The L&D challenge: How to effectively upskill your employees
Around the world, there are more than two billion English speakers and English is the lingua franca in 55 countries and for global business. According to the Harvard Business Review, global companies like Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, Nissan, Nokia, Rakuten, Renault, Samsung, SAP, Sodexo, Technicolor, and Microsoft have required English language skills for employment since the early 2010s. And in communication-critical operations like aviation, where strong English skills are a matter of life and death, every pilot, crew member, and air traffic controller must be able to communicate fluently in English.
Thanks to the internet, even small businesses are global now and it has never been more important that employees have reliable, consistent English communication skills to function optimally. According to a study by Forbes and Rosetta Stone, of one hundred executives in large U.S. businesses, 67 percent believe that language barriers contribute to inefficiency. 46 percent do not believe that employees can collaborate effectively. 42 percent observe that productivity is lower due to language barriers.
Reporting for SHRM.com, David Grossman reviewed a survey of four hundred global companies with 100,000 employees or more. The article, called “The Cost of Poor Communications” cited an average loss of $62.4 million per year per company due to inadequate communication to and between employees.
On the other hand, consistently strong English skills across the organization creates tremendous opportunity: According to a CBI study from the same article, "sharing a common language can increase bilateral trade by between 75 percent and 170 percent.”
English language proficiency improves productivity & retention
The need for English reaches deep into every organization. People who work for international companies, for example, need to negotiate with clients or communicate with customers in English. No matter how talented, experienced, or technically skilled they are, they will not make a good impression unless they can communicate effectively.
Employees also need successful interactions with each other. Multinational corporations need English for everything from email, company meetings, and presentations, to watercooler conversations. The impact is both professional and personal -- improving English skills helps to reduce misunderstandings, foster teamwork, and collaboration, and allow everyone to feel included.
English training is also a powerful tool for increasing retention. According to a comprehensive study by the Global Journal of Management and Business Research Administration and Management, 51percent of employees “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that access to training increased their commitment to their employer.
English language assessments: The perennial L&D challenge
The effective use of English at the workplace requires a combination of cognitive abilities, language skills, and interpersonal skills (for example, oral and written communication, ability to engage with others, etc) but many organizations struggle with accurately assessing English and placing employees in the optimal training interventions.
This is a big challenge. Language skills are notoriously difficult to measure; individuals might speak well but have trouble with reading. They might have a good vocabulary but struggle with listening comprehension. Measuring such complex skills can be time-consuming and expensive. Human bias among evaluators can also affect the consistency of the results.
Establishing a uniform program for assessing skills can be difficult, but if you consider the following three elements, you will be able to roll out an English language program that will accelerate the proficiency of your entire employee population.
- Benchmark skills at the start of the program. Before the start of any training program, companies should evaluate each learner’s current language skills and establish a consistent benchmark.
- Evaluate proficiency in a consistent, objective way. Consistency is key when training many employees from different countries and job functions. The assessment and training interventions should be the same for all learners of the same proficiency level.
- Measure progress regularly and help learners improve. Training is rarely a one-and-done. Employees should be assessed regularly, and English training interventions adjusted to the needs of each individual.
Leverage technology to simplify assessments, training, and measurement
Technology offers a flexible, effective, and cost-effective method for corporate English communication programs. English assessments like the Pearson Versant English tests are available online and can be delivered anywhere in the world at any time. The administration is easy; companies can deploy, manage, and measure the entire program with one platform.
Click here for more information about how Pearson supports talent assessments and training for English language skills.