Three steps to addressing a language skills gap

Written by Donavan Whyte on 15 April 2015

To upskill a global workforce to be proficient in languages, businesses must first identify they have a training need. And this can be a challenge in itself.

Research reveals that despite nine out of 10 lines of business leaders facing language proficiency challenges in their teams, two-thirds don’t partner with HR to address them.1 With these skills deficiencies hidden from senior management and HR, leaders face a significant challenge gauging the true extent of their organisation’s skills gap and then implementing a training programme to address it.

Three steps

Following these three steps can help training managers along the path to implementing a global language training plan:

  1. Produce a talent map – a global business will have a strategy for expansion. Look at the countries and regions your business is planning on expanding into in the short and medium-term. Identify the competencies your workforce has already. Then draw up a picture of the skills your workforce will need in the next one, three and five years based on the business’ goals and expected growth. There’s a tool for this – the Global Readiness Talent Map. This audit will help you identify the size and type of skills gap that exists.
  2. Get leadership buy-in – if senior management aren’t aware a skills gap needs plugging, they will value a considered proposal that clearly identifies the need and establishes how meeting it will benefit the business. A company-wide talent management approach best supports the goals of the business with a centralised global training initiative providing two key benefits:
    • Economies of scale – if training is arranged independently in separate business lines, it will be costing the company more overall. A one-off approach to training incurs significant waste
    • Measurement – tracking, measuring and reporting against training is the only way companies can understand their return on investment and see if they are making progress in achieving the goals they have set for personnel development. It is harder, if not impossible, to achieve a company-wide view of this if training is being arranged independently across different divisions using multiple training sources.
  3. Personal development plans – encourage managers of people to ensure that the organisation’s goals percolate through all business plans and this includes down to the level of the individual employee personal development plan. If a company is going global, can this be seen in the training and development goals of its workforce? If not, why not? It is the people that will get the organisation there. Consistent use of a development plan template helps managers in conversations with their teams and helps you keep track of the capabilities developed within your organisation.

Once you’ve completed the three steps – you’ve determined the need for language training, secured senior management buy-in and integrated language learning goals into employee development plans - you can begin to meet your identified training need through a company-wide training plan.


  1. IDG Research Services: Business Line Leader Language Communication Survey (Rosetta Stone Business, 2015)


Donavan Whyte is Vice President, EMEA Enterprise & Education at Rosetta Stone


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