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.
Choosing a Business English program is just the first step toward increasing English language proficiency in the workplace. Along with the deployment of a new learning program, chief language officers, training directors and managers alike should implement best practices to help employees get the most out of each Business English program. A few strategies can help you maximize your investment in corporate English for professionals and increase staff productivity.
1. Embrace virtual-blended learning
One of the keys to successfully learning a second language is using a virtual-blended learning approach, which integrates the best aspects of human-based training with technological innovations. The New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers suggests training directors who use virtual-blended learning as the basis for their English programs are able to ensure employees get the most interactive, personalized and flexible programs while staying within their training budgets. Visit our virtual-blended learning page to take a closer look at why it’s one of the keys to improved Business English proficiency in the workplace.
2. Encourage multiple learning styles via the 70:20:10 framework
In working with over 170+ of the most globally admired companies, we’ve seen the best outcomes achieved when executives provide a mix of tools and opportunities to ensure workers are using and improving their Business English every day. The 70:20:10 framework is an innovative model that only the best English learning programs utilize. Under the framework, 70% of the workforce’s Business English education is through on-the-job learning. Informal learning, or social communication with coworkers, accounts for 20% of employee’s Business English education. While traditional classroom education is still an important aspect of learning the business language, the formal learning environment only makes up 10% of the framework. Visit our 70:20:10 framework page to learn why it is the best way to acquire new knowledge.
3. Foster a supportive learning environment
With Business English becoming a strategic pillar for many companies—as a language program owner, you’ll need to foster supportive learning environment. Some building blocks of a supporting learning environment include creating a strong learning community, improving learner confidence and providing on-going feedback and regular motivation. In many cases, the language partner you’re working with should already have tools to help you with many of these building blocks. GlobalEnglish has a proprietary approach called RPM™ (Rewards, Progress and Measurement) that helps English language program administrators motivate and encourage employees directly in the technology. What’s more, for enterprise relationships account managers are usually available to help language program owners deploy the language program with more traditional support tools like learning emails and other templates.Delve deeper into how the RPM approach can help to motivate your workforce on our website.
4. Provide access to performance support tools
In a recent interview with the Social Learning Blog, leading author and proponent of the 70:20:10 framework Charles Jennings talked about why providing performance support tools are so important to learning success: “We have the situations where people are training, they go back to the workplace … and we find that it hasn’t actually changed their behaviors and they can’t do what’s expected of them. So, managers say they need to be trained again. You get this cycle where you’re training and training and training again.”
Some performance support tools available to workers improving their Business English include but aren’t limited to: job-aids like quick reference guides or company specific word-lists (available in GlobalEnglish LinGo Pro™), electronic repositories of template material like emails and presentations, Business English-centric discussion groups or online communities of English experts and learning portals.
Successfully improving your workforce’s Business English proficiency relies on utilizing virtual-blended learning techniques that employ the 70:20:10 framework, cultivating a supportive learning environment for employees and providing workers with the tools they need to continually improve their proficiency in the business language.
An idea is only as good as the person who articulates it. If a person can’t sell his or her good idea to a needed investor, then the idea is wasted. This happens in business all the time, all around the world.
In a recent study from the University of St. Gallen in Swtizerland, researchers examined the need for clearer communications in business. They found the inability to conduct a clear back-and-forth with employees, managers, investors, clients and business partners can lead to exponential losses for a company. An example may be that your organization has a meeting with an important foreign stakeholder to explain your new business strategy, but an obvious language barrier is keeping you from adequately explaining yourself. As a result, your business may lose that investor and the revenue he or she represents.
Becoming and, more importantly, remaining successful on in the global economy is starkly different than doing so locally. To truly compete, your business not only has to be one of the best in your industry, but you also need to maintain open lines of communication with other industry leaders, as well as international investors, stakeholders and even interested third parties who can affect public opinion, like media outlets. That means ensuring yourself and your employees have a solid grasp on the universal language of business, English.
You need to be an authority in your field, but establishing your company as such requires frequent conversations and exchanges. For instance, given the importance of the international economy, news organizations often dedicate staff to cover the daily happenings. If your business were to receive coverage, whether good or bad, it’s important your public relations staff are equipped with the Business English language training they need to adequately answer questions and give statements. In many situations, the reputation of your company may rest on the shoulders of a single spokesperson, whether it be someone talking to the press or giving a presentation to an important prospective investor. If that employee are unable to clearly and accurately deliver the message your company has worked to construct, you could miss out on a potentially lucrative opportunity.
