In Praise of Consultants: Workplace English Training

HR departments play a crucial role in facilitating the effective delivery and implementation of workplace English learning programs, and thus must make informed decisions about what these programs will look like. This article outlines why a consultant could be the answer to your HR department’s prayers!

Investments in Workplace English Learning 

Most large companies across the non-English-speaking world invest vast amounts of time and money in English language courses for their employees. Thanks to the inexhaustible need for investment in this kind of training, the market boasts an impressive (and almost similarly inexhaustible) number of options.

English Language course options

  • Those taught at traditional, bricks-and-mortar language school in-person and on-site;
  • Online platforms of every variety or, a good old-fashioned private teacher who will drop in to the office or home of the student according to whatever is required.

Each course will use any number of different methodologies, teaching systems and means of assessment.

Interestingly, it is rare to find a large company that will look upon their investment in language training as central to their business’s growth.There is a recognition that workplace English language learning is important, but it is still often regarded as something “nice to have” rather than something necessary to have. This mentality creates less than ideal environments for employees who need English language training to boost their performance and overall effectiveness at work.

Are HR departments failing to hit the mark? 

Until today, a common strategy used by the HR department that is usually tasked with dealing with the ‘problem’ of low English proficiency amongst employees has been to provide a stipend to deserving/entitled candidates that helps pay for an English course at an approved school.

This kind of lazy thinking may look good on paper, but in the long term most companies have found this to be a wasted investment. It is the list of ‘approved’ schools and the method used to compile the list that best illustrates this problem.

Companies end up with five or six schools – sometimes more – nominally providing the same service, i.e. language teaching. But this is not comparing apples with apples, since there are many variables that need to be considered, the least important of which is the price of the course.

What are the questions to consider?  

In the midst of a company’s rush to ‘approve’ a course, HR departments have some important questions to consider, like:

How is the student evaluated and how often?

What are our expectations?

Can I compare the results of School A with Online Provider B, School B and School C?

Failing to ask these questions creates a huge variation in results and, in the absence of objective parameters, no one within the company knows how to get its employees to the required level of English.

The result is that a lot of time and money is wasted trying to find the right course, at the right price for services rendered and with the desired results. It is a demoralising, Sisyphean process.

Do your research. Remove doubt! 
workplace English training language learning
Click on this image to view previous blog article on choosing the right English training corporate course for your company!

Consultancies to the rescue! 

An ideal solution to this futile scenario is to be found in the form of consultancies that specialise in the management of language training programs.

Consultancies aim to do the following:

  • Organize their client’s projects
  • Bring in levels of standardisation
  • Implement a strategic vision of the overall language project
  • Optimise resources and;
  • Ensure a timely return on investment.

In addition, consultants strategically manage workplace English language programs, giving back the company’s HR department the time to focus on their true areas of expertise.

A professional in human resources will be able to liaise with the consultant to analyse their reports and make informed, strategic decisions more readily.

What direction a might a consultant take?

The consultants begin their work by mapping out the standard of English of the employees who will be taking on a course. This usually involves written tests and face-to-face interviews, and marking in based on the six-level Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) scale.

At the same time, they will have selected high-quality, credible course providers for these candidates to attend, thereby eliminating waste and improving RoI.

Data gathering 

It is the responsibility of the consultant to carry out an analysis of the course curricula provided by the selected schools.

Armed with this information, they can then apply a level scale adjustment so that all the courses are reported to a unified standard. This allows HR to compare progress and evolution of learning across all approved courses. Further, it ensures a level of quality control and continuity that would otherwise be lacking.

Finally, a good consultant will conduct an analysis of each employee’s English language learning needs.

This data is based upon the individual’s initial test results, and helps guide them towards choosing the best course. It also determines how long they will have to take the course to achieve their desired level, and how much the company will invest in each person.

Climb to the top of the pyramid! 
workplace English training language learning
Working with the right consultant is critical for mapping out successful language learning programs

Project Control by HR

Used together, these measures bring the whole language project under the total control of an HR department that can then define the beginning, duration and completion of the program.

HR can also determine the intermediate stages of the action plan, including monitoring the participant’s progress, as one would hope to be able to do on any project taken on by the company.

For the record, in our many years of experience, companies adopting this strategy have experienced substantial cost reductions in their outlays for workplace English language training. What is more, they also saw a significant improvement in overall results!

Want to know more about how to optimise corporate workplace English training solutions for your business? Feel free to get in touch!

