Attracting the best employees is a high priority for businesses of all sizes and across industries. For competitive companies that have offices across the world, bringing in top talent isn’t just a desire; it’s a requirement for continued success and growth. Organizations that move beyond their country of origin need to target intelligent, productive professionals who can think, act and communicate on a global level, no matter where they originally come from.
Collaboration in general is a great tool for businesses, especially those that span large geographic distances. The sharing of skills, experiences and ideas on both the local and worldwide levels is a major component of success in the modern economy. Companies that move away from a strictly vertical hierarchy and empower employees to make decisions in a collective, interdependent system often see better results and are more prepared to face the demands of the modern business world. The Harvard Business School pointed to collaborative innovation as one of the most important current sources of competitive advantage. The monolithic research and development department is turning into an outdated concept as more companies encourage employees working locally and remotely to innovate and craft new concepts, products and solutions.
A Standard for International Operations
The development of the global economy provides businesses more opportunities, but it also presents new, unique challenges. In-depth global collaboration wasn’t a viable option in decades past, and information that needed to be exchanged across countries was often handled by translators. This approach is no longer quick or responsive enough for modern-day business needs, and it’s one of the reasons why business English has developed as the default method of internal and external communication for companies across the globe. This is true even when there are no native speakers involved, as English provides a consistent method for sharing ideas, developing concepts, negotiating and accomplishing other tasks that simply isn’t possible when using intermediaries. It’s now common for international organizations to test recruits on English proficiency.
A perfunctory English competency test doesn’t gather the information needed to implement a consistent language policy, however. An in-depth assessment provides a wide assortment of benefits, from the ability to compare positional benchmarks to prospective candidates to crafting an internal Business English education strategy and track ongoing development. This skills test doesn’t just make sure employees have the right level of English capability to succeed; it helps craft organization-wide strategies for development that can push a company past its competitors. Facing the reality of a constantly increasing need for international collaboration means a strong commitment to English as an important business tool.
A complete assessment of English language skills and a commitment to ongoing education also allows companies to attract and hire recruits who are outstanding in many respects but don’t yet have great Business English skills. Although there are baselines below which it simply isn’t practical to hire a candidate, a company that can provide training in using the language of international business certainly has an advantage over its competitors. Offering continuing educational opportunities also helps attract candidates who already have a good base of English language skills and want to develop them further.
An international business needs employees who have a strong grasp of corporate English To communicate internally and with outside vendors, partners and even competitors. A company that can develop benchmarks, best practices and plans for continuing development in relation to Business English use will be able to fully leverage the power of international collaboration, employee recruiting and retention and development and worldwide growth.
Keeping track of etiquette across different countries and cultures can be difficult for international business travelers. This is an instance where the knowledge of Business English and the resources that understanding the language opens up are incredibly valuable. Many websites, guides and other materials are written in English, so being able to access these important informational streams is much easier when that language is understood.
A strong knowledge of corporate English allows for direct, efficient communication between staff members from different companies, even when they don’t share a native tongue or were raised in different countries. Instead of having to rely on interpreters or translators to communicate sensitive information about both business and other matters outside of the board room, employees who speak Business English are empowered to engage in direct conversations and reduce the noise and misunderstandings that occur during translation. In this way, learning English for professionals also opens the door to more business opportunities across the globe and, therefore, more chances for travel to interesting international locations. Business English is the key to chances for growth at home and abroad.
Although corporate English will help staff members avoid conflicts and resolve any issues that do arise, there still needs to be some sensitivity and tact used. With that in mind, here’s some advice for making international business trips successful:
Do Your Research
There are too many cultural differences to review them all in a comprehensive fashion, but there are some measures to be taken that can help make trips as smooth and pain free as possible: research local customs. If your company already has a branch in that country, then contact a human resources professional or someone of similar standing for some useful advice about issues including mealtimes, handshakes, the exchange of business cards and many other topics. Colleagues who have previously traveled to the country to be visited can also be a valuable source of information.
Whether or not you can get this information from an inside source, researching the culture and customs of a nation is important, according to CNN. For example, knowing that it’s impolite for men and women to make contact—even a professional handshake—in India can mean the difference between a costly mistake and a good first impression. Along with a strong knowledge of Business English, learning how to say a greeting or salutation in the local language can be an effort that employees at the company being visited will will likely appreciate.
Understand how Meals are Held
One of the biggest country-to-country differences is eating and etiquette related to sharing food. This is one area where doing research can definitely pay off. With the advent of smartphones, it’s possible to create a short list of major points to remember, and even review on the way over to the first big dinner meeting in a new country. Following the lead of others and discretely asking questions, instead of just assuming, can also help.
