South-Western - Management  
San Antonio Firm Improves Workplace by Helping Workers Break Language Barrier
Topic Internal Environment and Culture
Key Words English as a second language, corporate culture
InfoTrac Reference CJ113357119
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News Story

In the late 1990s at Jungle Laboratories, close to 15 percent of its workers were Spanish-speaking with limited English-language skills. The company president, Buddy Johnson, noticed that this group of employees communicated almost solely in Spanish with each other. He had three concerns.

First was safety: not being able to communicate is dangerous when working with machinery with moving parts. The second concern was productivity: training suffered from the language barrier. The third was the culture of the company.

Johnson wanted a workplace whose policies and corporate culture fostered camaraderie. He also wanted a family atmosphere, which required communication among employees. He decided the best way to achieve this was to provide on-site English language classes, free of charge during the workday. Employees participated in the program voluntarily by attending classes two hours twice a week.

One employee felt it was a great opportunity for them, but it also showed that the management cared about them. Without this kind of training, workers who lack English proficiency have a tougher time finding jobs.

Jungle Laboratories no longer offers on-site classes, but now pays for English language training through their tuition reimbursement program.


Define the term corporate culture. Why did the language difference described in this article impact the company's culture?


What are some other ways this company could foster the kind of culture the president envisioned?

Source "San Antonio Firm Improves Workplace by Helping Workers Break Language Barrier," San Antonio Express News, Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News , Feb. 18, 2004.
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