It’s the Journey, not the Destination

In 2011 GlobalEnglish launches The Business English Index to Track Global Communication Progress

Businesses around the globe agree that developing employees’ Business English skills is a bottom-line necessity, yet the recently launched Business English Index (BEI) demonstrates there is still a significant skills gap and a long road to travel. Thanks to globalization, English has been accepted by the global business community as the de facto language of business. Unfortunately and ironically, few companies are actually prepared with a plan to provide their workforce the Business English skills necessary to meet the demands of their global business activities, and even fewer global companies have looked far enough down the path on the journey towards Enterprise Fluency.

Customers, analysts, and the press have been conjecturing for years on the progress (or lack thereof) of global companies achieving Enterprise Fluency — the communication, collaboration and operational proficiency companies must have to profitably expand their global footprint.  So at the beginning of the year, GlobalEnglish Corporation conducted a study to determine our client’s competency in Business English communication skills across all industries and geographies. At the end of March we introduced the Business English Index report, the first in an annual series that stops any conjecturing by presenting a  benchmark to measure the progress of global Business English skills, a key component of an organization’s Enterprise Fluency.

The results of the 2011 BEI show respondents, on average, measure 4.46 out of 10 possible points, confirming that current Business English skills are insufficient to meet the demands of global business in the 21st century.  Scores of 5.0 or lower translate into a workforce that can understand only basic information on the telephone or in person, but cannot understand most business presentations, take a leadership role in business discussions, or perform relatively complex tasks.  This measurement is consistent with past research which showed that 70% of today’s global workforce speaks English as a second language, yet only 7% think they speak it well enough to do their jobs.

The BEI is only a benchmark, and by definition an average of thousands of companies in over 150 countries.  It is a measurement of  our global progress toward Enterprise Fluency but cannot  define an individual company’s path.  It is your organization’s actual journey
which is  most important – getting others to understand  the criticality of Business
English skills within your organization, identifying  the highest value employees who will leverage these  skills, and (of course) measuring  the bottom line benefits of an organization that has a high level of Enterprise Fluency.

This blog will explore the strategies to successfully march your organization through globalization, help you recognize any skill gaps within your own workforce and uncover the indisputable relationship between effective business communication and financial growth and performance.

To learn more about the BEI, check out the report on our website.

Posted in Being effective globally, Business English, English Communication & Language Skills, Global organizational performance, Global Trends | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Your Organization Multinational or Global?

In Global Business, it’s more than just semantics!

Michael Porter, the highly acclaimed Harvard Business School professor, was one of the first scholars to define the differences between a “Multinational Company” and a “Global” company. In Competitive Advantage of Nations (1990), he argued that a multinational firm is one that operates businesses in many different countries, but a global firm pursues a unified strategy to coordinate various national operations.

So a conglomerate that has businesses in many countries that are only linked by several back office operations are probably closer to a multinational, whereas a company that links their supply chains from some countries, manufacturing in others, service and support in yet others is definitely closer to Porter’s global ideal. Other analysts and consultants have gone further suggesting that true global corporations essentially shed their home nation identity and act as stateless organizations. This trend has implications far beyond the economic including:

  • the political ramifications of individual nations’ tax policies
  • global trade policies
  • global employment policies.

Imagine a company that gets its supplies from Country A, manufactures the product in Country B, sells them in Countries C-F, provides customer support in Country G and provides back office services from “headquarters” in County H?  And this company is traded publicly on the stock markets of Countries H, C and D, with shareholders throughout the world.  Whose company is that anyway?

Although companies have had international operations in some form or another throughout history, this trend toward true globalization is accelerating at a pace much greater than Porter probably imagined 20 years ago. Why would any company keep country operations separate when it is easier than ever before to integrate them across the world? There have always been country-based “differential advantages” for performing particular operations in certain locations based on the natural resources of the region; the availability, cost, or expertise of the talent pool; the local regulatory environment; and/or the needs and resources of the potential customer base.  However, what hasn’t existed until recently is the technological ease to connect all of these places, giving companies the ability to truly leverage these competitive advantages and build an integrated global enterprise.

