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Armin Hopp


Founder and President

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Building the global business case for language learning


Businesses operating across borders face challenges ranging from poor communication, having to redo work due to misinterpretation and errors, and lack of trust due to cultural misunderstandings.

It is increasingly difficult to engage employees as operations go global and many organisations are looking to motivate employees and attract new recruits by offering training.

The key to organisational success is not scalable efficiency, but scalable learning, according to Bersin by Deloitte [PDF].

It predicts that in 2017 a ‘focus on employee experience will overcome process design in HR’ and that HR professionals have three main tasks – to make sure operational people processes work efficiently, to build a talent system and to understand, manage, and improve the employee experience.

Improved communication skills will support all of those objectives

Communication skills training that truly motivates employees is key. At the same time, motivation is crucial for effective learning and there are a number of ways of driving motivation.

A culture of continuous learning and training on the job contributes to employer branding, enhancing the employer’s appeal to prospective new talent.

At the same, soft skills such as language and communication skills facilitate and accelerate an organisation’s ability to scale and react more effectively to a changing business climate.

It is clear that if they are to be successful, organisations need to build a scalable learning platform for soft communication skills that will act as a foundation for a scalable business.

HR leaders of expanding global organisations need to know if their workforce is equipped with the skills required to enter new markets.

Discerning how knowledgeable employees are about other cultures, customs and communication norms is vital to successful entry into a new region.

Data from your learning programmes will help you determine how to best prepare the workforce to do business in new markets.

Building trust

Trust between colleagues matters, but one third of organisations is falling behind when it comes to embedding the necessary high-level language and communication skills, according to the latest annual Speexx Exchange survey findings.

As many as 90% of respondents to the survey are now using e-learning, but there were indications that respondents are increasingly understanding the importance of blended language and communications learning delivery.

Almost half of respondents felt that they had not fully embedded a culture of learning in their organisation.

Many were looking at doing more to blend mobile e-learning with coaching and mentoring for more effective learning delivery, particularly when it comes to language and communication skills.

HR leaders of expanding global organisations need to know if their workforce is equipped with the skills required to enter new markets.

There are a number of practical steps HR professionals can take to drive language learning in the business:

Communicate the benefits of language and communication learning

It is important to continue to communicate the benefits beyond the initial business case. Communicate successes clearly.

Make sure everyone knows when language and communications training results in a win for the business – whether that comes in the form of higher sales in new geographies or in gaining a big new customer.

Before putting in place any language learning initiatives, plan how you will measure the success of the initiatives

Start by establishing where the organisation is on the continuum towards mature learning provision and defining where you want to be.

Reference to the ‘Towards Maturity’ report, ‘Unlocking Potential: Releasing the potential of the business and its people through learning, 2016-2017 learning benchmark report’ can help with that.

Go for quick wins – if you can show a positive impact on the bottom line, on customer service metrics or Net Promoter Scores as a direct result of pilot learning initiatives, this will go a long way towards building a business case for rolling out language and communications learning across the organisation.

Get senior buy-in for language learning by addressing C-level pain points

Towards Maturity research with the C-suite highlighted key C-level concerns. Researchers found that 72% of CEOs believe the next three years will be more critical for their industry than the last 50 years.

Their overriding priority was to create an organisation fit to compete in a digital world – 80% of business leaders cite digital transformation as a priority but only 35% felt they had a ‘clearly defined’ strategy to achieve this.

CEOs also saw a major challenge of continually innovating and exceeding customer experience and 72% of CEOs were concerned about the availability of key skills, especially as 48% plan to increase headcount in the coming year, while more than half were reporting report skills gaps in key business functions.

The good news is that 94% of business leaders agree that workforce development requires continuous investment and improvement. L&D professionals must communicate to the C level that language acquisition is key to addressing many of these issues.

Tap into existing mobile and collaboration platforms

If HR professionals deliver learning through existing platforms this is not only cost-effective, but it is also the best way to get people to learn. If they see opportunities to learn at the point of need when they're accessing work systems on their mobile or using your collaboration platform, they are so much more likely to access the learning and assimilate it effectively.

CEOs also saw a major challenge of continually innovating and exceeding customer experience and 72% of CEOs were concerned about the availability of key skills.

However, despite the fact that almost a fifth (18%) of learning professionals responding to the Speexx survey identified leveraging learning everywhere as one of their biggest challenges, up from 9% the previous year, by late 2016 just 38% of organisations said they provide or allow mobile devices that are used for learning, up from 33% the previous year.

Use data to drive more effective language and communication learning

This is not just about using employee and learning data to identify skills gaps and check progress. It is also about gathering broader data that supports organisational strategy and using that to plan for learning that will support the business.

If the data shows that customer service levels are poor in one particular area, for example, it might be necessary to boost language and communication skills in that locality.

If the business has a medium-term strategy to target a new area of the world, it would make sense to start putting in place relevant language and communication learning now.

Communication is more than language

Multilingualism is the key to operating effectively across borders and driving business expansion. Learning a new language is just the start.

Communication and soft skills development activities must also address cultural understanding and non-verbal communication.

Organisations seeking competitive advantage in the global marketplace will fail unless they have a robust and scalable soft skills base that will enable them to build lasting strategic relationships.

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Author Profile Picture
Armin Hopp

Founder and President

Read more from Armin Hopp

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