Some missteps will only have you looking a little foolish, while others will create a more serious negative impression on your hosts. Here are a few of the most notable ones, compiled in a separate article from CNN:
- In Japan: Never rest chopsticks in the food being eaten, as this can remind native Japanese of a common funeral custom. Instead, place them close to the body, parallel to the plate.
- In India, the Middle East and parts of Africa: Do not use the left hand to handle food or, for the most part, utensils. The left hand is considered unclean in these areas and shouldn’t be used to handle important documents either. CNN pointed out that those who are naturally left handed should refrain from using their right hands instead.
- In China: Don’t turn over a fish after one side has been eaten. This is viewed as poor manners and bad luck, and can cause someone, especially a person involved in business negotiations, to lose face.
Know When to Talk Business
It can be difficult to know when a good time to discuss business is, outside the confines of a board room. Although this changes from country to county, a good general guideline is that many cultures frown upon business discussions during off hours – some during meals or travel, others at anytime outside of a structured meeting. Breaking this rule especially because it’s directly related to negotiations and making a deal, can severely impact any sort of business effort attempted by an organization. This is another area are where doing some research ahead of time will pay off. Another strategy to take is to ask someone with experience, a host or even hotel concierge about the standard in that particular country. The goal should always be to ask first, reducing the number of mistakes made and the possible damage done.
Everybody gets nervous. It’s a part of life that people simply have to battle through. However, for some, the struggle is a bit more intense. According to the Harvard Business Review, approximately 20% of the world’s population suffers from debilitating anxiety in potentially stressful situations.
Author Scott Stossel, a Harvard graduate and renowned journalist, uses a sports analogy as an example of his own anxiety. He describes how when he was younger, he purposefully lost an important tennis match because his anxiety had taken hold of him and all he wanted to do was finish the game as quickly as possible.
The idea is essentially the same in international business, but the game is changed. Employees don’t often find themselves stressing over three-point shots and scoreboards. Instead, they’re worried about securing investments and chasing acquisitions. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America’s “Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey,” 56% of employees say that stress and anxiety influence their performance
Redirect Anxiety Positively
Many aspects of the job are prone to cause anxiety, but there are areas where businesses can help their staff, namely: Business English. In an increasingly multicultural business environment, employee pools have become a collection of cultures and languages. Giving employees a singular means of communication to interact with not only internal colleagues, but with external organizations, as well, will help establish confidence and overcome anxiety that may otherwise hinder their abilities.
A certain amount of anxiety can be beneficial, explained David Barlow, founder of the Center of Anxiety and Related Disorders as Boston University. This sentiment tends to push us to improve our efforts and work harder. Anxious feelings that cause people to monitor their actions and adapt to new situations more successfully keep us from becoming too comfortable in our present situation. For international businesses, staying complacent can be poisonous to long-term growth. When a company believes there’s no reason to push for a stronger product offering or improve its service standards, the enterprise takes the first few steps toward failure.
Battle Anxiety with Confident Communication
At the same time, it’s difficult to be confident in your abilities if you can’t communicate with your colleagues. Research published by the American Psychological Association found that employees who were excluded because of their language abilities resulted in worse overall business performance. Why? Because your employees don’t feel committed to a common goal and are more prone to focus on their work out of concern over job security. This doesn’t foster collaboration among workers or business partners.
In the global marketplace, mastery of Business English separates those satisfied with mediocre communications and international relationships from firms aiming to achieve the highest standards while interacting with customers and clients.
Think about it. If your employees aren’t prepared to work with international business partners in a common language, they will likely let anxiety take control and limit their capabilities to speak clearly and effectively with colleagues and business partners. Having the ability to communicate across cultures and languages with Business English prevents companies from becoming victims of anxiety.
What does it take to get ahead in an international business environment? It’s just as important for top leaders to develop their business skills as it is for every member of a workforce. You need to lead by example, and show others in your organization that professional development is a core value for your company. Here are several ways to strengthen your executive team and generate support for international skills that all employees should work to embrace.
1. Develop Multicultural Skills
Preet Kuar, an executive recruiter for California-based firm Pacific Staffing, told the Sacramento Business Journal that people skills are among the top priorities for employers when sourcing executive talent. Chief among them is the ability to connect with clients from various cultural backgrounds. International business agreements and partnerships succeed when executives and leaders are able to connect. Understanding the culture of your business collaborators will help you to build trust and strengthen relationships. While Business English remains the the global economy’s preferred language, it’s equally important for executive team members to have a genuine desire to work with clients and partners from various cultural backgrounds.