Of course, certain barriers will always exist — although figuratively flat, the world is still literally round and there will always be a nine hour time difference between Los Angeles and Frankfurt — but the multinational company is becoming extinct as it is replaced by the global competitor. If you are in the former camp, the time is now to take a serious strategic look at your operations. If you’re already a global company, then you need to focus on the most crucial element to connect your far flung operations — communication skills.

There is no more important investment than that which will promote what we call Enterprise Fluency, the communication, collaboration and operational proficiency companies must have to profitably expand their global footprint.

Take a look at the some of our client case studies which demonstrate how our clients are realizing immediate and significant business impact through improved individual performance and more efficient global team communication.

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The 21st Century Talent Crisis Irony

Can your Global Organization find Plenty of Workers, but still have a Shortage of Talent?

It has been a difficult few years for business. Global financial crises, recessions, energy price spikes and currency swings have made it one of the most difficult business environments since the Great Depression.  However, compared to seventy years ago, the world economy is much more connected and interdependent than ever before. The world is “flat” to echo the term popularized by Thomas Friedman. So when one region sneezes — whether it be a European countries’ debt crisis or the American mortgage market collapse — we all catch the cold globally.

Of course, this interdependence is not limited to the bad times — as economies around the world recover there is an “upward spiral” effect on businesses and governments everywhere. Even though we haven’t fully recovered yet, there are positive signs out there. One of those signs is the labor market — after years of very high unemployment in most regions of the world, companies are beginning to remove hiring freezes, and in some cases, starting to aggressively seek out new talent.

According to PWC’s 14th Annual Global CEO Survey released in February, 83% of CEOs, in response to changes in the global business environment, anticipate changing their strategies for managing talent over the next year. This same report notes that a combination of an aging workforce and a mismatch in the skills of emerging “Millennials” causes 64% of CEOs to fear that talent shortages will constrain their company’s growth.

What irony! For a number of years many workers have been seeking jobs, and now when employers are now ready to hire, these same workers may not be the right people to employ! Will this talent crisis threaten (or at a minimum delay) an overall economic recovery?

The PWC survey notes that in response to this threat companies are targeting key talent pools such as the Millennial generation and deploying more staff overseas to plug skills gaps and transfer knowledge. In fact, 59% of CEOs are planning to send more staff on international assignments than ever before. This focus will undoubtedly involve an investment in Business English skills for their global workforce.

Although talent management has arguably always been one of the most important areas of successful business management, it is clearly more critical and challenging than ever before. The need to effectively attract, train, deploy and retain skilled employees is
heightened due to our ever “flattening” world and the mobility of today’s workers.

GlobalEnglish research shows that, on average, a person with low English skills loses two hours of productivity per week. Two hours! Compounded across an entire organization, that productivity loss equates to painfully inefficient operations and lost business opportunity. Without an existing supply of workers already highly competent in key areas such as Business English proficiency, companies need to take the initiative by investing in the training and support methods necessary to ensure there is a match between the strategic needs of their global business and the communication skills of their workforce.

Looking to bring your global workers’ communication skills into the 21st Century? Check out some of the client success stories on our website or download the Bridging the Talent Crisis White Paper co-authored by the HCI institute and GlobalEnglish.

Posted in Building a 21st Century Workforce, Employee productivity, Enterprise productivity & performance, Global talent management strategies, Workforce Management & Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cultural Imperialism or Economic Reality?

Why not GlobalMandarin or GlobalSpanish?

At GlobalEnglish, we’re often asked if we will be rolling out solutions for Mandarin, or even Spanish.  After all, only one twentieth of the world’s population speaks English as their native language.  Mandarin has more than double the number of native speakers than English, and with the economic growth and growing dominance of China, wouldn’t this seem like a natural offering?  Is this just another example of cultural imperialism, something that Americans are often accused of?

