With increased demand for languages, organisations that embrace new technologies in their learning will see the greatest results.
Global organisations are seeing first-hand that language skills can help to enhance business efficiency and profitably. This is shown in a poll of 500 employers (1), languages skills came second only to IT in a list of desirable skills for job candidates.
The demand for language skills is accelerating against a backdrop of changing workforce dynamics and shortage of skills labour. In less than five years’ time, the workforce in many countries will be 50 per cent Millennials, while the remaining 50 per cent will be a blend of Traditionalist, Baby boomers and Generation X (2). The spotlight is now on how organisations can nurture staff who are competent in cross-cultural interactions and managing cross border teams, while potentially filling gaps within the workforce.
Changing learning channels and trends
dp’s survey ‘Speexx Languages and Business Audit’ (3), which questioned 103 senior L&D managers, HR managers and Business education staff across the globe, revealed 71 per cent of organisations believe they will be delivering more blended learning content within the next two years. The way global workforces are trained is also expected to change by 2014. dp’s survey showed that 71 per cent of respondents stated that ‘blended learning’ will be the primary method of delivering training. In the meantime, classroom training will dramatically fall and one out of five organisations expects that ‘social and informal learning’ will play a greater role in staff development.
With the advance of technology and new media, the possibilities are exciting for organisations willing to embrace new ways of learning. Individuals and organisations now have greater flexibility on how linguistic skills are delivered and effective results can be achieved regardless of skill, nationality or age.
Adoption of mobile devices is also accelerating the pace of ‘social and informal learning’ and will play a greater role in staff development. This result is mainly a sign of the generational mix of the current workforce, which demands a more flexible, ‘on-demand’ learning that incorporates elements of e-learning, personalised tutor support, social learning, and bite-size mobile learning methods. However, as more Millennials enter the workforce in the next 3 to 5 years, the demand for blended learning channels is expected to be much higher than it is today.
Improved language skills – and specifically language learning – is also getting more mindshare within businesses, with more L&D professionals supporting staff in language learning. For many companies looking to expand their operations or revenue streams, multilingual communication can be an asset not only for sales and marketing but within all business activities. Furthermore, effective cross-border communication can help solve problems, avoid delays and enhance productivity across all sectors.
Effective business communication across borders therefore needs to start with a blend of advanced learning technology and teacher led activities. With the ‘perfect blend’ approach, companies can combine self-based learning, assignment tasks and classes, which can be attended virtually or over the phone. These learning tools can then be customised to suit staff learning needs and level of skill – and companies should encourage staff to use and develop their skills in ways that are both motivating and compatible with the demands of the workplace.
Language skills lend a hand to succession planning
The recovering global economy now offers increased career mobility to a larger number of employees. At the same time, with the changing generational dynamic of the workforce, potential vacancies may arise in parts of the business that need to be addressed promptly in order to maintain continuity. A thorough succession management strategy includes language and communication training for all staff across the board. Organisations need to recognise the availability of language skills and knowledge first, before planning how to make the most of staff talent and where to place them within the company.
One seamless, standardised blended learning system can therefore be an invaluable solution to managing business continuity. With a streamlined, blended learning approach, management will also be able to identify the current profile of employees within the organisation, identify their language skills and determine the potential successors for different job roles. This can then be matched to where vacancies might occur, address which areas suffer from a scarcity of talent and provide solutions to job roles that tend to be difficult to fill across the board.
The shift towards friendly, informal learning that can be managed into the day-to-day activities of staff does not mean disparate results. Taking the right measures to develop a language learning strategy is the key to achieving consistent results in soft skills learning. Managers can encourage staff to use and develop the skills they have already acquired and offer language training in ways that are both motivating and compatible with a dynamic and diverse workplace.
2. Source: CEGOS 2011 European survey: Training Today, Training Tomorrow. Live polling and discussion to compare learner / non learner survey outputs with learning professionals.
3. dp survey was conducted at the international conference entitled ‘Languages and Business’ held in Berlin, October 2011.
This article has been contributed by Armin Hopp, the Founder and President of dp
(digital publishing), the provider of the award-winning online corporate language training Speexx
, which offers practical business courses in five languages. The company operates in over 80 countries, has a worldwide network of more than1,200 online tutors. Speexx offers an extensive range of innovative language-learning modules and has delivered award-winning results for more than 7 million users worldwide.
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