If you’re an HR professional who deals with global relocations or collaboration across borders, I know that I don’t have to convince you that language training for your company’s employees is worth the cost.
But I also know that you might have to convince your boss of this very thing.
You’d think that in this age of global business that everyone would just get that language training is essential. But that’s not the case. For example, did you know that a recent survey by Altair Global found that 43 percent of employees on international assignments were not even offered language training by their employers?
That’s crazy. And if this is the kind of thing that happens at your company, I want to help you make the case that language training is one of the smartest investments you can make. So let’s run through some of the objections your boss might have to paying for language training and talk about how you can counter those arguments.
Your Boss Says: “We Don’t Have Time for Language Training.” You Say: “Without Language Training, Employees Waste More Time.”
I’ve heard executives say that they just can’t offer language training because it takes too much time. Leaders like this aren’t seeing the big picture when it comes to language training and productivity. Let me explain more.
Yes, language training takes time. A typical Fluency Corp client will spend a couple of hours per week in language classes. That time is relatively visible to the employee’s boss. They might notice that the employee misses a meeting or takes longer to answer an email because they’re in language class.
But what flies under the boss’s radar is all the productive time that the employee is losing because of their lack of fluency. When an employee doesn’t have the language skills they need for their job, the cost in time and in money is far greater than the cost of language training. In another blog article, we did the math on the real cost of corporate language training — and the cost of not providing it. Especially if your boss loves numbers, this article should be very persuasive.
Your Boss Says: “We Already Give Lots of Support to Expat Employees.” You Say: “But Language Training Is What Really Boosts Their Productivity.”
Let’s go back to the Altair survey I mentioned earlier — the one that found that many expat employees aren’t even offered language training. On the other hand, almost all of the employees surveyed (92 percent) were offered destination services/settling-in assistance. And these services do have some benefit in helping employees maintain their productivity amid an international move. Emphasis on “some.” Just over 1 in 3 respondents said their productivity was highly improved; 26 percent said it was moderately improved; and 18 percent said it was somewhat improved.
So what’s going on here? Why don’t destination services/settling-in assistance, the focus of many companies’ international relocation programs, have a bigger payoff? Here’s what Altair found:
(Employees) that were offered/provided and took advantage of the destination services/settling-in assistance, as well as the cultural and language training services, expressed a greater level of satisfaction and a higher level of work productivity as a result.
Language training makes a big difference in how productive employees are after an international relocation. That’s because it makes many aspects of the move — from finding a place to live to setting up a bank account — less stressful and time-consuming. Show your boss our full report on the Altair survey. It’s compelling evidence that employees on international assignments need language training.
Your Boss Says: “Adjusting to the U.S. Is Easy.” You Say: “Not Really….”
Here’s another interesting finding from the Altair survey: Employees who relocated to the U.S. felt that others underestimated what a big adjustment this was for them. Sometimes those of us who live in the U.S. can forget that the way business is done here isn’t the way business is done anywhere. We also tend to overlook that being able to get by in English is not the same as being able to work productively and collaborate smoothly in the language, day in and day out. And then there’s the fact that the English that’s spoken at your office is a different version of English than the one your international employees learned back in their home countries. Whether you are based in Dallas (as we are at Fluency Corp) or Minneapolis, Los Angeles or Boston, regional accents and idioms vary widely, which can make it hard for international employees to communicate, collaborate and form friendships with their colleagues.
There are many things you can do to help employees from abroad feel at home in the U.S. Altair recommends treating them as new employees rather than as transfer employees, helping them network with other expats and holding more programs such as roundtables and brown-bag lunches to provide information and support. Language training from a native speaker — one who’s familiar with English as it’s spoken where you live — is also absolutely essential.
Your Boss Says: “The New Guy Speaks English Fine – He Just has an Accent.” You Say: “Accents Can Still Be a Communication Barrier.”
This is another one we hear all the time. Some managers totally underestimate the impact that an accent has, both on an international employee’s ability to feel at home in the U.S. and on how that employee collaborates with others.
Even employees who have studied English extensively can have a heavy accent because they haven’t spent much time around native speakers before. Their accent can impede communication and create misunderstandings with colleagues. A heavy accent might also make an employee feel too self-conscious to speak up in meetings or to strike up conversations with colleagues. Because of their accent, the employee isn’t able to contribute to their full potential or form connections with others. That’s a recipe for an unhappy, unproductive employee. And it’s why accent reduction classes are a smart investment in an employee’s success. We love seeing our clients blossom when we work with them on their accents!
We hope these resources help you make the case for language training. We’d be happy to give you additional advice based on your company’s specific needs. Contact us for a free consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 401-3159.