Cross-border economics have helped blend national borders, taking previously segmented workforces and combining them so the best companies can find and obtain the best talent. However, introducing your staff to foreign cultures, especially if you’re new to the international marketplace, could prove troublesome if there are no Business English training programs in place to put everyone on the same page.
Try to consider a situation in which you’ve just brought on a highly recruited employee to help push your business past the competition. Assuming he or she is a nonnative English speaker with limited language training, miscommunicated instruction could lead to intense stress and ultimately the employee’s departure. Of course, your business can choose to recruit staff who already speak English, but then you’d be limiting yourself on talent. It’s currently estimated that more than one billion people in the world speak English, whether as a first or second language. That still leaves more than 6 billion whose only barrier to succeeding internationally may be learning English.
With a robust Business English training program, your company can explore talent from regions throughout the globe. With adequate options available for incoming staff, HR departments can attract talent based more on merit than the ability to communicate in your native tongue.
Consumers want to see more multicultural financial advisors in business, a new survey from Harris Interactive, a marketing research firm, found.
According to the study, conducted on behalf of investment firm Edward Jones, 79% of minority respondents feel investing in multicultural staff, specifically financial advisors, will help companies connect with their client bases. The same sentiment could easily be attributed to the global marketplace, which is why companies developing in every region are quickly adopting Business English to help them compete internationally.
Organizations vying to expand globally no longer have the luxury of searching for prospective job candidates exclusively in local markets. Regional talent pools are shrinking, local markets are becoming saturated and companies are now being forced to face the fact that doing business internationally means actually having to be international. However, human resource departments are struggling. In a recent survey of companies based in Europe, Middle East and Africa, only 4% of respondents felt comfortable describing their HR departments as “exceptional.”
The challenges facing HR
The reason executive leaders has such a bleak outlook for HR is they feel the department is regularly ill-equipped to handle the constantly evolving demands of talent recruitment and development. A separate survey from Deloitte discovered that companies emerging from the EMEA markets anticipate great changes to HR in 2014 and beyond.
A focus on business priorities
Deloitte survey respondents agree that HR departments need to transform to meet new business priorities, specifically talent recruitment and development, emerging markets and the departments’ own internal organization. There are several ways in which companies can assist HR in reaching these goals, but no method is as all-encompassing as adopting the universal language of the international marketplace, Business English.
Understanding the language of global economics bolsters the abilities of HR professionals, helping them to interact and identify prospective talent from all over the world, as well as foreign investors and partners. Sharing a common means of communication is crucial to establishing a viable middle ground on which relationships are built.
More to come for HR
Deloitte also found that companies today expect to face tough and more numerous challenges. Executive leaders will soon be looking for HR heads to begin restructuring their internal practices to address the growing demand for customized strategies that are precise and sustainable. Managers are looking for new ways to keep pace in a business environment that’s becoming dominantly international.
According to Exforsys, an IT solutions firm, English has become the most prominent language in the world. Hundreds of millions of people speak the language, and unlike the most widely spoken language, Chinese, which is largely confined to native speakers, English is used throughout the globe.
Keeping pace with international trends means being able to communicate internationally, and in an economy that’s both dynamic and diverse, Business English is the closest thing companies can get to a universal language. HR departments can use third-party Business English training programs to give HR and other staff the tools they need to excel in the global marketplace.
The next twelve months are expected to be somewhat of a transitional period for HR departments, as businesses from every variety of industries shift their focus to reflect the demands of an increasingly diverse economy. Business English proficiency is a resource every company needs to succeed in the global economy. Without an outlet with which staff can communicate with foreign customers, investors, talent and whomever else, organizations will inevitably struggle and, quite possibly, fail.
Is learning and development an essential part of your global strategy? A recent blog post written by 70:20:10 Forum Director Charles Jennings explained some businesses have yet to embrace L&D initiatives as part of their core priorities in 2014. However, the path international enterprises choose to take, especially those focusing on Business English training, will vastly affect financial outcomes and their ability to maintain a workforce full of the most capable individuals. At the same time, Jennings is quick to point out that global enterprises have an important decision to make when integrating professional development programs and training courses:
- Do you work with companies that provide the most innovative solutions?
- Do you rely on traditional methods that have both positive and negative attributes?
