We’re all familiar with the phrase “Think globally, act locally”, meaning that big changes are often started with smaller moves on a local scale. Although the phrase is usually attributed to politics or charity work, it can also apply to business.
With $30 trillion dollars at stake in emerging markets over the next decade, any business that wants to seriously grow needs to consider its international options. But before leasing office space in Taiwan, it’s prudent to get your house in order first, making sure your internal talent pool has the skills for success overseas—including language proficiency.
You might have big dreams for your organization, but it’s important to realistically consider your options and, more importantly, what you’ll need out of your employees to get to those options.
The first step is to consider your organization’s goals for growth. Where do you currently stand? How many countries would you like to expand to in a reasonable amount of time? How many offices? What languages and cultures would be of the most benefit in those locales? Then match those up with your current talent pool.
The local plan
Before thinking about who needs to go where, think about who needs to know what. Most companies have no idea who speaks what language, so it’s important to conduct a thorough survey—like the one included in our Global Talent Toolkit—to get a lay of the land. Perhaps your situation is better than you thought—or worse.
Finally, start considering ways to develop that talent in the direction in which you need to go. Language training isn’t as daunting as it was even 10 years ago. Online, always-on language learning makes it easy for employees to study and more affordable for your organization to provide the opportunity.
It’s much more effective to build a strong foundation from which to build a global business than to piece something together as you grow. The latter often requires pricey stop-gap measures and expensive external hires that might not even pan out.
That being said, any organization with the means and the opportunity owes it to themselves to start thinking globally—before the competition does.