English may be the world's first language for business, but being multilingual can give you a significant advantage when trading abroad.
Today's global labour market makes the integration of multilingual and multicultural workers crucial for sustainable business growth. But there's a challenge: how can you embed communication skills firmly in your strategies for developing the business' future pool of talent?
Although English retains its leading role as the world's first business language, ensuring staff can communicate in other languages gives you a significant competitive advantage. A study contracted by the European Commission Directorate General for Education and Culture revealed that a significant proportion of European companies lose business every year as a direct result of weak language and communication skills.
True talent mobility
Talent mobility is fast becoming a major driver in the uptake of the "perfect blend" that combines virtual classrooms, mobile learning and e-learning. As cloud-based technology has helped to create a tighter global talent management network, organisations are now adopting one streamlined process which encapsulates the needs of all their international counterparts.
Due to the standardised nature of blended learning, senior managers can identify existing language skills within the company and match them with the needs and opportunities on all levels of the organisation and for all corporate functions.
The results of blended learning can also be used to identify any hidden champions who can fill potential productivity gaps created in an organisation’s foreign subsidiary. In this way, communication skills training and development becomes essential to an organisation’s succession planning.
The perfect blend allows employees to set up individual competence targets that match their specific tasks and responsibilities. By encouraging and rewarding communications skills training and learning at all levels, staff can enjoy greater job satisfaction, increased career diversity and sense of personal achievement.
Multilingual learning opens up intercultural dialogue and better communication among staff. This has a knock-on effect of increasing efficiency, quality, accuracy and the smooth running of business operations, which might just open up opportunities that make the difference between success and failure. Multilingualism is not only essential for sales and to communicate across borders, but problems will be solved quicker and delays avoided if there is clear understanding between people on all levels.
More and more, companies are recognising the benefits of learning technologies and implementation of blended learning is on the rise. A study by Towards Maturity revealed that 77 per cent of companies believed learning technologies will help them respond faster to changing business conditions, an increase of 11 per cent from 2010.
The research showed that organisations are actively looking at learning technologies to increase access to learning, increase flexibility of learning, improve quality of learning, reduce training costs, and extend the reach of training.
Unlocking the potential for growth
Businesses in the UK have a long way to go before they can tap into the profit potential of a multilingual culture. Real progress will be achieved if businesses, large and small, develop creative and target-driven learning strategies from the ground up, which are adapted to the individual needs of each organisation.
Reaping the rewards of multilingual learning begins with a culture of inclusion. By taking time to understand the latest learning tools available, organisations can create an overarching attitude of learning. Companies can take stock of existing language skills among staff and use these to their advantage, while ensuring the consistent development of new ways of learning that are both motivating and compatible with the demands of the workforce.
In a rapidly changing workforce, language skills provide the key to communicating across borders and operating more efficiently and profitably. Individuals and organisations now have greater flexibility on how linguistic skills are delivered and effective results can be achieved regardless of skill, nationality or age. Organisations wishing to gain a competitive advantage will need to upskill staff in order to be better placed to reach out to new target markets and build lasting, strategic relationships. The opportunity for business growth is real, and there is no better time than now to seize it.