The world history of language dominance is a complex one, and different languages have acted as the “lingua franca” of business, religion and even politics throughout time.  Much of this was shaped by cultural imperialism and implemented through wars, conquests, and colonialism.  Early recorded history in Europe shows the dominance of Greek, then Latin (particularly as the church expanded throughout Europe), and then even the rise of German throughout Central Europe following the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire.

Before English, perhaps the best example of a language that came the closest to world dominance was French.  Throughout the middle ages and up until the 19th Century, French was largely considered the most important language in the world.  French became the language of administration and even became a language of superior status in England (used in law courts, etc.)  Even the modern Olympics, which started in 1896, adopted French along with English as its official languages! From the 1960s to the 1980s, many pundits predicted the rise to dominance of the Japanese language, given the remarkable economic growth of and perceived economic threat from Japan.  Schools started offering Japanese classes, and businesses started training their executives in Japanese.  However, that trend waned in the 1990s with the economic stagnation in Japan, and the focus later shifted to predicting the rise of Mandarin due to China’s remarkable growth. But the increasing dominance of the Chinese in world economics is happening simultaneously to globalization so as to make it effectively too late to adopt Mandarin as a global standard.

So, why wouldn’t English, like French, German, Greek, and Latin before it, wane in dominance over the next century as Mandarin rises?  The answer is simple — timing!

English came into dominance in the 20th Century at the beginning of a massive communications revolution and at the beginning of true globalization.  Although earlier dominant languages may have had some sense of global reach, communication and commerce across borders was still a very slow and expensive process.  Now, when many of these barriers to globalization have been brought down, English was already in the position of economic leadership.  How does the requirement for strong Business English skills manifest itself in global business?  When someone in the Netherlands does business with someone in Brazil, they need to find a universal language, and they default to English.  So while GlobalEnglish does not deny the importance of China or of the Mandarin language (just like it doesn’t deny the importance of Latin American countries and the Spanish language), it is clear that global businesses have already chosen English as their de facto language of commerce, and if anything, that role is strengthening.  This is why we are singularly focused on helping organizations succeed by equipping their employees with the Business English communication skills necessary to conduct global business.

What do you think? Is English increasing in importance in your global business?

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Mission: Very Possible

Embracing and Profiting from The Remarkable Convergence of Globalization Through English as a Common Business Language

Even though there are only 300 million native English speakers on the planet, more than one in four humans actually speaks English, and that percentage in business is much higher.  Due to a combination of timing, needs, and economic influence, enterprises across the globe have adopted English as the de facto language of business.

English has become the “universal translator” of commerce among businesses in various countries that need to communicate with one another–and not because everyone in business is working with the U.S. (or England or Canada or Australia).  It would be an impossible task to ask every business person to learn the language of every other county they deal with.  Rather, to simply survive globalization, organizations have adopted English as the universal language of global business.  In other words, when Brazilians speak to the Chinese, it is rare they will speak in either Portuguese or Mandarin — they will speak English.

So where does that leave global organizations? Thankfully, the impossible goal of employees’ learning every language on the planet has been replaced with a difficult — yet achievable and necessary — goal, to get all knowledge workers in global enterprises to use English effectively in business.

As of today, there’s still a long way to go. 70% of today’s global workforce speaks English as a second language, yet only 7% think they speak it well enough to do their jobs!  This gap is the genesis of the core mission of GlobalEnglish.  We were founded on a singular premise — to advance Enterprise Fluency™, the communication, collaboration and operational proficiency companies must have to profitably expand their global footprint.

We firmly believe globalization brings companies, cultures, and commerce together, and that these trends will continue to accelerate far into this century.  This is a unique time in world history — the confluence of economic advancement and technology has allowed global businesses to tap into both resources and markets never thought attainable only a few short decades ago.   New players continue to emerge, existing ones remake themselves, and consumers are blessed with ever increasing choices.

As a company whose purpose it is to help organizations succeed by equipping their employees with the Business English communication skills necessary to conduct global business, we look forward to these developments and believe the promise of globalization is very much achievable.  But it all starts with your organization’s level of Enterprise Fluency.

To learn more about GlobalEnglish’s vision and purpose, please visit our website.

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