Are we moving at the speed of the weakest communicator?

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Written by Armin Hopp on 18 May 2016

In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, CEOs are setting aggressive agendas for fast change. It is vital that an organisation-wide understanding of business goals is clearly articulated and understood.

Organisations need a common language if they are to define, talk about and work together towards a common goal. Yet developing a workforce with a high skill level in a common language, most often English, is a challenge.

The harsh reality is that the lowest common denominator when it comes to language and communication skills sets the pace of the CEO’s cherished change agenda. If a good proportion of your workforce has poor language and communication skills and is lagging behind the pack, this weakens the organisation as a whole and makes it vulnerable to attack by predatory rivals.

Is your organisation more like a herd of buffalo or a pride of lions? Elephant and buffalo move their weakest members into the middle of the herd to protect them from danger and present a show of strength to predators even if progress is slower. Lions use their strength and attack as the best form of defence.

Driving skills development

An organisation is at its strongest and most able to drive through the CEO’s agenda when all its members have effective language and communication skills.

Perhaps surprisingly, lack of support by management is the major obstacle most learning and development professionals (27 per cent) face when they are attempting to tackle communication skills development. When budgets are tight, learning and development departments are first to feel the squeeze.

Foreign language skills are only part of the skillset needed to communicate effectively. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of HR directors and managers, L&D professionals, learning content developers, training managers and C-level executives responding to the Speexx survey thought intercultural differences had a negative impact on organisational communications.

Fewer than 21 per cent thought lack of foreign language skills among employees was the issue. And only 12 per cent of respondents thought technical obstacles were getting in the way of communication skill development.

E-learning remains an effective way of underpinning skills development for organisations looking for consistent global delivery of language and communications training.

Many learning and development professionals have been using e-learning solutions for some time with benefits ranging from its flexibility and instant accessibility (cited by 46 per cent of survey respondents), increased motivation and learner retention (20 per cent) and a reduction in the cost of traditional classroom-based training (14 per cent). 

However, it may be time to reassess how best it can support business objectives.

Here are some top tips to make sure language and communication learning supports corporate goals:

  1. Ensure that corporate goals are defined and clearly articulated in the first place. In other words, plan a comprehensive strategy.
  2. Don't take paper qualifications for language competencies at face value. Put in place consistent global assessment as a foundation to build language and communication skills to the level required by the business.
  3. Enable mobile learning if you have not done so already. Over a third of companies (35 per cent) provide or allow mobile devices at work that are used for learning.
  4. If you are one of the 40 per cent of global companies that has embedded e-learning, consider how to take it to the next level, supported by structured coaching and mentoring.
  5. Personalise language and communication training programmes for each individual to get the best result – and reward individuals for progress.

Interestingly, Donald Taylor from the Learning and Performance Institute, commented on the need for L&D to modernise service provision, highlights that people at the top of the organisation often don’t see the value L&D brings to the business.

Here at Speexx we agree that training professionals need to take a leadership role in learning and show CEOs that learning and development delivery has transformed in the past few years and can play a core role in developing language and communication skills that will have a real impact on business results.


About the author 

Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx.