Is The #1 Most Commonly Asked Question The Best One?

Is your company too focused on traditional long term measures and neglecting the importance of near term gains?

GlobalEnglish | Improving your Business English proficiency

Having been a part of GlobalEnglish for the past eight years, I’ve been on the receiving end of many questions from current and prospective clients. And the question I hear the most often is, “How long does it take to improve a proficiency level?“.

There’s no denying it’s a great question and we have a straightforward answer, based on years of research, which suggests a person needs to invest at least 100 hours of study time to advance one level on the GlobalEnglish 0–10 Business English proficiency scale.

Of course, everyone wants a quick solution to their organization’s Business English deficiency—but when the problem is a systemic issue that affects over 70% of the global workforce, maybe there’s a more important question.

Increasing the level of Business English proficiency company-wide is far more important than the length of time it takes an individual to advance levels and I always want to discuss this issue in more detail!

The challenge of “moving up a level” in language proficiency is unique relative to other skills people are typically asked to develop for their work. If you’re able to take more time to consider how long will it take to move up a level you’ll realize that every person acquires language at a different pace—some people may study intensely yet when they go to take
another test their results are the same as before because language assessments are very similar to common tests used for gaining acceptance to universities around the world.

So the way I really want to answer the question “how long does it take to improve a proficiency level” is:

“More time than most of your employee have!”

The reason I say this is based on the fact that people are so incredibly busy these days. Worldmapper.org suggests that the average global commute time is approaching two hours per day and many people are performing multiple jobs or have multiple bosses. In 2010 according to Fortune Magazine, the 100 best companies on earth provided 80 hours of training per employee (classroom, virtual and self-paced e-learning combined across ALL topics) while the other 6,400 companies averaged 40 hours. Attendance rates at in-person language classes have decreased in recent years—I’ve also seen industry averages as low as a 50%+ dropout rate.

So the question I love to answer is: “What can my company do to improve the communication gap?”

I encourage prospects to really understand why Business English communication is so important to their success. I also ask them to quantify the size of the problem—in many cases employees from emerging markets outnumber those from mature ones and few companies truly know the real cost of poor communication to the bottom line due to lost productivity. It’s huge.

So, what should your company do to increase your organization’s Business English proficiency?

Companies should focus more on the “doing” rather than just the “learning”. I believe that all employees need ongoing access to training and tools so they can study when they have the time and use performance support tools daily to help them do their jobs faster and better. It’s a business communication challenge that lends itself to a highly accessible, enterprise-wide solution due to the scale and geographic reach of the problem, and most companies value having a consistent standard in place that is cost effective and measurable.

In short, while I agree that a key goal is to move level 5 people up to level 7 in the long term, we know that will take time so it’s more important to enable level 5 people to do level 7+ work today!

How long does it take to improve a language proficiency level — Is this truly the best question?
Posted in : Being effective globally, Building a 21st Century Workforce, Creating productive virtual and global teams, Global Enterprises Need Business English, GlobalEnglish Corporation
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