Americans lose almost $2 billion per year due to language or cultural misunderstandings, according to research by the Committee for Economic Development. As our workforce becomes increasingly more globalized, it’s more important than ever to prioritize our ability to effectively interact and communicate with other countries and cultures.
Despite an increased need for multilingual employees, fewer students in the United States are taking foreign language courses, and fewer still retain those skills for the long term. This makes it incredibly difficult for companies to find qualified candidates who also possess much needed language skills.
An alternative is to establish a language training program within your organization. A successful program at your company not only benefits individual employees, it’s also shown to drive better overall business results. A survey by Forbes found that “employees who participate in language learning have greater confidence, improved performance, and increased engagement in work.” 92% of executives also reported that the entire company reaped some benefit from language training at their organizations.
Learning a new language is not an easy endeavor, and many corporate programs fail because they lack several key components. Here’s how to structure your language program to ensure sustainability, happy employees, and tangible business results.
Align the language program with your company’s strategic goals
While it’s great to implement a language training program solely for the benefit of employee professional development, you need to consider how the program fits into your big picture business strategy.
What is the company’s global vision and which markets are you targeting that require better language proficiency amongst your employees? Is your sales team learning Spanish so you can expand in Latin American markets? Maybe you’re in the hospitality industry and along with language skills, your team needs to learn particular cultural nuances. Or you have global partners or customers and you’re hoping to strengthen these relationships and increase revenue in these markets.
As with any new initiative at your company, your language program needs to have clear KPIs. According to Forbes, “Companies that build language training into employee development plans and track KPIs are twice as likely to successfully link language-learning goals to the organization’s strategic priorities.” Continuously measure the program’s success so you can demonstrate its efficacy and contribution toward achieving the strategic business goals that you’ve identified.
Set up the right program structure
After you’ve identified goals and KPIs, you’ll need to determine what kind of curriculum structure is best for your employees. While it may be tempting to just provide employees with access to an app or online program, you’re highly unlikely to get the results you’re looking for if this is all you offer.
Programs are more effective if you include lessons with actual tutors. Speaking is often the most challenging component for new learners, so offering an actual person to practice with will help to build confidence in a less stressful environment. With the expansion of online learning, tutors can teach in person or virtually.
If you have a number of employees at the same language level, consider incorporating group classes into your program. This is a great way to build company culture and keep motivation high with peer accountability. Just be sure to keep class sizes low - fewer than ten - to ensure everyone gets adequate speaking practice and teacher attention.
Cultivate a company-wide culture of learning
Employees need to stay highly motivated in order to succeed with proficiency goals. If they aren’t motivated, they’ll hit a wall and won’t reap the full benefits of the program. According to Forbes, “Employees who remain motivated and achieve their target level of proficiency see real changes in the workplace—improved customer feedback, more confidence, and higher engagement at work.”
As part of your program, provide employees with resources that will make them feel engaged and encouraged. If you’re offering one-on-one lessons with a tutor, have the tutor cater lesson plans to individual learning styles and interests.
Make sure the value of your language program is also understood across the entire organization. In particular, management teams need to understand how language training supports the company’s goals so that the program has company-wide support and encouragement.
Customize the program for your organization
Each organization has different goals for its language training program, which means no curriculum should be exactly the same. Working with a language training provider that can customize your program will greatly improve business results.
With the latest natural language processing technology, it’s possible to zero in on the vocabulary and phrases that are most important for your industry and your business. If you’re in the fashion industry, you want your employees to be learning quite a different curriculum than an organization in the tech industry.
With the right program planners, you can make sure your employees are learning everything they need to know to excel at client and/or customer communication.
Ready to get started?
Fluent City creates customized language training programs for a wide range of industries. We’ll help you align your program with business goals, establish a curriculum, and teach employees all the way to proficiency. Contact us for a free program assessment.