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Panos Kraniotis

Rosetta Stone

Regional Director, Europe

Read more from Panos Kraniotis

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Is your business global-ready?


A ‘global-ready’ business arms itself with employees that possess language skills enabling them to communicate with colleagues and customers from different countries and relate to different cultures. This is a healthy position for a business operating internationally, as well as one planning an international future. The benefits are many and can directly impact the bottom line.

Employees able to converse with business contacts in their own language tend to be viewed as more trusted and are able to form stronger relationships with suppliers and customers by forging a bond through language. Within the company, language skills also help inter-team working and collaboration, all of which is good for business.

It’s a surprise therefore, that IDG research last year found that 90 per cent of business line leaders face communication skills gaps within their teams. What’s more, two-thirds of them don’t partner with their HR learning & development teams to address them. The research reveals a compounded problem: a major employee communication skills gap further hampered by poor communication at the management level.

If business line leaders and HR aren’t discussing how to address the language skills needs of the business, then the problem can end up being hidden within the siloes of departments and divisions. This makes it difficult to assess the full extent of a company-wide skills gap and even more challenging to close that gap.

Turning this around takes collaboration that starts with the individual departments and business line leaders communicating the issue to HR and the organization’s Learning & Development team. But how does one go about doing this?

To help frame the discussion, consider these questions:

How widespread and diverse is the range of languages already spoken within your company?
Some business line leaders will have a good idea which skills already exist in the team, but others may not. Simple surveys can be a good way to discover where skills exist, and also where deficiencies may be present.

To what extent do your teams interact with customers or suppliers who speak other languages? How successful are these relationships?
When we spoke to executives responsible for language training in large enterprises in Britain and Germany, 79 per cent said relations improve with customers through languages and 72 per cent said that sales opportunities increase. This suggests that businesses have a lot to gain from investing in the language capabilities of their workforces.

Does the business’ training and development strategy meet its need for languages this year? What about next year and the next three to five years?
The knowledge of employee skills that business line leaders hold needs to be paired with knowledge of the business’ short, mid- and long-term strategy. Which countries and regions does the firm do business with now? How is this going to change and develop in the next year, three years, five years? This will help inform your planning process, and help you figure out which language skills your workforce will need to possess.

Does the training and hiring plan align with the business’ long-term strategy, especially with regards to expansion overseas?
A company-wide talent management approach best supports the goals of the business. If the firm is going global, is this strategy reflected in the hiring and development goals of HR and line of business plans? If it isn’t, there’s scope for improvement.

If senior management isn’t aware a skills gap exists in the business it will appreciate a considered proposal that identifies and sizes the need, outlines a solution, and establishes metrics to determine return on investment.

A centralised global training approach to building language skills will deliver economies of scale and can be properly measured. Departmental initiatives can’t match this – they operate on a smaller scale, so it will cost more per trained employee and they can only be measured at the line of business level. Attaining a company-wide view of the success of training when it has been organised within separate lines of business would mean tracking across divisions and multiple training resources, which is much more difficult to do.

This simple flowchart provides a guide to help establish how global-ready your business is, and it provides links to further resources to help you plan a talent survey, produce a talent map, and achieve consistency through personal development plans.  

If your business operates globally - or has international ambitions - and lacks in-house language skills, it’s time to address the skills gap that could, in time, hold the business back. Identifying and turning around a shortfall in language proficiency is a big step on the road to business global readiness and is therefore one well worth taking.


Author Profile Picture
Panos Kraniotis

Regional Director, Europe

Read more from Panos Kraniotis

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