Language training offers huge benefits to your business, but inevitably these come at a cost. As well as investing in the training programme itself, you also have to factor in the opportunity cost involved – for example, what might your expert team have done with their valuable time instead?
Here at Simon & Simon, we understand the potential dilemmas you may face when weighing up the most effective way to spend your training budget – after all, every business needs to make difficult choices about expenditure, and what to prioritise first. Furthermore, every organisation knows how easy it is to take a wrong – and expensive – turn when expanding the business.
This blog considers these concerns carefully, while making a strong case for the many benefits of introducing language learning to your organisation.
Investment: The return
First, it makes sense to define the term ‘return on investment’. One helpful way to think about this is to consider blockbuster movies. Film studios take a high-budget risk on effects-laden superhero movies because they consistently sell tickets – and superhero sequels can usually be relied upon to repeat this success. If a sequel is a fairly safe bet, the investment is likely to repeat the returns of the original – or perform close enough to make its investors happy. As long as the returns outweigh the investment, the movie can be considered to have returned on the investment required to make it.
Of course, language learning is a little different to making movies – but the principles are the same when it comes to return on investment. It is perhaps a little trickier to pinpoint the specific financial outcomes that result from an employee’s language expertise. However, if you can see business deals on the rise in export markets, for example, you can perhaps deduce that language learning training has in part contributed to that success.
Time is money
Another aspect to consider involves the extent of the investment you make – if you spend very little time and money on something and it brings back big returns you will make the management team very happy indeed, but if you have to make a large commitment to generate your anticipated returns then you may have senior management knocking on your office door to explain yourself (especially if the returns are taking a while to manifest!). How much time (and money) is enough – and how long will it take for your investment to pay off?
The investment required for language learning training will vary depending on your needs, but we believe that the returns will quickly start to come back to reward you. Even basic language skills can impress your prospective customers – they will appreciate the effort to use their native language rather than rely on English, even if the conversation is limited to friendly greetings and pleasantries. A basic understanding of the local culture will also enhance the business experience for your potential clients, who will value your considerate approach to doing business.
Ultimately, we believe that language training will reap rewards if your strategic plan involves taking your business into uncharted international territories – so looking to your business strategy is an essential part of ensuring a return on your investment.
Strategise for success
Language skills may be pivotal to success in some global economies, but in others they may not have the same impact – or have much power to open the doors to future success. Consider your company’s strategy carefully. Can you make a strong case for the benefits of language learning training?
One example where languages can make all the difference is export businesses. The British Chambers of Commerce conducted a survey in 2013 that revealed the importance of languages to overseas export deals. The survey found that 62% of businesses looking to export in future saw a lack of language skills as a barrier to making this leap.
The survey also gave an indication of the extent of the problem for current exporters – while French, for example, was spoken to some extent by employees at 71% of businesses, only 5% felt that the skills were sufficient to trade with French-speaking countries. The problems looked even more concerning for businesses seeking to trade outside the Eurozone – 95% of businesses had no knowledge of Russian or Chinese language skills, even though these economies were on course for significant growth in GDP (and would, therefore, have become increasingly attractive export markets).
The benefits of language learning for your organisation are many and varied (we share some of the more indirect benefits here), but the real return will be to your company’s bottom line – and if you are aiming to go global in markets where English is not a primary language, your return on investment looks pretty secure.
One last thing on your strategy – language training in English may also prove beneficial to your overseas colleagues working in the UK, or who are working with your UK team. If you think some English for business training may help support your colleagues, this may also be a smart training investment.
Supply and demand
The concept of ‘supply and demand’ is an important contributor to determining the likely return on investment, as a US study found. The authors calculated that there was a 2% premium on earnings for US employees with a second language. However, it also found that this premium varied, depending on the language: German, for example, had a higher premium in the US than Spanish (3.8% versus 1.5%).
Therefore, the principle of supply and demand becomes important – with so many Spanish language speakers already living in the US, it diminished the premium on speaking Spanish, and yet German speakers generated the higher premium because they were comparatively scarce, and Germany is a significant centre for global trade. Economically speaking, German was a better choice in principle for language learners in the US – the return on investment for learning German was higher for US language learners.
The key outcome to consider here (beyond the economic number-crunching) is to think about your market, your competitors, where you want to do business, and whether the language skills you need are easily available to you. Sadly, the reality is that the language skills you may need are on the decline in the UK, even though language skills are increasingly in demand by UK businesses – which is why language training may be pivotal to your organisation’s future success, and a valuable investment with a great return.
Language skills offer a fantastic boost to your organisation, whether you are hiring multilingual talents or nurturing them in-house. Contact Simon & Simon today to find out more about our courses and our language learning locations across Central London and beyond. Whatever your training requirements, we can tailor our wide range of language courses, including English, French and German, to fit the unique needs of your business.