5 Reasons Every Company Should Invest in the Language Skills of its Employees Posted by meaghan on Jan 8, 2014 in Language Learning, Trends
CNN Money recently championed fluency in a foreign language as the hottest job skill for job-seekers, and for good reason. But it’s not just the folks at the CIA and huge multinational corporations who can benefit from bilingual (or multilingual!) employees. And it’s not just native-born bilinguals who are advantageous to a company. With the proper training and resources, anyone can learn a second language and put it to use in the workplace.
So, Mr. Business Exec, why should you make the investment in your employees’ language skills? Here’s a few of the many good reasons:
1. Reach out to bilingual customers.
This one may be painfully obvious to international businesses, but it applies to everyone. Not doing business abroad? That doesn’t mean all of your customers speak English! The U.S. is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, with millions of individuals who use English as only their second language. Investing in the language skills of your customer service reps, sales reps, or other customer-facing positions means your company can reach and service a wider audience, even domestically.
2. Bring new perspectives and experiences to your team.
A diverse workforce is a well-rounded workforce. If your team is fairly uniform, that may mean they all think very similarly. That’s not a bad thing when it comes to getting everyone on the same page, but when facing a major problem or trying to innovate new products or services, that could spell trouble. Bilinguals bring diversity to your team, approaching problems with a different mindset and bringing different experiences to the table. Language learners are constantly exposed to new vocabulary and cultures that present different outlooks and keep creative juices flowing.
3. Brush up on employees’ native English skills.
Investing in language skills doesn’t necessarily mean just foreign languages. It’s true that English continues to be a dominant language in the world of business, so it’s alarming that 63% of companies report a gap in critical English skills. Employees in every function of a company need to be using polished English, whether they are writing a press release, answering helpline phone calls, or giving a presentation to a new investor. Advanced competency of English facilitates better communication and collaboration, internally and externally, so investing in English language materials can be just as important as investing in foreign languages.
4. Strengthen employees’ complementary professional skills.
Ever heard that speaking more languages makes you smarter? That might not be the case 100%, but scientific studies have revealed the numerous cognitive benefits of bilingualism. Learning a new language can literally grow your brain, increasing your cognitive functions. Beyond that, languages are intricate, and studying a language trains you to develop good habits, including patience and persistence. I can’t think of any downside to a team full of critical thinkers who can multi-task and work hard against the odds.
5. Attract better employees and increase company morale.
Professional development matters. When employees get new opportunities and training, they feel they are valued by their employer. This can motivate employees to perform better and put their new skills to use. Not to mention the increase in job satisfaction and lower turnover rates of employees who know they can grow with a company.
At this time when the purse strings may be feeling tight, cutting costs is inevitable, but look elsewhere before cutting training and development programs. By investing in language training, you can open up new markets, diversify your workforce, and attract happier, more productive employees. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good return on investment.