The 21st century is often referred to as the Information Age, but in fact, it may be more accurate to say that we are living in the Communication Age, with more channels of communication available to us than ever before—especially in the business world.
Now, corporate communication encompasses email, video and telephone conferencing, social media, and instant messaging.
The landscape of human resources and talent management has also shifted drastically over the last 16 years thanks to new communication technologies: it is now increasingly common for even the smallest companies to work across international borders, hiring consultants from around the world when needed.
Given this evolution of modern business operations, having the necessary language skills to communicate effectively is now essential to achieving business success. Indeed, business writer Leigh Richards states, “communication plays a role in […] virtually every facet of a business’s operations”, while the Harvard Business Review affirms that “language pervades every aspect of organisational life” and “language strategy is critical for global talent management.”
With this in mind, this article examines how native language and foreign language skills enhance modern organisational communication, thus contributing to a business’s overall success.
Communicate your vision and inspire staff
It’s no secret that businesses thrive under a management team with strong leadership skills and a clear-cut vision. However, the only way to effectively lead employees and communicate a company’s vision is with well-honed language skills: “Great leaders motivate, encourage and inspire. They also train people, share new ideas and negotiate. These activities have one thing in common: they all require excellent communication.”
For business leaders and managers, the ability to express oneself clearly and concisely cannot be underestimated, whether they are working in their native tongue or a foreign language. Strong language skills allow leaders to be precise when giving direction and explaining a company’s objectives, so that all employees can work towards a clearly defined end goal. As Matt Mayberry of Entrepreneur.com puts it, “You can have the most crafted and thought-out job description, but if you can’t verbally express to your employees what your vision, goals and plan of attack is, your growth rate will be hindered.”
Similarly, being able to communicate well—both by expressing oneself clearly and fully understanding others—allows managers to build better relationships with employees and each other, as ideas and concerns can be shared more productively. Business consultant Greg Satell supports this, noting, “A crucial, but often overlooked, function of leadership is creating a culture in which effective communication can flourish.”
Strong communication means more engaged employees
In line with improving a business’s leadership and management, strong communication skills also ensure that employees are well informed and fully engaged. This is crucial to a business’s success, as employees serve as a conduit to its target audiences, and are the lifeblood of its operations.
Furthermore, through effective communication, management can establish clear expectations of employees’ duties and roles, thereby encouraging better performance and giving a better understanding of what employees must do to earn positive feedback.
When it comes to employees’ language skills, the ability to communicate and understand language well means they can better understand instructions and training, or express ideas and concerns. Not only does this lead to more engaged and confident employees, but it also fosters a corporate culture of mutual respect and positive social behaviours. The Communication Trust confirms this, saying: “There are links between speech, language and communication with learning, behaviour, social skills and self-esteem.”
Language skills help teams work better
Research has also proven that well-developed language and communication skills aid in team building, and help teams function more efficiently. Firstly, clearly expressed goals allow teams to work together better, as there is a unified understanding of the desired result; secondly, team members can exchange ideas and resolve disputes more effectively if they are able to communicate well.
This is particularly relevant in an era when working in a team no longer means sitting around a conference table together. It is now commonplace for employees to work with other team members or consultants based in different countries using ‘collaboration technology’ such as video and telephone conferencing or email. This requires team members to use language effectively, as virtual meetings don’t allow for the same non-verbal cues as in-person meetings.
Effective communication streamlines business expansion
When expanding into new markets, it becomes even more crucial for businesses to develop the language and communication skills of its leadership and employees. In many cases, this calls for staff to learn another language before the company expands into foreign markets. This language strategy not only facilitates communication across linguistic borders, but it also helps a business’s leaders and employees better understand the culture of their new market and colleagues.
When management learns the language spoken in a new business branch, it also helps streamline the onboarding and integration processes. Talent management expert Dr Mark Frederick and language specialist Agata Paciora affirm this, stating: “Familiarity with other languages is also important in developing a strong talent management approach to business, as this skill engages employees and creates a stronger sense of cultural integration.”
Sylvia Laws, founder of specialist global PR agency Technical Publicity, agrees, directly linking the growth of her business to her team’s multilingual skills. According to Laws, the ability to communicate with a native speaker allows her to do business faster and more efficiently across large, complex markets.
Even simple measures to improve accent and pronunciation in a foreign language can significantly benefit communication within an organisation, as well as professional relationships among staff members, as the ‘prestige accent theory’ indicates that accent can affect how speakers are perceived, particularly in terms of intelligence.
Developing your business’s communication strategy
With such overwhelming evidence of the value of strong language skills to business success, it goes without saying that every company should have a language and communication strategy in place.
At SIMON & SIMON, we can help you develop your language strategy, with the experience and expertise to help employees at every level improve their linguistic abilities, whether it’s by learning a new language, perfecting pronunciation, or learning the culturally relevant communication skills.
For more information, submit an enquiry and one of our multi-lingual account managers will help create a bespoke training for you.