 

Written by:

Ricardo Hilgenberg – National Director, E2Language Brazil

Colin David – Director of Business Development, E2Language

English Language Training: Strategies for Achieving Results

Is it worth investing in English language training? In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why companies choose to cut English language training for their employees, and why it could be beneficial to re-consider your own company’s strategic goals. 

Workforce vs Current Employee? 

Now that the job market has become globalised, companies face the challenge of hiring the right professional with the right skill set for every position advertised. What set of skills makes this candidate more qualified to do the job than the next candidate? Does it all come down to job related skills and appropriate qualifications? Or do extra-curricular experiences tip the balance one way or the other?

And where does the ability to speak a foreign language proficiently become the deciding factor? In this article, we will advise on how to best approach and implement English language training and the benefits of doing so for your company.

Most companies confront these challenges by hiring English-speaking staff. They find themselves in a Catch-22: either they hire a professional who speaks English well but lacks the skills for the job itself, or hire the person with the best skill set and put them into English language training courses.

English language training
Trimming corporate English language training costs may cause problems down the track.

When the economy is weak, most companies consider language training an extravagance: it is fat to be trimmed, so they work to trim it from their budget. In the short term this may seem to be the most appropriate course of action. Business is slow, so when better to re-structure, keep on the highly-skilled core and get rid of the extraneous chaff?

With the money you’ve saved on payroll, you can invest in developing the team who remains according to the company’s strategic requirements. One can only hope that this will prove to be the keys to your collective success.

Corporate English Training Tips 101: 

There are numerous reasons why companies choose to cut language training, however, in so doing they are entering a vicious circle that they would be well advised to avoid. A company should be able to quantify the following:

1) Identify which professional needs language training, why they have the need, and how it ought to be carried out. Note that language training has to be a strategic decision.

2) There are very few suppliers of language courses that take on a strategic view in a consultative manner that respect the needs analysis of the client. Unsurprisingly, the few that do exist charge very high fees.

3) In the absence of strategic know-how, companies hire run-of-the-mill schools to carry out their language training. No needs analysis gets done, there is no strategic assessment of the students’ level, nor do they have an exact idea of how much time and money will be invested in language training and for how long. The result will be a never-ending training program, otherwise known as a bottomless money pit.

4) You have to keep your eye on your RoI from the outset. Since run-of-the-mill courses are often unengaging, this results in a general lack of motivation, low attendance/retention, and the slow, inevitable shuffle towards the end of language training.

 A game of chess anybody?

English language training
It’s crucial to develop strategic goals for undertaking English language training.

The benefits of English Language training

Everything, it seems, leads us to conclude that language training is an extravagant expense that should be cut when the economic tide turns against you. But that would be a mistake as it takes in only part of the wider picture. Consider the following:

1) First, HR has to take ownership of language training. It must be seen as an important and strategic aspect of the company’s overall strategy. The HR professional allocated to manage language training should be a person with strategic vision, able to develop overall and critical analyses of any aspect related to the main goal.

2) Language training should be carried out as a project, not just a benefit program.

3) When creating a language training project, a timeline should be properly prepared. Each part of the project must be delegated and assigned to the appropriate group of experts.

4) Determine why language training is important: who needs it? What do they need it for? How often it will be used?

5) It is essential to identify people within your organisation who are in a position to answer questions arising from training conclusively. If necessary, empower the HR department to do so.

6) Hire consultants who have experience in applying language placement tests. At E2Language, for example, we work with highly-credible international tests such as ETS’s TOEIC and Cambridge University’s BULATS. These standardisation tests enable the company to objectively see the overall level of its professionals, determine who needs language training and for how long, which in turn allows them to set the right budget for the project. The test will accurately determine which team members no longer require language training.

7) The company must choose a supplier that is able to deliver the required training at the determined budget. This supplier has to do more than the work of a regular school: it needs to carry out a detailed analysis of each department requiring language training in order to customise its course content. This process should be objective and efficient, never wasting company time or resources.

8) The company should be able to determine the length of any customised language course. This is basically good housekeeping, since the client ought to be in control of how much they invest and for how long.

9) Participating in a tailor-made program means that the students will appreciate the relevance of the course content. What is more, they should also be able to notice incremental improvements in their English level that will help to keep them highly motivated.

10) By treating language learning as a project, the company will be able to see the RoI on the language training: once the students have reach their goals, the training can be concluded.

At the end of the day…

Undoubtedly, it is best to hire a highly-skilled workforce, then invest in training your talent in a smart way. Do not think of it as an expense but a crucial important investment which, if done correctly with the right partner/supplier, will enrich your workforce.

Want to know more about how to optimise corporate English training solutions for your business? Feel free to get in touch!

