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Analysis / Business

Using Technology To Plug The Language Skills Gap Hampering Businesses


Recently we celebrated the European Day of Languages, which was incredibly important in reminding us why language skills are so crucial – particularly as the UK starts taking steps to separate itself from the rest of Europe. Brexit, the changing political climate and globalisation are key events and trends that are pushing language learning up the corporate agenda, and for a very good reason.

European businesses are operating in a world that is becoming increasingly dispersed and fragmented, yet competition still remains high. Having the ability to communicate across cultures and boundaries is no longer a nice skill to have, it’s becoming a requirement for corporations hoping to build and maintain relationships with international suppliers, partners and customers. 

Today, you can buy a shirt made in India, shipped by a supplier based in Pakistan, and have it delivered to your doorstep in London in under 24 hours. This is collaboration across borders at its best. We need to see this replicated in the business world, which can only be achieved by being able to communicate clearly and effectively.

Worryingly, a recent OCR/Think Global survey revealed that 44 percent of London-based organisations are affected by a lack of workers with foreign language skills. To remain competitive in 2017, enterprises need to focus on collaboration and communication, and view language learning programmes as an extension of their investment in their employees’ development, and subsequently their business growth.

Speaking The Same Language

People who speak the same language have more effective and rewarding conversations and there’s a certain level of trust that comes with a common language that could not otherwise be attained in many cases. This not only makes for more successful communication with suppliers and customers outside the company, but also between co-workers.

Growing businesses of all sizes entering new markets or negotiating with suppliers in other regions face such a communications challenge. Employees with language skills are better equipped to negotiate, build relationships with customers and establish strong teams working with overseas colleagues. Effective communication also helps workers to be more efficient, which in turn positively impacts the bottom line.    

Working In A Digital Age 

Companies have commonly adopted technology to meet operational challenges they face and to help improve efficiency. They have the same opportunity when it comes to workplace training. Today’s highly adaptive digital learning programmes can provide a convenient and effective way of plugging the workplace language skills gap.  

Digital training solutions are uniquely positioned to address the business challenges of cost, implementation and employee motivation in a way that face to face instruction and other methods cannot. Today’s workforces are geographically dispersed, both in terms of multi-country locations and mobile workforces within regions, which makes face-to-face training programmes difficult to organise and maintain. Training previously centered around the classroom with all learners gathered together has moved to a digital environment that is flexible to the learner’s time and personalised to their learning needs.

Technology has evolved workplace language learning to offer many advantages to today’s modern global business. Employers should look for convenient training packages that learners of all proficiency levels can tap into, both in and out of the office. Programs that are available across multiple devices – via computer, smartphone or tablet—are also ideal and better suited to today’s business world, so learners can take their lessons with them wherever they go.  

Reaping The Benefits

Training is a significant investment for businesses. Companies need to see a measurable return. For large corporations, counting the benefits starts with centralised reporting. If language training is managed by department, it can be difficult to get a cross-company view of success. Many of today’s digital solutions solve this problem by easily producing reports that track engagement and progress, allowing administrators to drill down by department or individual.

By using technology and digital language programs to plug existing skills gaps, companies can become better equipped to meet the challenges of globalisation and to enjoy its benefits. With a confident multi-lingual workforce, businesses can hope to raise productivity and employee retention, improve customer service and increase profits.

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Panos Kraniotis is Regional Director for Europe at Rosetta Stone and joined the company in 2008. Over nearly 10 years, he has worked closely with large corporations, schools, universities, non-profit and government organisations to help them design and deploy proactive language strategies. He is an enthusiastic, passionate and inspiring leader who is motivated to drive multilingualism around the world, believing that anyone can learn another language. Being a keen linguist himself, coupled with having lived around the world, Panos has picked up five languages himself over the years. He has a Bachelors degree in Maritime Business from Plymouth University and a Masters degree in International Management from the University of the West of England (UWE).