The role of English proficiency in a global organization

Pearson Languages
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Reading time: 4 minutes

To compete in the modern business space, many organizations are shifting to a more global way of working.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation and globalization across industries but, as many businesses look now to sustaining future growth, the question is: what powers a successful, global organization?

Why English proficiency is key to unlocking international success

According to Pearson’s 2022 Power Skills Survey, one of the biggest factors in effective workplace globalization is the use of English as a common language. The report states “Adopting a common language and ensuring that the entire workforce can access it has become more important than ever before.”

It points to statistics from rising economies in Southeast Asia, showcasing the strength of English use and their respective booming industries:

  • In Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy in terms of GDP, the service sector employs nearly half of the country’s local workforce.
  • In Thailand, nearly 60% of the country’s GDP is generated by tourism and export-oriented production. Vietnam, one of APAC’s fastest-growing markets and a rising manufacturing powerhouse, counts the US among its top trading partners.
  • The Philippines’ business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, a key pillar of the country’s economy, employs 1.3 million people.

The power of effective communication

Pearson’s 2022 Power Skills Survey is a drop in the ocean of reports hailing effective communication as one of the top factors to both personal and business success. Good communicators have been linked to higher performance in school, at work and in their personal lives. It is no surprise then that good communicators are highly sought after by talent recruiters.

With many businesses moving to hiring outside of traditional location boundaries, more languages are inevitable in the workplace. So, can good communication transcend language barriers?

As the statistics gathered by the Power Skills Survey show, there is evidence that sharing one common language, and therefore enabling more effective communication, can improve business opportunities, workforce growth and ultimately the economy. In the survey report, Norlida Azmi, Group Chief People Officer at Axiata, said:

“Communication is a critical skill that sets the foundation for not only leadership competencies, such as people management and coalition building, but also for wider and effective stakeholder management in the ecosystem – communicating with our shareholders, customers and the communities that we operate in.”

English: the official language of business

While communication for globalization can look different for different markets, the English language is recognized as the prevailing choice for multinational companies. The Harvard Business Review says:

“The need to tightly coordinate tasks and work with customers and partners worldwide has accelerated the move toward English as the official language of business.”

So, with businesses now fighting to grow in a global marketplace, unlocking the power of the English language is crucial to success.

Assessing English proficiency within your organization

The survey shows that many organizations have work to do in this area, even if they view strong English proficiency as extremely important to their roles. It details the current state of assessing candidates’ English language proficiency and the percentage of organizations that have strategies in place to upskill their employees English proficiency. Both leave room for improvement.

According to the survey, the number one way talent acquisition managers test English language skills is at the interview (58%), although 37% aren't measuring English language skills at all. This can be problematic later down the line, as not all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) will be accurately represented in an interview.

Meanwhile, 27% of businesses use computer-based tests and 14% use paper-based tests to assess English language proficiency. By getting standardized test results, talent managers can more accurately assess if candidates’ English proficiency is suitable for the role, making for more confident and successful hires.

Strategies for English upskilling

Talent managers can also pass on these insights to learning and development managers to help them implement effective English language upskilling programs. While this investment can empower employees to perform better in their new role, it may also improve employee retention and even lead to succession and impact business growth.

 Whether organizations choose to hire new talent with higher levels of English proficiency or invest in learning and development programs to build their employees’ language skills, there are tools available to help.

Pearson Language Solutions for Work enables talent and learning and development managers to fast-track and simplify their recruitment and training processes, giving you total confidence that your candidates and employees have the English language skills to drive your business forward. Find the best language assessment and learning solutions for your organization here.

Drive your business forward with language training

If you liked this blog post and want to learn more, download our PDF report here.

Find out more about how language training and assessment can drive your business forward by checking out our resources for HR professionals, including articles, whitepapers and research.

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