Language training for a globalised workforce

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Written by Panos Kraniotis on 16 September 2016

With a more globalised world, language skills have become essential for all levels of the organisation and across business functions. There is a demand for international understanding and a level of cooperation never before seen because of complex challenges faced by global businesses. It has become essential to be able to communicate with clients, potential customers, partners, and employees across multiple regions.

Therefore, language training shouldn’t be viewed as solely for senior business leaders. For all companies with a global outlook, employees that can communicate effectively, globally both internally and externally are indispensable. 

For more successful working relationships

Not only does language proficiency in the workplace have a direct impact on a business’ bottom line, it helps form stronger relationships. This results in more successful interactions with customers, suppliers and colleagues in their native language, building level of trust that otherwise could not exist. This can lead to more sales, higher productivity and more successful working relationships.

Showing the benefit of training programmes for business often falls to HR or Learning & Development (L&D). For them, how can an upshift in key performance indicators be directly linked back to language learning initiatives? This has been challenging to do to date, but it is a critical part of a successful programme, as measurement of progress and the demonstration of actual business benefit of all investments is imperative, especially in difficult times when budgets are tight and companies are scaling back on spending.

Reporting for better learning outcomes

In order to reach this level of insight, the important first step is reporting learning outcomes centrally. If training is initiated and managed in departmental silos, it is very difficult to get an overall view of success.

Digital learning has become a primary resource for business-based learning programmes, allowing employees to learn on the job, at home or on-the-go through their mobile devices. Businesses often tap into the latest digital offerings that best suit their needs. Embedded into the most sophisticated digital learning offerings are reporting tools that give insight into outcomes.

For example, our own just-launched Rosetta Stone Catalyst program provides HR and L&D teams with the robust administrative tools needed to measure and report on progress so that business leaders can see a direct return on investment. Across learners, teams, geographies and languages, administrators can track performance and proficiency gains. Reports include progress tests that measure learning outcomes, and signal when the employee is ready for new opportunities. This, coupled with the ability to serve all learner levels across an organisation, is helping to change the way global businesses learn new languages.

Learning and Development in the Digital Age

Technology has radically changed language learning for business and there are many benefits of such digital-based learning.

For a globally dispersed organisation, they include the practical benefit of being able to efficiently rollout an online and mobile training programme – one that offers the same content and experience to employees regardless of whether they  are located in Munch or Mumbai.

Another benefit is being able to teach proper pronunciation digitally. No one would argue that it is tough to develop good pronunciation from text books alone. Face-to-face sessions can achieve a good result, but they’re often expensive and hard to arrange to fit around employee schedules. Today, digital language learning that utilises speech recognition software and online interaction with native speakers combines the personal touch with the efficiency of remote learning. Plus, the best speech recognition tools allow even visual learners to boost their language skills by displaying speech patterns on screen.

Personalised learning

Learners have a diverse range of needs and each person learns in a unique way, therefore a ”one-size-fits-all” solution should never be sought out. Digital learning programmes can adapt to learners, providing them with a more personalised learning path, both in terms of content delivery and pace.

Highly adaptive digital learning programmes take this level of individualisation a step further. Instead of relying exclusively on self-assessment to determine the level of training needed, these programmes can individually assess each learner and assign them to an appropriate learning path based on proficiency level and learner goals. For both the employee and employer, it takes guessing out of the equation.

The right content

Industry and job-specific content is another innovation of digital language learning. Helping employees engage with content that is applicable to their everyday work can maximise the benefits that languages bring to the workplace. In the Catalyst program, for example, learners can choose certain content based on their industry. Training should be appropriate to the situations in which the skills are going to be used and appropriate to the learner’s level in order to motivate learners and yield the best results.

With integration of modern technology into work-based training, the scope and opportunity for language learning to help business perform better has been enhanced. From the possibilities such tools offer for individualisation, industry and job-specific content and powerful measurement and reporting to demonstrate return on investment, companies can now be better equipped to meet the challenges of globalisation – and to reap the rewards.

Businesses can close existing language skills gaps by providing employees with the tools and training they need to become proficient and confident in the language needed, and as a result enable them to improve customer service, productivity, safety, employee retention, engagement – and, ultimately – profits. 

Panos Kraniotis is Regional Director of Europe at Rosetta Stone