Language Training

When is employee training beneficial?

Language training adds to ability, skill, and knowledge.

For Human Resource and Learning & Development leaders, the ideal answer would be always.

Employers naturally expect to realize value from each training dollar and hour invested. What about language training? How can you determine its benefit across your organization?

Benefits spring from employer-provided language training when it fills a company need or it boosts employee development. Or both. If you are thinking of adding or updating a language program to meet those needs, you are definitely on the right track.

Filling a company need

An article for the Society for Human Resource Management addresses the link between language training and improved business results. “Having workers who can speak and work in non-native tongues is important to organizations competing in an increasingly global economy, whether that involves attorneys dealing with international clients or a hotel’s custodial staff interacting with guests.”

As workforce demographics shift, language barriers surface. When communication is stymied on teams, with customers, or between locations, collaboration and productivity take a big hit.

Coming to grips with this culture change leads companies to provide language training. That happened to a manufacturing company in its warehouse and fulfillment operations, where hiring of staff with limited English skills was dramatically on the rise. Turnover also tracked higher, until over 80 percent of the target workforce was staying for less than one year.

In response, a customized Limited English Proficiency program to develop critical employee language skills was developed. Training focused on content that was specific to daily activities and job tasks at the company. The results?

Averaged Attendance Rate increased over 35%
vs. other training programs

Averaged Retention Rates increased over 65%
vs. average new hire retention

Boosting professional development

Lead with Languages is a national campaign that builds awareness of the importance of language skills in a variety of careers. In its report, Top Ten Reasons to Learn Languages, it was noted that language skills “are among the top eight skills required of all occupations.”

Hard skills or soft skills? Hard skills can be quantified through coursework and testing, so speaking more than one language certainly fits the hard skill category. Yet, once employees learn a new language, they’re also better able to communicate and collaborate with co-workers and customers (two key soft skills). Striking the right balance between hard and soft skills development delivers significant benefit.

Amgen, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, introduced language training to its Global Regulatory Affairs and Safety (GRAAS) division to help team members working internationally.

As the company expands its presence across different countries, its language program has become one of the primary tools used across all divisions. A partner and distributor contract management director, who recently completed the Japanese program at Amgen, said “[Rosetta Stone] helps me maintain a good relationship with our Japanese business partners. Throwing a few words in an email helps open the door to effective communication and facilitates the fulfillment of business requests.”

By providing language training, you show a commitment to your staff and customers—while positioning your organization to serve new communities and respond to changing demographics.

Employee’s take language personally

What other long-term benefits do employees realize as a result of language training? According to one seasoned strategist in the corporate learning space, “Language and work are both deep human processes. ROI and KPIs may justify the spend on language learning, but this benefit also speaks to every employee’s desire to do meaningful work and to have an impact. It encourages a personal level of motivation that makes employees feel supported as human beings at the HR level.”

This short piece from Forbes shares 13 ways managers can show support for their employees’ personal development.  One that stands out is the notion that organizations should foster a “culture of learning.” Just as business processes change, so does the demographic makeup of co-workers and colleagues. By building a strong learning culture around your training programs, your business can demonstrate its commitment to employees’ personal and professional growth.

Still wondering if language training is the right call? This guide on key warning signs can help you find the answers.

Jack Flynn
Sr. Content Strategist
Jack creates customer-focused content for use on established and emerging marketing platforms. Away from work, he savors the perks of mountain living with his wife, Pam.