In just a few short years, the rise of remote work has transformed today’s business environment. And the changes are far from over. At Fluency Corp, we’re especially interested in how remote working will affect language in the workplace, as well as the need for language training. So today we want to talk about the trends we’re seeing in remote work — and where those trends might take us.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
Remote work was starting to gain popularity even before the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, just under 6% of employed people in the U.S. worked primarily from home, and about a quarter did some work from home. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work survey that year, remote workers loved not being tied to the office.
In fact, 99% said they wanted to keep working remotely, at least part of the time, for the rest of their careers. Based on that statistic, Buffer declared that “while remote work is sometimes portrayed as a trend, these results seem to infer that this way of working is here to stay.”
Buffer’s prediction turned out to be spot-on. As we all know, remote work suddenly exploded as Covid-19 swept through the world. The U.S. Census Bureau found that the number of Americans who worked mostly from home tripled between 2019 and 2021.
And, like those early adopters of remote work in Buffer’s 2019 survey, many people who started working from home during the pandemic decided that they just couldn’t go back to the way things were, even as Covid restrictions and anxieties eased. Employers are realizing that they must offer remote or hybrid work to stay competitive in hiring.
Are You Ready for ‘Borderless Hiring’?
These are huge changes, and both individuals and organizations are still trying to figure out what the remote work revolution will mean for them. So far, there’s been a lot of focus on how remote work affects U.S.-based employees. For example, some workers who can now do their jobs remotely are moving out of expensive cities to more affordable areas.
However, we should also be talking about how the rise of remote work widens the pool of candidates that companies can now hire from. Jack Kelly, founder and CEO of the job-search site WeCruitr, believes that if the economy continues to worsen “it’s only a matter of time until CEOs start considering cutting jobs in the U.S. and hiring workers in lower-cost countries around the world.”
Now, that doesn’t mean a future where every task is outsourced to global contractors, says Johnny Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management. While he does think that we’ll see more outsourcing, Taylor also points out that companies still need full-time employees to create a consistent culture.
But we could also soon start to see more “borderless hiring” for full-time roles. After all, if a Boston-based company has already seen that a professional working remotely from Boise can be successful, then why not an employee based in Barcelona or Bengaluru?
How Language Differences Affect Remote Work
We believe that all signs point to the workforce becoming more and more global. Picture a manager 10 years ago leading a team whose members were all based in the same city.
Today, that manager might have some who come to the office daily, others who work from home most of the week, and others still who are fully remote and based in different U.S. cities. And in the not-too-distant future, that team could also include both contractors and full-time employees hired from around the globe.
While remote work and borderless hiring can open up new opportunities for both companies and employees, it also creates new challenges. One of the biggest has to do with culture. Companies have already seen that it takes extra effort to build community and connection when employees work remotely. When you throw in language differences, things get even more complicated.
And, yes, language differences in the workplace can be an issue even when you hire an international employee who already speaks English as a second language. There’s a big difference between using English occasionally and speaking English at work, day in and day out, with co-workers who are native English speakers.
To go back to our earlier example, that employee from Bengaluru may have gotten top marks in English when they were in school. But chances are they will have some trouble interpreting the accents, idioms, and slang of their Boston co-workers.
As a result, the quality of their work might suffer. They may not pick up on key information shared during calls or Zoom meetings. If they are self-conscious about their English abilities or their non-native accent, they may hesitate to ask questions or share ideas. They could also have more trouble forming relationships with their co-workers.
Language Training for Remote Workers
Bottom line: Being able to hire the best job candidates in the world won’t do your company any good if language differences keep those employees from performing at their full potential and fully engaging with their teammates.
That’s why we believe that organizations pursuing borderless hiring must also step up their efforts around language in the workplace — even as the workplace becomes increasingly virtual.
Providing English language and cultural training will help global hires who work remotely collaborate with U.S. teammates and give them the confidence they need to contribute to their fullest ability. Language training is also an attractive benefit that will help with recruiting and retention.
So what kind of language training will deliver the best results for global remote workers? Look for classes that are customized to your employees’ needs. They should be learning words and phrases that are relevant to their jobs. Classes should also emphasize real-time speaking and listening.
Reviewing vocabulary lists isn’t enough to help your employees navigate online meetings. They need conversational practice.
Finally, classes need to fit your employees’ schedules — no matter what time zone they are in.
English Language Training for Your Remote Teams
At Fluency Corp, we have deep experience helping professionals from around the world improve their English skills. Contact us now to learn more about language training that will help your company attract, engage and retain top global talent.