This is the last post in a series centered around crafting an effective language strategy for your business, featuring the work of Harvard Business School professor and former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, Robert Steven Kaplan.
You would think that in today’s multinational economy that providing language training for employees would be common practice. For some organizations, it is. But as Harvard professors Robert Steven Kaplan and Tsedal Neeley wrote in a recent piece for the Harvard Business Review, that’s not always the case:
[Organizations have] a tendency to over rely on external lateral hires with a certain degree of language skill to fill mid level roles rather than hiring and grooming outstanding junior
candidates with the capacity and motivation to learn new languages… Defaulting to lateral hires can make it more difficult to build a cohesive culture—those recruits have been trained elsewhere and may have trouble assimilating. Excessive churn can be another issue: As months or years go by, companies may discover that lateral hires lack other critical competencies, even if their language skills are strong.
If organizations could see these extra costs earlier in the process, they would no doubt opt for the training route. Here are four tips for building that case.
1. Get the current pulse
You can’t move forward unless you know where you currently are. It’s important to see what skills currently exist in your organization and how far you have to go to meet your goals. This is not only about the skills the employees currently possess, but what shortcomings management is currently seeing in operations. To find these out for your own business, check out this quick online assessment.
2. Figure out the demand
How many people are we talking about here? Which departments are currently experiencing language shortcomings? Which levels of employees? The answers to these questions obviously affect the size of the proposed training budget. You can get a sense for this by conducting a simple survey.
3. What are the options?
There are a lot more possibilities for employee training than there used to be. In addition to in-person courses, you now have a variety of online options. The benefits of online language learning can be game-changers. The capability for employees to work on the skills they need to work on when they need to work on them. The ability to purchase a block of licenses and transfer them to employees as needed, rather than enrolling each individual in a class. All of these advantages can make relying on e-learning for the bulk of your organization’s language training needs a smart move.
4. The loss of production vs. return on investment
The flexible nature of online learning shines again when a company has to think about how many work hours will be handed over to in-person training efforts. Providing an easy option with which employees can work on their own time can minimize that lost productivity. Meanwhile, add up the boost in revenue that entering new markets or better serving your existing customers can bring. Using a talent map can help you figure this out.
This all ties in with a free webinar we produced, featuring Professor Kaplan, entitled “Why Your Business Needs a Language Strategy”. The webinar is currently available as an on-demand recording. Through this informative 30 minute conversation with the professor, you will gain a greater understanding about the role language plays in the business world and how to craft your own language strategy.