language training for employees

We all know that businesses thrive on identifying and maximizing the potential of opportunities that develop in the marketplace.

And nowadays, thanks to technological advances and international trade agreements, the opportunities available to forward-thinking companies have no boundaries.

The whole world can be, and increasingly is, the target marketplace of a business.

Of course, with these opportunities come great challenges, Corporate Language Learning being a highly significant tool for targeting that broad marketplace.

Language Training For Employees: Your Key To Better Customer Communication

language training for employees

Effective communication is key in business, especially when working with potential clients, suppliers, or employees from foreign countries which is becoming the norm in this evolving business landscape.

Having team members that can connect with these clients or contacts in their native language can be an essential tool to establish long-lasting relations that can broaden the company’s horizons.

The demand for employees with fluency in a second language, or multiple languages is on the increase and the recent report “Making Languages Our Business: Addressing Foreign Language Demand Among U.S. Employers,” based on a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), serves only to highlight some worrying trends for many American companies.

Here are their findings:

  • 9 out of 10 U.S. employers rely on employees with language skills other than English.
  • 56% say their foreign language demand will increase in the next 5 years.
  • 47% state a need for language skills exclusively for the domestic market.
  • 1 in 3 language-dependent U.S. employers report a language skills gap.
  • 1 in 4 U.S. employers lost business due to a lack of language skills.

Gone are the days of employees and companies being able to solely rely on English being the international language for business.

For the U.S. in particular the problem of recruiting language skilled staff is compounded by the fact that only 20% of U.S. children speak multiple languages, compared to 92% in Europe. It’s time to catch up or get left behind!

How to Bring Language Skills into your Business

Or, the Hare and the Tortoise

language training for employees

There are two primary options; the first is to recruit language skilled employees – the hare. This can be a quick fix option for single positions that require skills in a specific language, to help with a lead or a supplier.

This does very little to change the company’s culture or attitude toward language skills which in the current climate should be given more kudos.

The second solution to the skills gap is an investment and the implementation of a corporate language learning strategy with the company’s current employees – the tortoise.

This is a slow burner, and does require considerable investment, but this is a long term solution that ticks the primary objective of having a multilingual workforce but can have some impactful and positive knock-on effects:

Employee Retention

Let’s not make light of the challenge that learning a language can be. But by investing in your staff, and providing them the means to learn a language, by default you are making a show of your confidence in their capabilities.

This can result in employees feeling more secure in their role and having a better impression of the company. This means they are more likely to stick around.

There is also the prospect of higher earning potential (once language competence is achieved) and opportunities to work overseas should your company have branches elsewhere.

Employee Recruitment

On the flipside companies that invest in their staff will find that applicants will be more willing to join their team.

Offering language training speaks of a company with vision, with a global outlook and that knows its strength is in its people.

Improved Communication and Customer Service

free language lesson

Yes, your marketing efforts are important in attracting clients, and yes, the services you offer are too! But business is also heavily reliant on communication.

Only through effective communication can true understanding be attained. Whether it be a client’s brief or a specification you require from a supplier, clarity is key.

And errors, no matter how small, can be very costly.

Having staff that can speak the same language as that client or supplier can not only reduce these potential misunderstandings but can also generate better rapport and more trusting relationships going forward.

As Nelson Mandela once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Competitive Advantage

Having staff that can communicate competently in more than one language can add another feather to your companies cap, and for potential foreign clients, it could be a deciding factor.

For a U.S. company working with a Latin American client, for example, having Spanish speaking staff shows you are not only investing in your staff development but also that you are investing and committed to working with clients in the LATAM region.

That can be very reassuring for any business. The demand for bilingual staff doubled from 2010 to 2015, serving to highlight a change in demands being made on staff and their companies who are operating in the global marketplace.

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Modernized Corporate Culture

With the introduction of a corporate language learning program your staff will not only gain language skills, but also have a deeper understanding of a country’s culture, society, history, and with the right language course the corporate etiquette that they will be required to follow.

Small details that have huge dividends as your company will now have a much more cultural sensitive outlook.

The U.S. Committee on Economic Development shows that American companies lose over $2 billion each year because of language or cultural misunderstandings.

Smarter Staff

language training for employees

Language learning can be linked to brain reprogramming. Through learning a language we create thousands of new neural connections which can help the mind function more effectively.

Studies show that being bilingual also results in greater cognitive capacity, improved memory, increased levels of creativity, and better visual-spatial abilities.

So by introducing languages into your company’s training programs you can help to develop their brilliant brains.      

If the effective acquisition of language skills is NOT on your businesses to-do list here are some useful tips to begin the process:

  • Analyze your business’s language requirements both current and future. Review your staff’s current language competencies and make conclusions on where there are the greatest needs or shortfalls.
  • Incorporate foreign languages as a requirement within the recruitment process. Make sure your company communications (both internal and external) show an interest in prospects with multilingual and cross-cultural abilities.
  • Make learning a language easy for your staff with flexible schedules and convenient language providers that offer personalized and sector-specific classes tailored to your particular needs.
  • Prefer language services that offer qualified and native tutors to ensure your staff can gain as much cultural insight from their classes as possible.

To learn more about how employee language training can help create the corporate culture your employees — and you — deserve, along with other marketing and communications tips, sign up for our free monthly Dispatch (no spam, no cold sales pitches — we promise. Just valuable information to help your staff succeed).

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