- Or worse, do you ignore your L&D needs completely?
Management in Conflict
Ultimately, managers are the ones who are in charge of selecting this integral aspect of preparing your international workforce. Jennings referenced a study conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council which looked at the attitudes and behaviors of management and executive leaders, as well as L&D professionals from companies operating in more than 50 countries worldwide. The research found 86% of leaders and managers recognize employee learning and training are critical to reaching their organizational objectives. However, a staggering 77% of executives and managers found their current L&D department’s performance was poor or very poor. A further 76% believed the professionals and structure responsible for training their workforce as ineffective, and 85% indicated their L&D departments aren’t effectively aligned with their existing talent strategy.
This data seems to be sending a mixed message. On one hand, you have managers and executives who realize the need for valid and valuable training and development, but their current resources aren’t getting the job done. In fact, the CLC study found 52% of respondents wouldn’t encourage the fellow employees to collaborate with their L&D department. This approach can be damaging to the way your international enterprise operates. Especially with employees spread in locations across the globe, your workforce depends on having access to high-quality and effective training. Business English is one of the most integral skills your multinational workers require to help move your company forward. If your managers are reluctant to recommend utilizing your L&D department, your employees’ skills will stagnate, which ultimately harms your entire operation.
Choosing the Right Manager a Difficult Task
This information goes hand in hand with a recent article posted to the Harvard Business Review blog. Citing research performed by Gallup, contributors Randall Beck and James Harter indicated just 13% of workers around the world are engaged with their work. At the same time, these numbers haven’t changed much during the past decade, which means the majority of companies haven’t embraced learning and development as much as they should.
As a result, millions of employees worldwide don’t have access to resources and materials that will help them develop their skills and improve the workplace. According to HBR, as much as 70% of variation in how engaged employees are at work can be attributed to their managers. What’s more, Gallup uncovered the fact that companies don’t choose an effective manager — or the best fit for the company — 82% of the time. As a result, the wrong people are making important decisions regarding the professional well-being of their employees. For example, when deciding which Business English solutions provider their company should collaborate with, the wrong manager will likely choose an option that won’t fit the organization. A manager who’s a better fit will decide to work with a partner that can provide a flexible and responsive training, such as a virtual blended learning solution, that addresses the needs of an international workforce.
How can you recognize an outstanding leader?
According to HBR, great managers are rare but essential for companies that want to remain competitive and integrate strategies that will benefit them in the long run. Look for a manager who is:
- Assertive: In other words, you need a leader who can overcome obstacles to achieve your company’s objectives.
- Even-handed: A manager shouldn’t base decisions on personal prejudices, but instead by looking at and analyzing the outcomes of specific projects.
- Motivational: If your workers aren’t engaged at work, it’s likely because they have a manager who doesn’t know how to empower them.
- Responsible: Leading by example, your manager needs to expect each employee to perform his or her duties to the best of their abilities.
Your choice in management ultimately affects your company’s learning and development culture. By selecting the right people to be in charge of various departments within your international enterprise, you’ll have a better opportunity to implement a Business English training strategy that is ideal for your workforce.
Is your company prepared for the international business marketplace? If you have any doubts, it’s important to confront these issues ahead of time to make sure you understand how to proceed when your company goes global.
Starting out in domestic markets can be difficult enough, especially as competition increases among local enterprises. However, these issues are expounded when international corporations participate A recent article for the Penn State International Affairs Review discussed the significant investment many Japanese companies have made to strengthen Business English capabilities. From the e-commerce giant Rakuten to the automaker Nissan, many companies are pushing their workforces to adopt higher standards of English proficiency to become more competitive internationally.
To achieve this objective, here are several questions to consider:
1. What are Your Target Markets?
Even if your business isn’t establishing itself in a country where English is the common or legal language like Australia or the U.S., there will likely be a significant numbers of English speakers present. This is especially true for the government and business sectors of any given nation. In fact, English carries the recognition of being an official language or holding special status in 75 different counties, according to U.K. charitable cultural organization The English Council. In all, about 750 million speak the language not as a native tongue, but specifically as a learned language.
English is the chosen language of business across the world, so being able to speak it in a business context will be a significant advantage to employees as they establish the company in its new environment. Sending staff members through a comprehensive Business English training course will give them an advantage no matter what area a company expands to.
