When working as a team, communication is key — and as Edmonton-area landscaping company Jansen Group has found out, technology goes a long way when it comes to employing a group of workers from Ukraine with an additional challenge on top of the language barrier.
Five of the six newcomers are deaf.
It was a challenge for company president Adam Jansen.
“I don’t speak Ukrainian, and I definitely don’t know sign language, but we found a way to make it work,” he told CTV News Edmonton on Thursday.
The workers talk to each other using Ukrainian sign language, but when it comes to communicating with their English-speaking colleagues, they use hand signals such as gestures and pointing with each other.
And when words are needed, there’s an app for that.
“I was a little worried about communication, but we smoothed that out pretty quickly,” said Jason Hilmoe, the crew’s foreman. “Today’s technology with the translation apps is very quick. Sign language is a bit of an issue still because it doesn’t translate … but it’s good. We’ve figured out some universal hand signals that work very well.”
Volodymyr Tymchuk, a hearing-impaired Ukrainian with eight years of landscaping experience and the first worker of the group Jansen hired, told CTV News Edmonton via the Google Translate app that they enjoy working for the company.
“We are lucky to have chosen to work with Adam. And we feel like a family,” Tymchuk said.
Hilmoe said the skilled, experienced crew is one of “the best” he’s worked with in his many years in the industry.
“I wish we’d known about this situation years ago and been able to have such good workers in my whole tenure here,” he said.
Jansen says the Ukrainians have inspired them. After hearing about their journey, fleeing a war and leaving everything behind, it was an easy choice to try something new.
“It was important to just take a chance, take a leap of faith and just see how it works out,” Jansen said. “And I think other business owners should do the same thing.”