Leaders in global companies will understand that there are challenges in conducting international business when employees don’t speak the languages of current and potential future customers, suppliers and partners. Language can be a barrier to effective communication both inside and outside the company when employees lack language skills—but it doesn’t have to be.
There are many solutions available today that can help arm your workforce with the language skills they need to succeed and help you to achieve your business goals. Where language training is provided, employees are more likely to enjoy simpler and more productive conversations and negotiations with customers and suppliers. The outcomes of these successful conversations stand to benefit the business. So too does enhanced collaboration between teams able to communicate, despite not sharing a common first language.
Rosetta Stone looked at the impact of language training among its business learners and identified five clear benefits of employee language proficiency based on their feedback:
- Strengthened business operations
Confidence is important in business because confident employees drive results through productive outcomes. It’s encouraging therefore, that the survey discovered that 70 per cent of business users found that language training made them more confident when working with teams, partners, and vendors. If sales discussions stall because of a communication problem, or invoice settlement gets held up because something was lost in translation, productivity drops and business goals may get missed. More efficient, higher quality conversations make for smoother business operations, while strong communications skills underpin positive outcomes from negotiations.
- Increased productivity
Companies of all sizes face challenges to deliver ‘more with less’ – pressure on costs, diminishing resources and high levels of competition conspire to make time a valuable commodity. Anything that helps employees to be more productive delivers benefit, so 50 per cent of survey respondents saying they save an average of three hours or more per week through efficiency gains resulting from their language training is compelling. Overall, 64 per cent believe language training made them more productive working with teams, partners and vendors.
- Employee engagement
As we have already seen, millennials in particular value opportunities for professional development and growth. Yet, it isn’t just those growing up in the digital age who want to learn. Global businesses have long-since recognised that motivation at work depends on more factors than simply getting paid. Accordingly, it steers away from a ‘tell, do’ relationship with employees in favour of a two-way, mutually beneficial arrangement that includes investing in people’s futures and recognising their needs. With this in mind, it’s encouraging to see that 63 per cent of those surveyed said that being given access to language training makes them feel more engaged in their work.
- Company loyalty
In a similar vein, engaged and motivated employees are more likely to stay and develop a sense of loyalty to their employer. The value of this to companies can’t be overstated – longevity in one’s position builds knowledge and experience, which is lost to the company when staff leave. Recruitment and training comes at a cost, and newer recruits have to spend time gaining familiarity with the business, during which time they are less productive than their more established colleagues and not able to add as much value. Employee retention is therefore a high priority for business leaders and HR departments because turnover is costly, disruptive and also dispiriting for those who remain. Ongoing opportunities for development help attract and retain talent, so much so that 58 per cent of our respondents said they are more likely to remain in their current company thanks to employer-provided language training.
- Appealing to millennials
Millennials have grown up in an age where information is just a click away and geographical borders are no impediment to opportunity. This demographic values learning and development, so much so that in our survey 71 per cent said they are likely to leave a position if they are dissatisfied with their development. Language training is an investment in people and their future, in addition to the company’s future. It opens up opportunities to trained employees to expand their horizons and be rewarded by their employer for their efforts. This is especially appealing to globally-aware millennials, who will make up 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025.
International business drives a need for language skills within the workplace and through these skills, companies can enjoy improved interactions with customers, suppliers, partners and across their own cross-border teams. Employees with language capabilities are better equipped to communicate and build relationships with customers and to establish collaborative links with overseas colleagues. Effective communication also helps workers to be more efficient and therefore more productive, which has a positive impact on the bottom line.
Supporting employees’ desire for continual growth and development through training opportunities that include language learning engages and motivates employees and encourages company loyalty. This keeps valuable skills and experience within the business and helps maintain good morale. As our survey demonstrates, through language learning opportunities, businesses can strengthen their operations, increase productivity and give employees the kind of development they seek for a stable and motivated workforce.