 

Written by:

Ricardo Hilgenberg – National Director, E2Language Brazil

Colin David – Director of Business Development, E2Language

How to Choose the Right Corporate English Training Course for Your Business

Online corporate English training courses certainly have their advantages, but how do you know if you’re choosing the right course for your team?

Leaving the bricks-and-mortar model of language school when it comes to providing English language courses for your team has been a bit of a mixed experience for HR departments over the past decade or so since this way of learning became ubiquitous. Due to their flexibility and ease of access, online English training courses appear to be the way of the future, but when it comes to meeting the unique needs of a given company, many of these course providers fall short.

The trick is to know what you are meant to be looking for when you commit to an online English training course. In this article, we will highlight the key things to consider before signing on with any online corporate English training provider.

Let’s start by going over some of the most common red flags you should identify when choosing an online English training provider for your company.

red-303921_640  Corporate English Training Red Flags   red-303921_640

1. Irrelevant Content

Is the content up-to-date, relevant and fit for purpose? Steffi Graf was a great tennis player, but having her face on a lesson that labels her the “current number one women’s tennis player” is simply not good enough. What is more, it is common for some online course providers to offer live classes that have nothing at all to do with the content of the lessons they have completed. Worse, live group classes can have people with different levels of language competence in them.

2. Customisation Limitations

Some ‘business’ courses are simply relabelled B2C offerings, so your team go in expecting to improve their negotiating or presenting skills but end up learning how to order a coffee or talk about their next holiday. If a course provider promises customised courses, find out how deep this goes. If it is only a superficial rebranding of the landing page, something is probably amiss.

A responsible online school will take the time to listen to your company’s needs and recommend a course of action that works for you. A one-size-fits-all approach is a fast track to low retention and poor results.

Corporate English Training
No two team members are identical, and “one-size-fits all” methods won’t do your company any favours.

3. Sameness

A lot of people go into online training with a cynical eye, mostly as result of being power-pointed into submission over the years. Online platforms might look quite sexy, but the content is frequently static and seriously undynamic. You must ask yourself what is substantially different about Platform A when compared to Platforms B, C or D. If people are not challenged, they are far less likely to commit to the course from the outset.

4. Nothing but bells and whistles

Do not be fooled by shiny objects! Beautiful websites can be very alluring, but dig a little deeper and see whether you are dealing with a provider who values style over substance. The interface may be pretty but does the course offer personalised feedback? The selection of videos may be impressive, but are the related activities meaningful? If the user experience is poor, you will rapidly see a drop in student engagement.

 5. Sole focus on receptive skills

A common issue with some online English courses is that there are plenty of opportunities to improve your receptive (reading and listening) skills, but very little in terms of the productive (speaking and writing) skills. This is simply unacceptable. Any serious language teacher knows that the feedback loop is the element of the learning process that has the greatest impact on the learner. Students have questions all the time, so how is this dealt with by the platform? Are the people taking the questions properly qualified English as a Second Language (ESL) professionals?

Corporate English Training
Productive skills like speaking are integral to an employee’s success in English.

With these red flags in mind, let’s turn to two of the most important “must-haves” when choosing the right corporate English provider for you:

Corporate English Training Corporate English Training Checklist  Corporate English Training

1. Effective Project Management

The professionals in HR already have a hundred things on their plate, so actively overseeing dozens if not hundreds of employees during their English programs is pretty much of the question. What kind of support is being offered by the online course provider in this respect? Can I follow my team’s evolution in real time? How many classes has student X taken? Has student Y done any homework? How do the student’s compare to each other? How have they evolved over this period?

It is crucial that the online provider has an Account Manager who is (within reason!) always available to ask questions, clarify doubts and carry the whole learning process though from start to finish.

2. Return on your investment

The online course provider should be helping you and your team to make the most of the courses being offered. They have to be willing and able to show you the value to having committed to their product. This means they are setting goals, measuring outcomes and consistently striving to meet your company’s unique needs. Courses that fail often do so as a result of a general lack of engagement from both parties. If you really want more bang for your buck, the onus is on you to make sure you pick a partner who can deliver it.

The need for proficiency in English for business purposes continues to dominate the corporate world, and it’s important to know how to best provide your team with the tools for language success in the workplace. This process begins with a corporate English training solution that is as unique and dynamic are they are.

Want to know more about how to optimise corporate English training solutions for your business? Feel free to get in touch!

 

Written by:

Ricardo Hilgenberg – National Director, E2Language Brazil

Colin David – Director of Business Development, E2Language