2. Achieve Business English Proficiency
When working with international customers and clients, it’s crucial for business leaders to have the vocabulary necessary to effectively communicate across all levels. Having Business English skills that are only sufficient isn’t enough to effectively convey to international partners that your company is dedicated to collaborating without barriers. Instead, you need to ensure your leaders are well-equipped with the skills needed to actively participate in or lead multi-party meetings, communicate clearly over the phone and create concise email messages. With executive-level Business English development, your company’s management can be prepared to enter into negotiations without the slightest hesitation.
3. Strengthen Industry-specific Skills
Human Resource Executive Online indicated many organizations lack support structures that give employees—including executives—access to training and development courses that build their industry knowledge, which ultimately helps them make more informed decisions. In fact, the Houston, Texas-based nonprofit organization American Productivity and Quality Center recently released a study that found 80% of nearly 550 director and managers at enterprises in diverse industries indicated the modern business world requires a new leadership style. Meanwhile, just 21% of respondents claimed their organizations have very effective leadership practices. Simply put, there’s a growing skills gap in many international companies resulting from outdated policies, which can include neglecting the level of industry knowledge that people in executive roles have as they move through the talent pipeline.
4. Build Enthusiasm Around the Brand
At the same time, Forbes explained executives must be leaders in evangelizing their brand. In other words, they need to be visibly invested in the success of the company so that other employees can follow their example. Think about the way online retailer Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh helped develop a company culture that largely breaks down the boundaries between management, executives and other workforce members. Quartz indicated Zappos will integrate an organizational style called Holacracy, which effectively removes job titles and puts workers on a more even level. In a way, this naturally builds off Zappos’ foundational idea that employees are dedicated to the same focus, which is providing excellent customer service.
From the enthusiasm Hsieh demonstrates and shares with the e-retailer’s employees, the company also places a high value on taking responsibility for every individual’s work. In global corporations, it’s equally important for each member of the workforce to be a stakeholder in the success of the entire organization, which is ultimately carried forward by mastering the language of business.
Can you afford to ignore these strategies helping to better develop current future leaders?
People fear losing what they have. At least that’s what a recent study showed. Loss aversion can lead to short term decision making that leaves no regard for long term outcomes. The mindset, however, is not permanent. By adopting a second language, the same study demonstrated that people could overcome their natural tendency to see only short term profits.
Loss aversion simply means that someone is more concerned with what they may lose, as opposed to what they may gain. In everyday life, this may lead to a little frugality, but when it comes to an organization’s finances, fearing risk could lead to poor investment decisions. Luckily, a study from the University of Chicago revealed that these tendencies could be averted by learning another language, providing even more reason to invest in a Business English training program for your organization and staff.
The advantages of a second language
Risks are required to succeed in business. That doesn’t necessarily involve jumping at every possible opportunity that comes your way, but you can’t expect to excel if you’re doing things the exact same way as every other business in your respective industry. The greatest gains come at a risk.
Research from the study revealed that by adopting a secondary means of communicating, subjects were more likely to take chances promising a long-term gain at the cost of a possible loss. In one of the experiments, which involved betting on simple coin flips, researchers discovered subjects who were explained the experiment in their native tongue would only take the risk 54% of the time, while those listening via a second language would take it 71% of the time.
In a statement to the journal Psychological Science, the study’s authors are quoted as saying that despite subjects understanding the words they were being told; their emotional responses to them were muted because of a less biased understanding of the language. Working in a secondary language, like Business English, people are less emotionally tethered to what’s being said and, as a result, they tend to look at things more analytically.
The point of thinking long term
Regardless of where your business is operating, whether it is limited to a single market or across the entire international stage, your strategy should always be sustainability. Short-term investments and decisions can certainly bolster immediate numbers, but they come at the cost of long-term viability.
Having a long-term outlook seems like an obvious move, but modern business trends have helped to push companies away from this school of thought. The Friends Provident Foundation found that nearly 80% of chief financial officers would prefer to sacrifice future economic value if it meant satisfying their investors in the now. Unfortunately, while the benefits of short-term investments are quick to fade, their impact remains and can lead to wider, irreversible consequences.
The growing competitiveness of cross-border economics makes long-term thinking less of a suggestion and more of a need. However, the barriers to attaining such a mindset are so deeply ingrained in our psyche that it’s hard to make a decision without first weighing the myriad of factors that shouldn’t really be considered in the first place, like how others will interpret the move. A second language helps to remove that road block.
The objectivity afforded to a person working in a second language can be applied beneficially throughout the gamut of business functions. Having an analytical perspective helps leadership and staff make decisions that will support the company’s structure, reinforcing it so that your business can remain successful not just this quarter, but in the next and the next. Business English will give your employees the long-term outlook they need to keep your organization competitive for years to come.
