In May 2010, Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder and CEO of Rakuten (the Tokyo-based Japanese e-commerce company), introduced an English-only policy across the company’s operations.
All of Rakuten’s business activities, both internal and external, now have to be conducted in English – from meetings, presentations and training sessions to documents and emails. This ‘Englishnization’ of the Japanese workforce is all about making sure Rakuten has a common working language that will allow it to expand efficiently and successfully into global markets.
There is a lot to be said for the logic of Mikitani’s English-only policy, and for making English the universal business language of your global (or aspiring-to-be-global) company.
Imagine your organisation is based in Germany, for example, and the majority of your workforce can only speak German. Previously, you may have found this a perfectly efficient way of running your business, as all your employees can communicate easily with each other; but, then you set up a meeting with a potential customer, without realising their employees only speak English and cannot speak German. As ideal as your services or products may be for that client, your sales team is unable to close a deal because they cannot communicate with the customer – making it difficult to expand into new markets.
An increasing number of global companies are now using English as their common working language, including Renault, Nokia, Samsung and, of course, Rakuten.
As well as investing in English language courses to build up employees’ language skills, these companies have strict policies in place to encourage the use of English across all business operations.
According to Harvard Business Review, 1.75 billion people around the world speak English “at a useful level”, while 565 million people use it on the internet. Being able to communicate fluently with them is essential to the smooth and successful running of a global business nowadays.
Of course, there are also other benefits of using English in business and investing in English courses for employees. If companies have multiple teams based in various locations around the world, using English as a common language enables them to communicate effectively, boosting the efficiency of global operations (Nestlé improved its global buying and hiring processes by introducing English as a common language, for example).
As companies grow, the likelihood of them employing English-speaking staff increases, so having a language strategy is also a key part of ensuring they can acquire and retain the best talent from around the world. And, when companies reach a stage where they are ready to consider mergers and acquisitions (M&As), using English as a shared language boosts the chance of a smooth process (after all, M&As are complicated enough, without having a language barrier to contend with!).
Do you think there may be a need in your company for corporate English courses?
If so contact us at Simon & Simon today to talk about how bespoke language lessons and/or cultural tailored to your team’s needs can help with the successful expansion of your business.