Impacting global business with better communications

HR is overlooking the importance of language and communication skills, says one industry expert

Impacting global business with better communications
munication and language competence should be a key component of US organizations’ talent management strategy. HR departments are generally well placed to assess competency levels in all kinds of soft skills from leadership to time management, but many are doing little to assess levels of language and communications skills. Any talent management strategy that does not take account of the organization’s language and communications capacity is missing a major part of the skills matrix. As a starting point, all senior employees in an international enterprise need business English for writing reports and discussing financial results.
Communication development is not about language learning by rote. Effective business communications also encompass cultural differences and takes account of the lexicon of different vertical market sectors. Employees from the oil drilling or manufacturing sectors, for example, will need training and development in different language and communication skills from those working in healthcare. In addition, the latest generation of workers will not accept being force-fed irrelevant training in a classroom environment. Their expectation is to be offered a blended approach. Any smart organization should allow people to work at their own pace and in their own time and on their preferred device.
Most organizations have no visibility of the level of their employees’ communication skills. They may have a note that an employee has a qualification at a certain level in a second or third language, but they rarely take the time to check this competency level.
One major international firm with a multibillion dollar turnover opened a new plant in China and wanted to transfer top talent from its worldwide pool to run the new plant. They identified a candidate in Brazil who appeared to tick all the boxes and offered him the job. However, when he arrived in China, it soon became apparent that his level of business English was not up to the standard needed and communication with his peers was failing. The firm then had to put the employee through weeks of intensive communications training, all the while losing productivity. The issue lay in the way it had assessed the employee’s communications skills – a local HR person who also had English as a second language assessed the employee and both did not realize that he was not as proficient at business English as they thought they were.
Points to consider
Here are some top tips for HR professionals on initiating and sustaining a more effective approach to language and communications development:
  1. Use the CFR (Common Framework of Reference) standard to measure competency and audit the organisation’s language skills. This was initially created by the Council of Europe to provide a standard for workplace communications in five languages, with English being one of them. It remains the best global standard for organizations to measure business English communication levels for the workplace – most of the other major standards are aimed at the academic sector.
  2. Once you have completed an assessment of your current workforce, extend that plan to assess the language and communication skills of new joiners. This assessment can be built into the onboarding process so that the organization always has an up-to-date picture of workforce skills.
  3. Tailor learning delivery to workforce needs. Different styles of delivery might work better for different generations. Older employees are generally more receptive to traditional classroom learning while younger staff may prefer gamified learning in small chunks. The workforce is increasingly mobile and collaborative and learning delivery needs to reflect that and be available across multiple platforms. A blended approach, combining e-learning and personal coaching, is most effective.
  4. Align language and communications development to the organization’s strategy and make sure that local and head offices are taking a consistent approach.
  5. Maximize investment in your LMS system by plugging language and communications learning into the existing platform. All major LMS suppliers are getting excited about predictive learning. Clever algorithms identify each learner’s competencies before presenting them with learning tasks that build on their individual skill level. This also may now be applied to language and communications learning and development.
  6. Make full use of monitoring and tracking analytics to tweak the learning solution and get the best from it.
  7. Review the learning strategy regularly to make sure it is still aligned with the shifting business objectives of the organization and that it remains attractive enough to engage and retain current high performers and attract new stars. Look for opportunities to use the language and communication skills of employees to challenge and retain staff.
Organizations are moving faster than ever and staff churn is increasing. The only way to address this is to have all employees developed to maximum capability so that the organization has a talent pool to tap into and can respond to changing market conditions with maximum agility.
About the author
Mehdi Tounsi, VP Americas and Global Alliances at Speexx. Speexx helps organizations to drive productivity by empowering employee communication skills across borders. For more information, visit Mehdi is contactable on [email protected]

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