English communication skills are essential for organisations to succeed in a global environment. And pressure to upskill rapidly is increasing.
How can L&D teams achieve this? We share 10 valuable tips to quickly develop your teams’ language skills, improve cross-border collaboration and enhance your organisation’s professional reputation.
Reading time: 6 minutes
Increased globalisation, hybrid working and cross-functional teamwork can be exciting but challenging. The gaps in your teams’ English language skills become more exposed as they communicate more across borders. In this period of rapid change, agile working and high staff turnover, it’s essential to be able to upskill teams quickly.
Sound familiar? In a world where businesses operate even more transnationally, having employees who communicate well in another language is a growing pressure.
No one felt this pressure more than Aliyah, L&D team lead at DigiSpan, a technology solutions company in the Middle East. Earlier this year, DigiSpan began to expand its customer base into the US and Canada. Aliyah had just eight weeks to the launch. In that time, the teams’ level of English had to increase so they could communicate clearly and connect with customers.
You may wonder if it’s possible to improve English so quickly. Cambridge research found adult learners need between 180-260 learning hours to move from intermediate (B1) to upper-intermediate (B2) on the CEFR scale.
So how is rapid upskilling possible?
Read on to discover how DigiSpan successfully met the language upskill challenge. Learn, too, how you can quickly develop your teams’ language skills by applying these practical tips.
Tip 1- Target specific skills
You already have a clear idea from your training needs analysis the specific language skills your employees need. For reading and writing, thankfully, today we have many translation tools to help such as Google Translate and Grammarly. DigiSpan used templates to guide employees in writing emails and reports with translations. Aliyah prioritised speaking and listening skills for the training.
Tip 2- Target specific situations
Knowing the exact situations your team functions in is vital for hyper-targeting the language skills training content. Aliyah focused her teams’ training on the specific vocabulary, grammar and skills to be able to talk easily about products and services, respond naturally to common requests and handle complaints professionally.
Tip 3- Make learning accessible at the moment of need
Learning in the flow of work has changed the way our teams consume content. By curating resources on an LMS, employees can access them when they need them most. Aliyah’s team ensured their LMS was packed with online translation tools, dictionaries, templates, sample communications, style guides, podcasts, audios, animations and infographics for the customer service team to access at any time.
Tip 4- Make it micro
Bite-sized learning makes the learning more digestible. Research shows we retain information more effectively and learn quicker when it is short and spaced out. Aliyah sourced two-minute training videos, quizzes and case studies to keep her teams engaged. The platform also served up slices of learning at spaced intervals for easy digestion.
Tip 5- Gamify learning
Imagine how effective and enjoyable learning would be if it borrowed engaging techniques from gaming? Happily, it is already a trend. Recent research confirmed how learning design that incorporates game principles such as positive competition, collaboration, points and rewards, narrative and characters boosts engagement, motivation and retention. DigiSpan used short situation-based simulations where learners competed against colleagues, scored points and earned rewards for performing well in the simulation. It certainly engaged their teams and increased completion rates.
Tip 6- Provide practice
Practice matters. Progress occurs by trying, understanding what works and what doesn’t. Language is a living skill so it’s vital to integrate opportunities to practise English in the flow of work and during the training. Aliyah ensured the training content was learner-centred and interactive, providing maximum practice time. DigiSpan also initiated a buddy scheme so employees had opportunities to practise on the job.
Tip 7- Provide timely feedback
Gallup research confirmed that giving timely and frequent feedback keeps employees engaged. Your employees need to know when they are speaking inaccurately or clearly, make the correction and learn from it. DigiSpan’s training included regular peer and trainer feedback. The platform also incorporated feedback on written answers and Aliyah signposted her team to online checking tools such as Prowriting Aid.
Tip 8- Assess skills regularly
You already know how vital assessment is for effective learning. When a learner receives the objective overview of their progress, it energises them to develop further. It is helpful for your team too, providing the opportunity to refocus the training content and activities if required.
Aliyah ensured that the training included assessments before, during and after the training as well as micro skills tests after every module. They also used key talent to carry out drop-in assessments as part of their quality assurance and mystery shopper initiatives and review the skills in action.
Tip 9- Provide 121 training and coaching
If you’ve ever worked 121 with a coach or tutor, you’ll know first-hand how this accelerates your learning. Through focused attention, the coach pinpoints your areas for improvement, and you can practise skills tailored to your needs. Personalised learning is good for the learner and good for business. Aliyah hired private tutors for online sessions as part of the training and introduced a coaching buddy system, teaming up higher English proficiency employees to coach those with lower levels.
Tip 10- Establish a culture of English at work
Practising listening and fluency skills at work not only boosts proficiency and confidence but also inspires reluctant colleagues to try. At DigiSpan, Aliyah created an ‘English only’ forum for learners to share video updates and progress which they could like and comment on. They also started an ‘English only’ section at the beginning of each meeting.
DigiSpan did it and so can you. With ever increasing globalisation, fast language upskilling is the new business rhythm. Keep these ten tips handy when you need to take your teams’ language learning to the next level.
|10 tips for rapid language skills development
|1. Target specific skills your employees need
2. Target specific situations your teams experience
|3. Make learning accessible at the moment of need
4. Make it micro
5. Gamify learning
7. Provide timely feedback
8. Assess skills regularly
9. Provide 121 training and coaching
10. Establish a culture of English at work
With over 80 years’ experience of working in over 100 countries in 6 continents, we have unrivalled skills in building global organisations’ language skills. Discover how our learning solutions can develop your teams’ English language skills, fast.