By Donavan Whyte, VP EMEA Enterprise & Education, Rosetta Stone

According to the government’s skills watchdog the UK is experiencing a skills gap for businesses finding recruits with the right qualifications and experience. The UK Commission for Employment and skills highlights that these types of vacancies are increasing, its study suggesting that amongst other skills, "There has been an increase in the proportion of skill-shortage vacancies resulting from a lack of communication skills, particularly oral communication (41 percent, up from 37 percent in 2011).”

In order for businesses to make the most of the recent economic upturn, investment must be made to provide the right business education and skills for today’s workforce. A recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit also highlighted that some 47 percent of senior executives believe their companies are not offering enough training to hone their employees’ language and communication skills.

The same Economist Intelligence Unit report highlighted almost 70 percent of senior executives believe that their workforce will need to master English to realise corporate expansion plans in the next two years. As the modern business environment diversifies, organisations that stay ahead of the curve will be those who appreciate the increasing demand for providing professional training and business education schemes. This works to maximise talent already within their workforce, put their organisation in the right position to attract the best talent from around the world, and also of course achieve plans for business progression.

Thus, given the widely accepted assumption that English is the lingua franca of business, implementing the right English language training programme can be a crucial tool for modern business education and the proper support and development of such programmes within the corporate environment is also critical for their success.

The global business professional: are businesses making the most of talent?

International organisations are now facing increasing pressure to provide employees with the necessary development and training in order to attract and retain the most talented staff from around the world. By providing employees with the necessary support and training to learn English, organisations can ensure they are capitalising on all the skills that they have to offer and using the expertise of their workforce to maximise productivity, collaboration and innovation.

Furthermore, whilst organisations are looking to new recruits to plug the skills gap, they shouldn’t forget to search closer to home as well. Crossing the language barrier within organisations might be all that’s needed in order to bridge the skills gap. Communication is at the heart of business and so investing in those already within an organisation is an important way to ensure that skilled employees are kept as valuable as possible for the business in all levels of operations.

Language skills that know no borders

As business operations have developed across borders, the necessary language and communication skills must follow suit. Modern technology offers the opportunity to conduct wide-scale operations with colleagues and customers working in different corners of the world. Here, English language training acts as an important means for uniting a diverse workforce under a common language to enhance business efficiency.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents in our recent study of over 300 decision makers in global businesses said that investing in training staff in English can increase business profitability by almost 25 percent through benefits such as increased productivity, quality of work and customer satisfaction. In fact, 88 percent of respondents said English language training contributes to increased overall success for organisations.

Therefore, English language training can empower skilled employees for whom English is not their first language. When implemented to best effect the results can been seen to filter through the entire workforce, from ensuring operations staff can understand safety instructions and signage through to senior executives gaining extra knowledge to secure customer trust and develop relationships. The impact here can not only be seen on levels of employee productivity, as mentioned previously, but also for increasing critical competitive advantage.

Top tips for implementing a successful language learning programme

In my experience, whether using English language training within business for talent maximisation and retention or for securing business efficiency and progression, the effective application and proper development of such programmes are crucial for success.

Top Tips:

1. Executive sponsorship. It is vital for organisations developing training programmes to encourage senior executives to lead from the top and engage in the process, running right down to those working in basic operations

2. Measuring and monitoring progress. Accurate measurement and communication of progress is crucial for both the learner and employee to maximise success, whether using tools such as feedback sessions, progress reports or incentive schemes tied into career progression to name but a few

3. Set clear time frames and expectations for learners. This includes providing learners with an understandable timeline for learning, setting goals and communicating expectations for the process according to different learner profiles

4. Maximise available resources. Ranging from the use of online learning software, to a wealth of mobile applications, allowing accessible learning anytime, anywhere. Other available resources can also enrich the process such as using local media content to add extra insight into local conversations and cultural interests. Also of use, particularly for larger organisations, is the development of mentoring programmes with native speakers for English learners within an organisation

5. Immersion of learning. For employees using language learning programmes, the ability to apply their new skills in daily life is a real test for the success of the project and essential for professional development