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Events coverage

Linguistic strategies companies and return on investment in language course

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Lufthansa, Lenovo, Honda, Bridgestone, SAP, Air-Bus, Samsung, ABB - what combines these companies? Language.


All of those companies adopted English as the lingua franca, regardless of whether they have Japanese, German or French capital, and where the CEOs of these global brands come from.

On 7th of July a language workshop conducted by the BPCC member company - Blackbird Academy from Warsaw was held in the Kraków office of ILAB. The workshop had a form of an advisory training, which aimed at explaining what the linguistic strategy in companies are and what is the role of HR in its implementation.

Participants, representing mainly the modern services, were welcomed Mr. Jarosław Wypych, Director of Marketing in Eurokreator- regional partner of Blackbird in Krakow.

The workshop was opened by Ms. Iwona Piwowarczyk, Managing Director at Blackbird Group, while the first part of meeting was run by Ms. Zofia Barańska, Director at Blackbird Academy, coach and trainer, who spoke about the ROI and business impact in the design of business training. Also, she explained how to measure the return on investment in language training.

Cultural and language differences are becoming difficult barrier in communication. Zofia was trying to convey that fluency in a foreign language is essential for developing business internationally and inside the country, especially in business negotiations with hundreds of different nations and cultures.

As it was reported by Zofia only 1/3 of small and medium size enterprises actively participate in international trade, and only 1/4 is involved in direct export. There are millions of dollars lost among the hundreds of companies that lost their chance to contact with a potential client because of their lack of language competence.

Staff who is not fluent in a foreign language is not capable of responding to the offer sent by e-mail, lots of mistakes is made by the amateur written translations, incorrectly formulated or is losing time when answering for the correspondence in the unknown language.

Therefore, even the most effective company is not able to operate smoothly in the international market without adequate linguistic competence of their employees. The properly implemented language management strategy is a solution.

This concept had its origins in the Japanese company, in which the boss ordered the compulsory learning of foreign languages among employees, for which they have assigned time. Failure to comply with the new directive threatened with a dismissal. The effects were diametrical and brought profits in the trade on the international market already in the second quarter of the company activity.

Poland is currently one of the three most important centres of location of business services in Europe (the other two are the Czech Republic and Ireland). According to a report of McKinsey, even 600 000 people will find the employment in this sector by 2025 (McKinsey: Poland 2025. New motor of growth in Europe). 39% of companies in this sector provide services with a global reach and 54% with the regional reach (e.g. European).

The service centres have a total of 40 languages in use. Record-holders use up to 37 languages in one centre. 37% of the centres use at least 10 languages. 58% use minimum of 5 languages. 81% centres employ foreigners.

Therefore, the primary issue for these companies is to recruit people who not only are able to communicate in English on proficiency level, but also are able to speak in 1-2 or more languages. Besides recruiting people with the appropriate level of language competence, these companies invest in courses.

Ms. Zofia has listed the most common mistakes made just at the stage of planning the learning objectives of the language course, which prevents measuring the impact on investment in the courses.

  1. Training detached from the strategy and the business - the company does not pay attention to exactly which competencies are required for a given role. Many people have language skills, but cannot effectively use the accumulated knowledge, vocabulary and grammatical structures. Another language course will not change this situation. Better to invest in several workshops with effective communication in the scope of presentation or a video-conference in that language.

  2. The use of scale A1-C2, which does not adequately measure the level of language competence. Such system was not designed to measure the level of the language acquaintance in a business that does not require knowledge of all grammatical structures and the whole lexical resource

  3. Verification of progress with the help of tests. How measuring the progress with tests is to the Kirkpatrick model? The tests allow at best a partial measure the growth of knowledge. In business, however, we are interested in the preservation and use of the gained knowledge. We are interested whether the employee has no problems to participate in international projects or conduct meetings with clients in the language after completing the course rather than making sure that he knows the past perfect or reached the level of B2.

  4. No end-point of the program. We must ask ourselves what level of language is to be obtained by our employee and determine exactly how much time he has to get there.

  5. Lack of KPIs for the program. HR business partners do not see the connection between language course and course of communication and business, or do not know how to adjust the correct KPI. Where to find the impact of the language course in business? In areas such as productivity (e.g. the amount of time needed to prepare materials in a foreign language), cooperation (effectiveness of international cooperation teams), retention of customers (customer satisfaction with the service) and market expansion.

  6. 100% of financing program. It is important to fund language course its staff in direct proportion to the progress made, rather than pay in advance all the odds, regardless of the effects of such course.

  7. Lack of communication objectives and business results in the program. Such communication can be reached in a various ways, e.g. by making rankings of the teams, introducing elements of gamification in training. You can also monitor and communicate the success throughout the KPIs level. The key of success is to design the communication process at the design stage and the use of existing company communication channels.

Before of the end the first part of the workshop, participants were divided into groups and were asked to play the role of the centre manager, who would take the language course for employees, and would be able to show the efficiency and impact of conducted training.

After a short coffee break, topped with a fresh buffet, the second part of the workshop followed and was run by Mr. Phillip Poyton - recruitment & employer branding specialist, who explained what the strategy of the language in the recruitment process is.

The main issues raised by Mr. Phillip focused on clarifying the language competences of future employees, whom we would like to hire for the specific role in the company. When recruiting for the specified role of the language employee it is important to not pay attention only to its high linguistic competence, but also for the level of commitment, market knowledge and cross-cultural communication ability.We begin the interview with the adequate preparation, which involves among other things, a close examination of candidate's CV for the role.

Mr. Philip drew attention to shifting away from the habit of using the STAR method by recruiters, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Instead, you should ask a potential employee questions about the tasks that have already solved in the past.

You should also ask candidates to translate their CV to the modern ''lingua franca'' (English) before the interview, because then we are able to check the potential linguistic competence employee whom we are recruiting for the position requiring foreign language skills. Just before the end of the workshop the participants got to fill a sample recruitment form of a pizza company, which was measuring creativity of the candidate for the position, rather than experience, which is not accurate indicator of competence skill.

The workshop ended with a series of questions to trainers and networking, which was an opportunity to exchange experiences and business cards.

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