As the English language moves across the globe, it has become the standard language of global business. Recent research has even indicated that today there are more non-native English speakers than there are native speakers. Depending on where you are in the world, you may encounter various versions of the English; however, corporations choose to employ Business English in the workplace.
English has always been international
Since English is able to change, large corporations need one unified English language program for their workplace.
John Worne, director of strategy at the British Council, told the London Evening Standard that from its inception, English has been an international language.
“Many of our most popular and evocative English words – words we couldn’t live without – came from other countries and cultures,” Worne said. “English is not just our language – it truly belongs to the whole world, and brings real benefits to anyone who can speak it. Even a few words can bring work, a job or new opportunities.”
English’s impact on the global community is immense – multinational corporations strive to adopt the language to bring the workforce together and boost international revenue. From India to Germany to Japan, English has had a significant effect on economic prosperity and higher education.
English can get diluted without professional guidance
According to research from IM Diversity, a career services organization, more than a billion people now speak English across the globe. In fact, many who are non-native speakers are integrating their first language into their second language in the process. Due to the prevalence of non-native English speakers, in certain areas in the world like China and India, non-native English speakers are absorbing and including new words and phrases into the language that aren’t exactly correct.
For example, IM Diversity highlights how English and Spanish are meeting in the global marketplace and are creating a unique hybrid. Other languages, such as Hindi, are also developing English hybrids.
In an interview with IM Diversity, Deepak Desai, former CEO for GlobalEnglish, highlighted how other languages continues to impact English because of the language’s prevalence within the international community.
“English is an open-source language,” Desai said. “There is an academy in France that decides what constitutes a French word. But there is no academy that decides what an English word is.”
According to Steward Riddle, a lecturer in literacies education at the University of Southern Queensland, English may receive a new name in the future. Because of the numerous versions of English floating around in the global marketplace, one standard will need to be found. Riddle projected the constant connection between people across the world through the Internet and mobile devices may encourage English to advance even more.
Thankfully, the business community has already chosen its English of choice – Business English – and you can help support this at your business by investing in Business English lessons.
Business English continues to be essential for multinational corporations to adopt. Ensuring your workforce embraces a standard version of English during their every day work duties helps you to ensure your staff understand each other. As English evolves, it remains crucial to choose a single version of the language, such as Business English, in the workforce.
The explosion of globalization over the past few decades has successfully expanded the economies of individual nations. The process has pushed industries together and led to the subtle blending of old borders, making it more accurate to identify sectors of the international economy rather than the independent markets of sovereign states.
Evolving into a more global economy has helped spread unique cultural attitudes and trends around the world, but as Paul Graham, co-found of tech investor Y Combinator, said earlier this year in an interview with Inc. Magazine, not speaking Business English is still a disadvantage, according to Knowledge@Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business’s online journal. Luckily, Business English training programs are available for companies hoping to keep pace with global trends.
The Proof is Apparent
Graham took a lot of flack following his brash statements this past summer, but the popular tone shifted when Laura Huang, a professor at Wharton, published a paper in the Journal of Applied Psychology defending Graham’s position.
Huang wrote that while globalization had introduced more nonnative English speakers into the international workforce, their upward mobility had a limit.
English Around the World
According to Knowledge@Wharton, a report from the United Nations recently noted that 232 million people around the world were international migrants. Of those, 214 million hold jobs outside of their own country. The global marketplace has obviously become a large mix of cultures and languages, but even still, the U.N. report confirmed that more than 1 billion nonnative English speakers were still using the language in the office. Why? Because English is the universal language of business.
The global business community has become so accustom to using English as a universal language that regardless of your ability to speak it, maintaining a strong accent is still seen, as Hunag puts it, as “an explicit stigmatizing mark of foreignness.” Initial interviews with foreign companies tend to take place over the phone, making foreign dialects a more prominent aspect of the conversation. This often gives the impression that the candidate may not have the political skills necessary to do the job.
Huang writes that a talent for politics isn’t something you can prove with paper, it’s one of those “you know it when you see it” things. Employees with a loose grasp of the language damage their image and hinder their ability to move their careers forward. If leaders doesn’t believe in your capacity to interact with other executives across a multitude of markets and industries, it’s unlikely they’ll invite an employee to join their ranks.
These lessons apply not only to workers who are planning a move onto the international stage, but to businesses as well. Securing investors and cross-market partnerships is paramount to cultivating a sustainable business environment. As we’ve seen, however, without clear, comprehendible Business English, the most valiant efforts may fall short. Comprehensive training programs exist to satisfy the needs of these burgeoning companies, helping to ensure their successful ascent to the world of international business.