2. What Level of Business English Proficiency do your Workers Have?
An accounting of employee skills before expansion will help determine exactly what steps a company needs to take as they move into a new market. If business was previously done mostly or wholly inside just one country, then Business English skills may be limited across the board. For organizations that already have an international presence, there are likely some employees who have a level of workplace English proficiency.
In both situations, Business English training will greatly help employees. Even if some staff members already have a level of proficiency with the language, additional training can help them sharpen their skills and learn how to better communicate in the business sphere. And for the new learners, the education will be crucial for their personal success and the growth of the business as a whole in its new market.
3. What Resources do you Need to Ensure you Remain Competitive?
While most organizations will have a good understanding of the physical resources they need for international expansion, such as facilities, personnel and equipment, the less-tangible items may be harder to account for. Businesses need to understand the cultural specifics of the country they plan to operate in, especially if they’re working directly with local organizations and governments or hiring from inside the country.
Research into local customs and practices can mean the difference between a successful meeting with local investors and a costly mistake that makes them think twice about doing business with your organization. One example of major differences is that in Japan, some businesspeople are not comfortable touching those from other countries, according to CNN. For this reason, businesspeople should work with an advisor with knowledge of the local culture, as well as develop their Business English skills so that a common language can be used to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings.
Are you finding the traditional classroom doesn’t work anymore as a stand-alone solution to learning Business English? Virtual-blended learning programs allow employees to have a virtual tutor while still getting all the benefits of a traditional teacher.
While overall language skills benefit employees in the workplace, mastery of Business English gives workers the tools to communicate effectively across all channels, including email, telephone or face-to-face interactions. What’s more, virtual-blended learning programs offer flexibility for users and allow your employees to decide which time and location is best for them to schedule one-on-one training with a language coach
Superior Benefits of Premium Blended Learning
A recent Global English study highlights the benefits of virtual blended learning compared to strictly online learning and traditional classrooms.
Virtual blended learning helps alleviate one of the most commonly-cited issues with traditional face-to-face learning: unnecessary expenses. The online training firm HAVA Partners estimated the costs differential of online training versus traditional in-person training and revealed some staggering numbers. Based on a company with 2,000 employees working in five locations, the organization found a three hour training session—including a seminar, role play, question and answer segment and testing—would cost a business nearly $110,000. On the other hand, online training reduces many of these costs. In fact, HAVA Partners indicated the same three-hour session could be reduced to one hour because all aspects are integrated into one platform would cost a company $37,000. Obviously, online training can be a more cost-effective alternative, but there are drawbacks.
While you can reach a large number of employees with online learning, your employees will likely suffer from low motivation. Why? They don’t have contact with a real person to help them along the way. This could lead to a sense of isolation, which is detrimental to learning Business English skills. However, a virtual blended learning approach combines the benefits of human training with the convenience and accuracy of technological innovation. For instance, your employees are still able to interact online with a personal trainer who will respond and motivate employees as they gain new abilities.
At the same time, virtual blended learning is active, intensive and flexible, which gives your employees greater control over their training. Think about it: With an hour long face-to-face, five-person classroom environment where employees have 20 minutes of talking time, they will likely end up speaking for four minutes each—if everyone is given equal opportunity. On the other hand, a thirty-minute virtual blended learning session will give each person 20 minutes of talking time. This provides your employees a far better chance to improve their verbal abilities which they can apply to their daily work.
The benefits of virtual blended learning are hard to ignore, especially when looking at the successes of Global English clients. The Global English study referenced above found workers’ telephone skills increased by 77%, while online learning alone provided only a 59% improvement. Employees saw nearly equal improvement in being able to hold discussions and participate in meetings.
What’s more, premium virtual blended learning offers even greater rewards to your workforce. Those using Global English’s Executive Coach™ training services saw an 88% improvement in skills necessary to hold meetings, discussions and telephone calls. More importantly, employees experienced an 88% increase in their ability to apply their learning to their work immediately—100% saw this in the long term.
After one month of virtual blended learning, employees utilizing Global English training services saw a 71% improvement in their job performance. Given three months, workers were able to increase the level of their work by 76%. With better training, your employees can do their duties and tasks better, which ultimately helps your bottom line.
Today’s multinational and multicultural businesses can’t fall behind in providing their workforce with state-of-the-art resources to improve proficiency in the language of business. From executives to the individuals that make up your workforce, virtual-blended learning offers advantages to all members of the corporate team