By Corporate English Solutions

09 August 2022 - 10:00

Reading time: 8 minutes 

English communication skills are vital for companies to succeed on the global stage but traditional language learning, with its one-size-fits-all approach, can be ineffective in meeting specific business needs. What’s the solution? A personalised English learning programme. We outline four reasons why this approach delivers better business results.   


Adapting to change is essential in today’s fast-changing business environment. The global pandemic has brought many challenges to the workplace, but also many opportunities.  

The rise of hybrid and remote operations is creating more possibilities for collaboration across national borders. About 63% of high-growth companies now have a work from anywhere policy [1]. Thus, learning English for the workplace is an increasing need to optimise the flow of communication throughout many global operations.   

But before you start investing in English courses for your employees, you’ll need to determine if it makes good business sense. With many L&D departments having to do a lot more post-pandemic, budgets are getting tighter and tighter (and most probably yours too). So, any personalised learning programme you choose should deliver a good ROI. 

It can take up to 1000-1200 hours [2] to reach proficiency in a traditional language course. Most busy employees under pressure to perform don’t have that much time (or motivation). This is especially true when the learning content is generic, as they might feel it’s not relevant to their needs. 

So, traditional language learning may not always be the best solution for many businesses today. In fact, CIPD’s Learning and Skills at Work 2020 research identified personalisation and tailoring of learning programmes as one of the top 10 priorities for L&D [3].   

What is personalised learning? And why does it deliver a stronger business impact? Read on to find out our top four reasons. 

1. Links training to business objectives 

Where is the best place to begin when planning a personalised learning programme? Start by identifying your key business objectives instead of carrying out a learning needs analysis. Why? This will ensure that you create a personalised learning experience that has a direct business impact right from the start.  

Even better, involve business managers to ensure you’re on the right track. Then after you’ve linked the programme to the main business objectives, we suggest you: 

  1. gather specific data related to these main business objectives 
  2. use the data to create outcomes-based metrics to evaluate the programme’s success 
  3. outline essential English skills needed to support the business objectives 
  4. conduct a needs analysis (e.g. self-assessment, training assessment, English testing/evaluation) to identify individual skills levels and gaps.  

Case study 

A successful tech start-up in Poland went through a similar process recently. With a new Innovation Hub in Ireland, members of their sales team quickly needed English communication skills to understand client needs, influence clients to buy products/services and build relationships.  

“We wanted to grow business in Ireland by 25%. We worked with the L&D team to develop specific metrics about the number of new leads, increased sales and repeat business we wanted to achieve. Through identifying the key English communication skills and detailed needs analysis, we made sure that the learning content was directly related to the metrics. This included effective questioning to understand client needs, explaining the benefits of our services and negotiation skills.” 

2. