how, who will be involved. Another audience may need to know how to answer client questions, or how to respond to internal requests for more information.
Rather than relying on a “one size fits all” approach, think about how the information will be used, and by whom. Ask representatives of the target audience what they would need to know, and what additional information might be useful.
Sure, it seems like a lot of extra work. But like that grocery cashier, your messages will be received by each and every employee, regardless where they are found in your organization.