The British Council has published its latest Language Trends survey report, which highlights a worrying trend that implies the UK’s future workforce may need more language training during their employment, rather than arriving at jobs already fluent in other languages.
The survey indicates that the number of students learning a language beyond GCSE level in England is continuing to decline. Students are also questioning whether they should invest their precious academic time (and money) in developing their language skills for the best employment opportunities in a post-Brexit market.
These findings suggest that the UK’s upcoming workforce will primarily consist of monolingual English speakers, so any business that wants to deal effectively with its global partners will need to make in-house language training a crucial component of its business strategy. This necessity represents an opportunity for proactive employers, but it could spell disaster for under-prepared businesses.
The survey report notes that linguistic skills will be key to the UK’s economic and diplomatic success going forward. It also expresses serious concerns about the future of language learning in further and higher education, referring to a “crisis in A-level languages”. Where does this leave UK businesses as they seek to recruit the best and brightest talents into their organisations?
The limitations of English as the language of business
Modern wisdom suggests that English is the language of global business, so are additional languages becoming less important to ambitious business professionals?
It may be tempting to assume that native English speakers have the business world at their feet, but the reality is that, for many organisations, diverse language skills are essential to success (and candidates that can bring strategically important language skills to the table may have a keen advantage over their monolingual peers).
Indeed, Jean-Claude Juncker only recently dismissed the future importance of English for European businesses, claiming that “slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe”.
The outcomes of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations may mean that the ability to communicate with flexibility across both language and cultural barriers becomes pivotal to business success, as UK organisations seek to build new trade relationships throughout Europe and beyond.
Businesses will need employees that can communicate effectively – and often in languages other than English – to be confident of winning global business in a changing and unpredictable world.
Will you need language learning within your organisation?
If current educational trends in language learning in the UK continue (and especially if your business operates internationally), it will become increasingly important for you to create an in-house language learning culture in areas where language skills are central to your business’s operations – because the incoming workforce is increasingly unlikely to have those skills already.
By investing in language learning, you can recruit the right candidates for roles without having to factor in any existing language skills – you will just need to be confident that potential employees have the aptitude and enthusiasm for embracing the language learning challenge.
In many ways, this presents businesses with an opportunity to work out their specific language requirements – those that will enhance their business – and therefore introduce bespoke language training for employees that focuses on the essential skills that will lead to greater business success.
For example, if you anticipate that future business growth will revolve around opportunities where your employees need to court and negotiate with organisations in Spain and Italy, you can invest ahead in Spanish negotiation skills and business terminology in Italian for your staff in order to ready them for the negotiating table.
Language training is more than just a means to an end, however; it brings additional benefits to the organisation by encouraging collaboration and shared learning, and creating an increased sense of community in the workplace. Future business partners will also appreciate your efforts to initiate discussions in their native tongue – even if you need to employ English at some stage to help finalise the deal.
Future-proof your business with forward-thinking recruitment strategies
A decline in language learning during further and higher education may impact the language skills that future employees can bring to your organisation, but it does not have to limit your business’s reach – and it should not hold back dedicated professionals seeking to make their mark in the modern business world.
By looking ahead to your business’s future and the pool of talent you will be hiring from, you can tailor your approach to recruitment and training so that you can engage the most desirable candidates without compromising the international needs of your organisation.
Make strategic plans that consider your future language requirements so that you can focus your energy on establishing a motivated and effective workforce that is targeted towards business success. Your future hiring decisions can then be driven by the direction of your business at the time, enabling you to pick and choose from the next generation of talented business minds without being limited by language barriers.
Keeping ahead of trends in language learning – and providing solutions to tackle the upcoming language skills deficit in the UK – allows you to plan for your business’s future.
To find out more about how Simon & Simon can help you to develop bespoke language learning programmes that will align with your current and future business objectives, contact us today.