What’s driving change?
It was interesting to in read the latest Towards Maturity Benchmark report that the three dominant drivers for L&D were the need to improve staff job satisfaction and retention (94 per cent of respondents), faster response to changing business conditions (93 per cent) and increasing workforce productivity (91 per cent). Anyone running their own business may be forgiven for asking "hasn't that always been the case?" For me, what's more compelling is that those areas have almost doubled as a business focus since 2008. This global audit signals two issues to me. First, businesses are continuing to strive for greater organisational agility and second, businesses still need to find a way to motivate and retain their top performers.
So what's creating the divide between business needs and HR? One possibility may be the lack of business communication or understanding between HR, L&D staff and technology which can create a corporate 'Bermuda Triangle' that is toxic to an effective learning culture. Implementing new ways of teaching soft skills, such as languages, through blended learning programmes means HR, L&D staff and Technology need to proactively co-operate and understand each other's resources and limitations.
One measure HR can take is to get IT and L&D together at the very early stages to develop a viable blended language learning strategy for the company. This also gives the IT department a chance to understand and resolve any unreliable ICT infrastructures, broadband or technical restrictions that may be impeding the implementation of new online learning tools.
Is it worth the effort?
Participation in a learning culture needs to start from top management and cascade downwards. One common reason for staff not improving their foreign language and business communication skills is their line managers' reluctance to make time for training. Many also place talent development as a low priority compared to day-to-day business activities. It is therefore imperative that companies create an overarching attitude of encouraging learning and development.
Succeeding in business also means keeping up with the changing technological landscape. Although technology is marvellously efficient at delivering information, it can fall short without the right people to support it from the ground up. A fully integrated, customised talent management system, supported by local experts, not only paves the way to more talent development and mobility, but can also be the key to gaining greater efficiency and a significant competitive advantage on a global scale.
Strong business communication skills open up opportunities which can make the difference between success and failure. Organisations aiming to gain a competitive advantage and leverage talent need to step outside 'local silos' of operation and embrace the exciting breadth of global knowledge, online language learning content and connections available right now. The time is now for organisations to re-evaluate their training, performance management and succession processes in order to ensure talent mobility is truly facilitated to deliver sustainable growth.
Boosting business growth is not about finding additional revenue streams. Rather, it is about working with what we already have. Businesses in the UK have a long way to go before tapping into the profit potential of their culturally and linguistically diverse population. And optimising the business potential of multilingualism begins with a culture of inclusion.
That said, real progress will be achieved if businesses, large and small, take stock of existing language skills and use these to their advantage, while ensuring the consistent development of new ways of language learning that are both motivating and compatible with the demands of the workforce. So it comes as no coincidence that driving business agility and growth is still about have the right people with the right skills in the right place.