There is a word that strikes terror in most business owners and executives. Recession. Since the Fed started aggressively hiking interest rates in March, there has been a lot of fear that we could be barreling towards an economic slowdown. Nonetheless, the economy grew in the third quarter of the year, companies continue hiring workers, and gas prices are trending in the right direction. Without naively turning a blind eye to the threat of recession, we have every reason to feel optimistic. There’s no better time to think about how to fortify your business and by lay the foundations for ongoing success.
Knowing how to prepare and plan for harder times helps to ensure the buoyancy of your organization. The companies that do best are those who are best positioned to leverage opportunities whenever and wherever they occur.
So how can you prepare your organization and employees for continued success? And how does language training feed into a strategy that will afford you opportunities to diversify and expand your brand?
Implement a growth strategy
Ongoing skills development is one of the best ways to protect your business and its employees from financial hardship. Adding learning time into your employees’ schedule will boost their performance, outlook, and confidence. It will contribute to the health of your business by positioning its teams to work better together, and explore and leverage new opportunities.
Language training is key here. In an increasingly interconnected global economy, the ability to seek overseas opportunities and serve a multilingual clientele gives organizations a competitive advantage. Not only does language learning favor growth through global mobility, it also encourages a wider perspective which can improve your teams’ ability to think and work creatively during times of change.
To avoid reaching a stalemate and improve your chances of ongoing success, it’s important to build connections, support networks, and partnerships. Organizations that are positioned to embrace opportunities for diversification tend to fare better during times of hardship.
Prioritize communication as a way to cultivate better business relationships
Communication skills rank among the most important to modern day employers. They permeate every aspect of business and enable employees to tap into a wider range of opportunities and business networks. Employee language skills enable organizations to allocate resources and support clients across different regions, and in doing so, increase their chances of sustained success. By building teams that are able to function fluently in multiple languages, you naturally improve the scope and size of your business. As a testament to the value of multilingual corporate teams, more and more companies are seeking a bilingual workforce.
But aside from the obvious advantages of enhanced communication both at home and overseas, there are many more subtle benefits to encouraging your employees’ exploration of other languages and cultural perspectives.
Learning a language contributes to improved soft skills and brain development
Learning a language undoubtedly increases chances of career success and employability.
But there are many more reasons to justify ongoing language learning as a way to ensure overall employee performance and productivity. Aside from the rewards associated with global mobility, research uncovers how language acquisition sharpens brain functionality and shifts our perspective in a way that can favor overall creativity and focus, and strengthen our resilience in times of change.
You’ve likely heard reference to the brain as a muscle that gains strength through extensive use. This is somewhat of a simplistic analogy, but it holds some truth. Although we cannot extend our IQ, we are able to develop new skills that help us to function as successful professionals.
The human brain is made up of neurons, which have a cell body, and dendrites (the connections between neurons). Together these make up what’s commonly referred to as “gray matter.” Research has uncovered that multilingual individuals have denser gray matter. While little evidence supports bilingual people being “smarter,” their brains become adept at handling two languages at the same time and in doing so benefit their overall executive function.
The ability to switch between languages aids related functions such as inhibition (a cognitive mechanism that discards irrelevant stimuli or distractions), switching attention, and working memory. These skills improve focus and contribute to our ability to plan, remain on task, and become better at multitasking.
A stronger ability to assimilate new experiences
Perhaps most relevant in times of change and hardship, is a language learner’s ability to assimilate new experiences. Learning a language requires us to build understanding by incorporating new vocabulary and grammatical structures into the framework of what we already know. This ability to analyze and assimilate new information into our existing knowledge base is beneficial in more ways than one.
The language learning process is generally considered beneficial for overall brain development because it’s proven to strengthen neural connections. As a consequence, it can enhance our ability to recall or process new information and use it to inform decisions and plans that fit the new set of circumstances we find ourselves in. During times of change (whether that be economic or other) growing teams who are able to adapt their strategy or thinking is absolutely beneficial for business.
The ability to deal with unforeseen circumstances
Language learners tend to develop a higher tolerance for ambiguity. Since they are frequently confronted with unfamiliar words and phrases, language learners develop a stronger ability to decipher meaning through context. Once again, this skill permeates any professional role or workplace environment, especially when we’re forced to accommodate a new set of circumstances, participate in brainstorming sessions, or think outside the box.
So while it may or may not make us “smarter,” there is little doubt that language learning contributes to valuable soft skills development and encourages us to apply logic and reasoning in ways that enhance our professional skill set. Some of the most successful business leaders of modern times are those who have leveraged language learning.
Strong language skills are an important leadership tool
In general terms, leaders and business professionals with an ability to harness the power of language improve their level of influence in the global marketplace.
A.J. Ogilvie, PhD, is a professor of business at the University of California. He underlines the importance of effective communication and notes how applying empathy, creativity, and clarity enables your words to resonate more effectively with diverse audiences. The greatest leaders invest time in achieving the necessary level of understanding to adapt corporate messaging and entice or appeal to a wider ranging and diverse audience.
Underline respect for other cultures and perspectives
It’s not solely employee language skills that add value to organizations. A purpose-driven move towards prioritizing cultural diversity and inclusion through language training can positively impact business success in other ways. In many cases it better positions companies to attract and retain remote talent from varying cultural backgrounds.
When employees span different regions or cultures they can tap into knowledge and work processes that stem from alternative approaches and problem-solving methods. In addition, organizations with strong multilingual teams find themselves better positioned to build and strengthen global networks and to leverage opportunities for expansion by leveraging the cultural and linguistic fluency of their employees.
As the threat of potential financial hardship looms, the more inclusive your organization feels from both the inside and out, the better you stand to fare in an increasingly interconnected global marketplace.