The strategic importance of English language for your employees
To thrive in a global economy, companies must overcome language barriers and English is the lingua franca of global business. Effective communication is key to the success and expansion of many multinational companies. At the heart of this is equipping your workforce with the skills that they need to be productive and confident. Language levels vary across organisations and if their language level is not the equal of their peers, it can be a source of embarrassment for professionals.
Many multinational organisations are choosing English as their company language. This decision can give them an edge on the international stage, and yet it can be a difficult policy to implement successfully.
In this article we discuss why it is important to invest in your employees’ business English language capabilities, and what to consider when it comes to upskilling your workforce.
Why invest in English?
English is the world’s most commonly used language, understood by a third of the population. It is taught as a primary foreign language at schools in most countries and is a compulsory subject for 80% of pupils in Europe. English dominates the virtual world as the most popular language of the internet, and the most commonly used language for website content.
Most crucially, it remains the number one language of business. Since the 1990s some of the world’s top global organisations have adopted English as their official company language. Multinational companies such as Pepsi, Airbus, Siemens, Nissan and Google have adopted English as a common corporate language to facilitate better communication and higher performance across geographical locations. These companies believe that excellent international communication skills can increase market share and competitiveness.
Keeping your workforce motivated
At The London School of English we work closely with our clients to find ways of creating engaging learning journeys and delivering programmes that complement the company culture. We understand that time and motivation can be big challenges.
We have solutions to the barriers companies face when introducing language training; for example:
- In addition to live streaming classes, we record the sessions for those who are unable to attend training due to previous diary commitments.
- We have an established record of collaborating with Human Resources (HR) departments, and helping decision-makers on ways to sustain staff motivation. For example, one hospitality company we worked with implemented a learning passport in which their staff received a stamp for each English language milestone they achieved. Recognising and rewarding employees can be a powerful incentive for engaging with the training course you provide for your employees.
Working in partnership
It is not just about choosing the right provider; it is about how you work together that counts. The right provider will work with you to understand what you want to achieve and build a programme that will help your staff reach their goals.
Working with a large pharmaceutical company, we developed a programme that involved mapping out job functions to suitable language levels. We then created a learning journey for each member of staff to enable them to attain their target language level. This detailed approach delivered a structured programme that achieved the goals of the organisation.
What to consider when looking for a training programme
It is likely that many people you work with internationally will speak English as a second or even third language. When choosing a training programme, it is important to understand which type of English you want to your staff to learn. If your staff are engaging with peers that are non-native English speakers, then the course content should be tailored to be functional and direct to remove unnecessary language barriers (for example, by avoiding idiomatic language).
Content should focus on the language skills that are most relevant to your company and/or management level. A one-size-fits-all approach may seem like a straightforward solution, but it will fail to address the nuances of how different teams within an organisation engage and communicate with each other and with external stakeholders. For example, consider if the training content is for your senior management team, a sales team, or staff in a customer-facing role. Think about which skills are crucial to their performance. Does their profession require them to sell, or perhaps rely on strong reading and comprehension skills? Have you identified a need to improve presentation skills or confidence in making a business pitch in English?
To deliver a successful corporate English language programme, good training needs analysis and flexible solutions are crucial.
Online or live instruction?
There are both great benefits and limitations to online and live instruction, which is why we find that the very best approach to English language training is a blended solution. This mixes live instruction face-to-face or online in a virtual classroom, and targeted online content and study modules. This allows staff to access learning whenever and wherever they want, making their learning journey, and your overall training programme, most effective. A blended approach transcends the limitations of class lessons, where content is pitched to an average learner rather than adapting to the skills and learning speed of each individual learner. Technology is a great enabler and our online courses monitor the work your teams are doing and the progress they are making, adapting the level of challenge so that the online learning is more targeted and rewarding.
All training is a valuable investment in your staff, and, as with any investment, you should establish a clear ROI. Setting performance criteria is an important process for both the HR department and the individual learners. The most effective criteria to measure are those that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to the role, and time-bound (for example those that include a success metric and a deadline). Mapping progress and staff commitment and being able to demonstrate how and when agreed performance goals are reached is essential so that stakeholders can see how effective the programme is.
Implementing corporate solutions
Some of the world’s top brands have chosen English as their corporate language, having their headquarters in non-English speaking countries. While the importance of English language training is widely understood, how to select and roll out a training programme to your employees can be more difficult. By choosing a reputable accredited provider you can be confident that the courses are created and delivered by expert professionals, are tailored to meet your primary objectives and that your staff are supported in their learning journeys.
We believe in engaging with stakeholders in the planning phase so that the training is relevant and effective. The more you put in at this stage, the better the outcome will be. It is important for both sides to be open and transparent around timing and time expectations: when do you roll out, and what is expected of the learner? What are the deadlines and when will the training take place?
Who will champion the training? Our most successful solutions have come with the full support of senior management and stakeholders throughout the organisation to sell the benefits of and to positively promote the learning programme within the organisation.
Finally, The London School of English has experience of working with a wide range of diverse companies from different sectors and cultures, and we know that flexibility and client consultation to find the most effective approach for your organisation are key.