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My approach to compliance: empathy and planning

Updated: Feb 6

For over twenty years, I’ve been assisting various businesses in their efforts to comply with the Charter of the French Language. Thus, I’m often placed in the role of a mother figure who must guide her offspring with kindness but firmness. For the well-being of these organizations, I have the duty to confront them with their shortcomings.

Girl with compass pointing the way to go

Like my children when they misbehaved, companies undergoing an analysis of their language compliance are sometimes surprised and frustrated when they’re “caught in the act”. They might have hoped that their minor transgressions would go unnoticed. However, my role is precisely to show them the right path to avoid finding themselves in a difficult situation or, worse, in violation of the law.


Sensitive issues


It’s sometimes an ungrateful role, as by definition, I’m looking for potential issues. But better for me to find them than the legislator, right? I also have to deal with identity and emotional factors that come into play whenever linguistic issues are involved. In a historical and social context like ours, language is a touchy subject.


This is where I have to demonstrate a lot of tact and empathy. For example, it's not easy to inform a company's management that they must now enforce the use of tools in French rather than letting their employees use their preferred language. I’ve even been accused by a disgruntled employee of infringing on their rights when I had to deny them of a computer configured in English, because the company policy (not to mention its legal obligations) stated that a valid reason was required to work in a language other than French in Quebec.


But I understand the frustration of people who suddenly find themselves having to change their habits, see their productivity temporarily reduced because they have a hard time figuring out menus and functions in a French software, while it had become second nature in the English version they were accustomed to.


Get a head start


That's why I always encourage organizations to be proactive. Instead of waiting for a critical threshold to adopt French-language policies, it's better to take action from the start. Business owners usually aspire to growth. Eventually, this growth will lead to more complex obligations, including the generalization of French in the workplace. Until now, these obligations applied to companies with 50 employees and more. Starting in June 2025, this threshold will be lowered to 25.


Companies that have already implemented mechanisms to promote French will have a clear advantage, as the certification process with Quebec’s Office de la langue française will be simpler. They will also avoid a challenging change management process with their staff. Those that don’t plan ahead will be forced to rapidly implement a number of language best practices.


Where to start?


To maximize your chances of success, entrust a competent employee or external consultant with the task of thoroughly analyzing your language situation. Empower this person to play the role of a benevolent and rigorous parent, aiming to minimize risks. Give them the flexibility to identify all issues to guide potentially difficult decisions that the company might have to make. Take the time to do things right.


And if you've just launched your small business or are considering it, always keep in mind the possibility of growth, and plan accordingly. From the get-go, implement language policies that align with current regulations. You will be glad you took proactive steps to protect the future of your “offspring”.

This text was originally published in French in Les Affaires.

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