The Manager’s Role in Language Strategy

This is the eighth 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.

Managers are the conduit for any company-wide strategy an organization chooses to adopt, and that is certainly the case when a company is positioning itself linguistically. Here are the key areas of a manager's job that need to be prioritized to ensure language strategy optimization.Communication is important. Whether a company is operating under a lingua franca or not, it’s the managers that have the most to do with a language strategy’s success or failure.

When it comes to language strategy, here are the things that managers should be held accountable for:

Equality for all employees

Any multinational, multilingual company will have some employees who have the upper hand in communications. They might be natives in the lingua franca or have a majority of speakers in a certain meeting. It’s a manager’s job to make sure those advantages don’t equate to business or political advantages.

We wrote in a previous post about how some non-fluent employees would shy away from meetings and conference calls because they were afraid or embarrassed. If needed, a manager needs to be able to step in on these meetings to make sure everyone is on a level playing field.

Not overvaluing fluency

Sometimes in multinational operations, fluency can become overvalued when it comes time to recommend employees for overseas appointments or projects. Language skills can even slant employee evaluations. Managers need to be able to discern which skills can be trained and which are inherent assets.

Facilitating any training that is needed

It’s often the case that employees simply do not know about the opportunities provided to them unless their manager makes them aware. If there are any language training initiatives or programs currently available through the company, it’s the managers’ jobs to point the right employees in the right direction toward those opportunities. This might even require a rebalancing of schedules. They need to know what steps are necessary in order for the company to reach its language goals.

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.

Click here to watch for the on-demand webinar today!

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