There are many reasons that your business may need to invest in language training – your team may be expanding into international markets; your company may be merging with or acquiring a new business internationally; your workforce could be made up of employees for whom the local language isn’t a mother-tongue language; or perhaps you simply want to streamline your global operations and reduce friction with international communication.
Whatever your needs are, it is important that you take the time to carefully choose the most suitable business language course for your company, so that you can be sure the language lessons will offer a significant return on your investment while being convenient and flexible enough to fit with each individual’s requirements in the team.
The benefits of investing in language training
English is fast becoming the universal language of business, and an increasing number of professionals around the world are able to converse in English competently.
Saying this, clients and/or other team members might have only had basic language training and, if employees cannot efficiently communicate in the client’s or their colleagues’ first language, there may be miscommunication, internal inefficiencies, lengthy negotiations or even loss of business.
Indeed, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) says that the UK economy loses nearly £50b per year due to lack of language skills.
Here are some key questions you can answer to help you choose the right language training option for your team.
1. What are the exact language training needs of your organisation?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to language training. Whether you’re part of a start-up, small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME), public-sector organisation or a large international corporation, your language requirements are completely unique and the course should be tailored specifically to the team or individual’s needs.
For example, public-sector organisations in the UK often need to invest in English language training for non-native English employees to meet the Immigration Act 2016 requirements and ensure that workers can communicate fluently with customers and patients in English.
Global businesses, on the other hand, might find that a lack of in-house language skills (and a reliance on external translators) is slowing down their progress in international markets and that investing in language training is important for speed, efficiency and cost savings. Specific skills may be required for specific team members as well: while some team members may need more skills with communicating via the telephone, others may need skill for presentations or document writing.
The focus of the language training may also vary by sector – if your organisation is in the fashion industry, then it would make more sense for your team members to learn the words for materials, colours, clothing types, and textile equipment rather than, say, language associated with the finance and banking.
Businesses that operate from a number of global locations might also find that there are language-related communication issues between staff at each of the offices, which lead to misunderstandings and errors. Ensuring that all colleagues share a common language is essential to the smooth running of a business, and language training can provide this.
2. Which language is most beneficial to your company’s growth?
If your company is investing in language training in order to achieve global expansion, or to tap into new markets, then it is important to ensure that the language lessons you choose match the growth plan.
For example, your company data might show that an increasing percentage of business is coming from Saudi Arabia, making Arabic language training a logical option.
This insight should be balanced against a wider economic understanding so that you can be sure you will see a return on your investment.
According to the British Council, there are 10 foreign languages that are of “crucial importance” to future prosperity in the UK: Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish, and Japanese.
3. What is the most suitable type of training for your team?
Depending on your business objectives, there are different types of language training available to organisations. If employees go on regular business trips to countries like France, Spain or Germany (where English is commonly spoken), and simply want to build up a conversational level of the language, then basic training is probably satisfactory.
If they are doing business in a non-European country like Japan, China, India or Russia, where the customs are vastly different to those of the UK, then you might want to consider investing in cultural training. This will help them master important details around business etiquette – for example, body language, gift giving and conduct during meetings.
Language training is also not just about verbal communication and can be immensely beneficial in honing written language skills for companies that want to expand their range of products into new international markets. After all, a marketing campaign that sounds great in English may have its meaning lost if not sensitively translated. Having someone in the team that is able to spot any translation issues will help the company improve efficiency in its expansion.
At SIMON & SIMON, we assign a dedicated Account Manager to any organisation that needs language training of any kind. They conduct a thorough Course Needs Analysis before organising your training course, ensuring that they know exactly what language training and specific skills are required. Then they will interview and select the most appropriate teacher for those requirements, and then together with that teacher craft a course plan to achieve the required results in the desired time frame. With this bespoke arrangement for language training, our clients are always assured that they are getting the most suitable type of training for their needs, rather than sending their employees to a formulaic language training course.
4. Who are the critical employees that require language training?
For many companies, investing in business-wide language training for all employees is simply not feasible or beneficial, so it is important to think carefully about which employees are worth training up to get a return on your investment.
If your business has close links with a particular country, then language training should be provided for employees that are directly involved with communications with this country.
There might be a group of senior employees that regularly take business trips to the country, for example, who would benefit from being able to converse in the language in order to build relationships and conduct negotiations more efficiently.
This doesn’t mean that more junior members of staff do not require language training, though: if a member of the sales team or customer service team frequently finds that they are unable to deal with calls due to a language barrier, then providing them with training will mean that they can help to maintain the company’s reputation and build more business.
It may also be that there are employees going on secondment to another team that speaks another language. Easing this transfer with language training will ensure that the employee stays focused on their work instead of expending energy on trying to adjust.
5. What is your company’s overall language strategy?
Having a cohesive language strategy in place will ensure your company is able to boost its efficiency and enhance its performance through the consistent use of language. Whether you are looking to expand into new markets, improve customer service and client relations, or simply facilitate communications amongst staff members, if everyone is on the same page regarding language use, you can expect to have better overall results.
If your company is considering investing in language training of any sort, get in touch today and our experienced Account Managers will help guide you through the process of crafting the best course for your needs.