According to regional business leaders, hiring bilingual employees fills a need that goes beyond just the bottom line.
Amy Smith is the manager of the East Wenatchee branch of Numerica Credit Union. She said she believes hiring bilingual employees helps Numerica Credit Union fulfill the needs of its community.
Finding bilingual employees is essential to a business’ efficiency, she said.
A bilingual employee can help members in daily transactions, technology needs, deeper financial conversations with clients about their financial hopes and dreams, said Smith.
“We strive for deeper understanding and relationships with our members,” she said. “That can only be done by removing communication barriers.”
Teresa Zepeda is a Hispanic entrepreneur from Wenatchee, and she believes that the area’s businesses wanting a sturdier bottom line should hire bilingual employees.
“As far as the public is concerned, it would mean that people like me, who prefer to be spoken to in Spanish, would become a customer of theirs,” she said.
Businesses with bilingual employees are still a bit of a rarity in the Valley, Zepeda said. Areas like the medical field and government offices could really use more bilingual personnel to speak to patients and customers respectively, Zepeda said.
Another example is the movie theater. Zepeda said her children joke with her about how they no longer take her to the movies. Since they are all in English, she ends up snoozing.
“If we had a movie in Spanish in our theaters, even if it was once a month, I would be the first one in line,” she said. “It’s not a basic need, but it adds to a person’s well-being, being able to do fun things and balance life out.”
As an example of a city that does this well, she mentioned Las Vegas, a city she dreaded to think about for years.
“I always said it was the devil’s city, and never wanted to go,” Zepeda said. Her children invited her, and she loved the number of billboards and events and workforce who used Spanish openly.
“It was a very welcoming environment,” she said, adding that she would like to see some of that in the Valley.
“People shouldn’t see the Spanish language as something strange,” she said. Smith agreed, saying that if an employee can provide great customer service regardless of language, that’s an outstanding plus for that organization in terms of member support.
“We know when we come together, we can make life better for everyone in our community. That includes bringing together staff and members,” Smith said.
At the same time, Zepeda said the people who migrated to the United States should learn English. At the same time, there should be a degree of understanding, she said.
“I wish they could be in the shoes of people coming from other places, with another native language, and learning a hard language to master,” Zepeda said. “I have tried for 20 years, but I still don’t feel comfortable with my English, it’s not good enough to understand everything 100 percent.”