Mastering communications skills
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With businesses now tasked with finding ever more innovative ways to stay ahead of the competition, Armin Hopp, founder of corporate language training business Speexx, looks at what companies need to do to boost communication skills.
Digital technology has transformed global business into a fast-paced competitive environment, unconfined by time or space. As more organisations access an international pool of customers and staff, communication skills become essential to improving productivity and forging bonds across borders.
Slow economic recovery has also meant that businesses are under greater pressure to tap into new revenue streams outside domestic markets in an effort boost growth.
The Globish phenomenon
Let us compare the near-stagnant business growth in the United Kingdom to the stream of success enjoyed by countries such as China and India. One outstanding difference is that these markets have invested a significant amount of time and energy in improving communication skills within their labour force.
Many organisations in English-speaking nations assume they need not worry about language training because most business is conducted in English, but in reality, the international business space demands communication in ‘Globish’.
First coined in 1995 by Jean-Paul Nerrière, a former vice-president of marketing at IBM, Globish denotes a simple form of English which is becoming the widespread common dialect of the non-Anglophone business.
Many workers in countries such as China and India are so proficient in Globish that they can actually communicate with each other in this simplified language more easily than with British-standard English speakers, whose regional accents, pitch or idioms may not be widely understood.
Therefore, even though the English language finds its roots in the United Kingdom, organisations still need to embrace the Globish phenomenon if they wish to open the international doors of business understanding.
Embracing a multinational strategy from a local stance
While learning to embrace simplified English certainly helps to forge strong communication bonds, multinational organisations need more than Globish for off-shore subsidiaries to keep afloat. This is because employing staff skilled in the local language and customs is key to making an organisation’s global workforce more agile, productive and therefore more competitive. However, we still have a long way to before harnessing the full business potential of multilingual talent.
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. The study also recognised investment in language training technology as a major initiative which businesses could take to strengthen communication skills across borders.
Consolidation in the talent management market is opening up an exciting chapter in language training. The rise of globally deployed ERP systems means that companies can effectively integrate their talent management systems within the overall IT structure. As a result, companies can enjoy a more accurate and consistent way of managing learning for individuals across all their subsidiaries.
Blended learning and business succession
A dynamic, global workplace means more career mobility within multinational organisations. With generational changes in employment, potential vacancies may also arise. These need to be filled promptly in order to maintain business continuity.
However, organisations must recognise the availability of language and communication skills first, before planning how to make the most of staff talent and where to place them within the company.
Managers can encourage staff to not only use and develop the communication skills they have already acquired, but also to offer language and communication skills training in ways which are both motivating and compatible with a dynamic and diverse workplace.
Inflated assumptions of language skills within an organisation can be costly, so it is essential to conduct unified tests to identify the actual level of skill across the board. A consistent, standardised system ensures accurate measurability of skills and more visible results.
Is it worth the effort?
Participation in a multilingual culture needs to start from top management. One common reason for staff not improving their language and communication skills is often their line managers’ reluctance to make time for training. Many also place talent development as a low priority compared to day-to-day business activities. It is therefore imperative that companies create an overarching attitude of encouraging learning and development.