Most companies will admit that there are clear advantages to knowing a second language, but many will not take the steps necessary to train current employees to acquire this much-needed skill. The truth is that the majority of the world is bilingual or multilingual. However, this is not the case in the United States, where English being the lingua franca for business has proven to be double-edged word for Americans. The fact that the U.S. is a country of immigrants makes this even more ironic (and rather sad). According to research, American workers are unable to take advantage of global business opportunities because they are competing against a global workforce that is not only multilingual, but also fluent in English. Furthermore, a study by the U.S. Committee on Economic Development shows that American companies lose over $2 billion each year because of language or cultural misunderstandings.
Perhaps you’re ready to start winning? If so, it all starts by investing in your employees. Isn’t it time you invest in your employees and help them reach the next level? A language learning strategy must be implemented.
From higher employee retention to a improving performance, here’s why you need to invest in language learning for your company now.
Language learning is like competing against yourself. You want to see how far you can go, how well you can do it, and how quickly you progress. A language strategy implementation is an investment in your employees’ confidence, well-being, and greater sense of achievement. Having such a significant and positive role as this speaks highly of your company.
When you invest in your employees you show that their development is important to you, and that you value their work and achievement. An employee who feels valued will be happier, more productive, more willing to do the work, and do it well. This all equals satisfaction. If an employee is satisfied, why go elsewhere to look for a job? Therefore, the right language training strategy can increase loyalty and help you retain employees. It can also help you attract employees who see the value in a company who invests in them. Then again, who wouldn’t appreciate this?
Language training does not always mean foreign language training. What about your employees whose primary language is not English? Many workers who speak English as a second language would benefit from having onsite ESL classes. They would also feel very appreciative if they had the opportunity to receive this type of training. Whether it is accent reduction classes for employees who are involved in public speaking, those who are customer-facing, or who work with vendors, or even cultural competence training, a language training strategy can make your employees better communicators.
Hiring new employees comes at a price. So does investing in translators and interpreters who are not be invested in your company’s vision and are not on board for the long haul. If you want the long-term savings and investments, opt for a long-term strategy: train your currently employees, raise engagement, and retention, all this while reducing churn. This will also help attract the best future employees. Wouldn’t you say that’s a great ROI?
Most people will say that they want to be more productive and effective, but how do you achieve that? Communication is a key factor. It is precisely the lack of miscommunication that can sometimes translate into inefficiency due to the lack of understanding. If your customers speak only in their native language—or simply prefer to—you should have a team ready to facilitate that. For example, it is in the benefit of all customer-facing employees, such as those working in sales or at call centers, to be multilingual. Furthermore, the right language strategy can increase your team’s productivity when working with clients, vendors, and suppliers overseas by making them more efficient in your clients, vendors and suppliers’ native language.
Research shows that bilingualism has infinite advantages aside from cross-cultural communication: better attention and task-switching capabilities, easier adjustment to changing environments, and less cognitive decline as we age. Studies on people who are bilingual show that they have better cognitive capacity, memory, creativity, and visual-spatial abilities. The benefits range from childhood all the way to old age. The cognitive, neural, and social advantages of a second language are enough to invest in a second language.
The business world is expanding. With growing economies, your employees will be in contact with people of backgrounds far different from their own. Learning a language—any language other than their own—also translates into learning about a different country, studying its history, customs, people, and culture. Language learning is linked to cultural sensitivity and the ability to look at others through different eyes, making your employees not only language competent, but culturally competent as well.
No one wants to be stagnant. People want to know there are possibilities available for them. The possibility of moving moving abroad, buying a home in a foreign country, or simply going on vacation and being able to interact with the locals are all highly attractive. Wouldn’t it be great to give your employees access to international mobility?
By making a long-term investment in a language learning strategy at your company, you are not only investing in your employees professional development and career advancement. You are also helping your employees engage, feel inclusive, and compete in a global, multilingual economy. Research shows that the demand for bilingual workers more than doubled in five years (from 2010 to 2015). This is a reflection of the changing global dynamics and international demands, both which require a second language. If your employees are not ready for those demands, neither is your company.
It’s no myth that, as mentioned above, knowing multiple languages gives one a competitive advantage, but could people be financially penalized for being monolingual? Researcher Orhan Agirdag found that there is a $5000 penalty in earnings annually for people who learn a second language and lose their primary language. That means $5000 you are not receiving. An employee with an IRA account knows that $5000 annually could mean hundreds of thousands—if not over a million—dollars at retirement. Help your employees raise their earning potential and position them for career growth by giving them access to a second (or third!) language.
At Diáfano, we offer the cutting-edge alternative to the traditional training methodologies. Here’s why you should choose us:
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Irma is a trained linguist, native Spanish speaker, and teacher. She is the founder and CEO of Diáfano.
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