Fluency Corp’s training resulted in so much success for Middlesex Bank that it has brought them on to be in charge of all communication training. Fluency Corp implemented regular group English lessons, small group formal writing classes, and high-potential employees receive 50 hours of one-on-one coaching to help move them to the next level of communication so they can become leaders in the bank.
Middlesex Bank suffered from two big problems. Their customers were leaving at an alarming rate, and high-potential employees weren’t working at full capacity. These employees, who had the drive to do better and take on more responsibility, faced barriers with English as a second language (we’ll get to more on that soon).
Bank management saw the problem, but they didn’t know the best way to solve it for their savings and loan bank with nearly 600 employees and deep roots in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.
Middlesex employees, who immigrated from around the world, had a deep desire to maintain their cultural roots, but their strong accents (and many other issues that weren’t obvious) prevented them from effectively communicating with clients, many of whom had English as a first language.
Despite technically knowing the English language, and with formal education in their home country, they had never been taught how to effectively transfer colloquialisms to fit into US culture and the English language.
Over $20,000 in Lost Productivity Every Year
As the bank saw customers leaving, they implemented a system to help prevent that from happening. When some high-potential employees were on the phone with clients, another employee sat in on the call to ensure everything was delivered properly and the customer was satisfied with the call.
A human resources rep indicated that some employees required 5 to 10 hours every week for this process. If the employee monitoring the calls earns $150,000 annually, that’s $20,000 to $40,000 lost to redundancy. The company was wasting time, management had to “babysit,” and ultimately, customers were still dropping off.
Aside from the language problem, Middlesex Bank couldn’t pinpoint what was happening.
Management knew that the problem was with fluency. There was a language barrier present, and that needed to be corrected. So, they started to search for language courses and classes the employees could take.
Management scoured through six different leads for language training, but nothing looked like it would hit the mark. Instead, most programs offered an off-the-shelf model of instruction.
The philosophy was straightforward: if you want to learn to communicate in this manner, then use these workbooks and watch these videos. But unfortunately, most of those workbooks are very similar to a middle school grammar workbook; it’s not something an educated adult would benefit from.
The workbook-style study is good for rote memorization, but that doesn’t help anyone apply the language skills they are learning.
To further complicate the matter, each high-potential employee needed something different: one needed to enhance their vocabulary, another struggled with using the past tense, a third was finding it difficult to understand when informal and formal methods of speaking were necessary, plus many more.
The Problem was Much Deeper than Language
After discovering Fluency Corp and seeing how every language course is customized to the individual, Middlesex Bank knew instantly that this would work. From the start, Fluency Corp didn’t approach this as a language issue: it’s a cultural issue and a speech delivery issue.
Employees knew how to speak English but struggled to communicate in English.
Fluency Corp designed formal training for each high-potential employee by working with the management and the employee. The training would get them to the level of cultural communication they desired and where they needed to be to maximize productivity.
Some issues needed to be addressed before training began.
Before training courses could even be designed, Fluency Corp interviewed the management. From an outside perspective, understanding where the employee struggled would help ensure that the right program was designed to raise them up. This was also a time to learn about the employee, so Fluency Corp didn’t make any cultural blunders. The training could then be designed with a tactful approach.
After gathering information from an outside perspective, the employees were also interviewed. Fluency Corp discovered what really made them tick. What did they love? Where were their passions? How was their home life compared to their work life?
Studies show that when the training is designed to be fun and inspiring, something that can be used both at home and at work, the students are much more receptive, and they will retain their new knowledge for a longer period of time.
Learning about community involvement ends up enhancing the value for the bank as well. As students use their new skills outside of work, they practice twice or three times as much. As a result, they learn faster, and the bank has a greater ROI.
In business, you don’t stop advertising just because you made a sale. Similarly, you don’t stop a language strategy when you’ve hit a certain number of hours of training.
High-Potential Employees Gained Confidence
The ultimate goal was to enhance communication and, by doing so, improve the English as a second language students’ confidence. Each employee was given 50 hours of classroom training and 50 hours of homework and application of that training. By the time the students had “graduated,” their communication had surged to an entirely new level.
One employee had a better understanding of how to keep things light but still maintain formality.
Another understood that in her Eastern European accent, the way she said “No” came across as gruff and rude; she could switch off that accent whenever necessary to come across politely.
An employee from the Philippines took the speaking and presentation training and applied it to lead a group at his church over the weekends.
Yet another grew her vocabulary by over 100 words within a matter of weeks and had a great understanding of how to use those words.
Every employee who went through the training had individual accomplishments and gained the confidence they needed.
They now have the confidence to do their job accurately and completely. They no longer need management hovering over their shoulder to ensure they are using the right words and using them in the right tone of voice. They don’t need their work double-checked. They have the skills to maximize their potential and to keep moving up at the bank instead of plateauing.
As these employees move to new positions, they continue furthering their English language education and how to combine their native culture with their new American culture. As new hires take their place, they are offered the opportunity to learn, advance, and grow.
Fluency Corp Customizes Language & Culture Training to Solve the Problem
“They’re [Fluency Corp] refreshing. It’s nice to feel like you have a valid business partner working with you to solve the problem. Most want to come in, do their job, do the training, and then leave. You get a lot more out of Micah, and it makes it much easier for the participants; it’s more refreshing for them.”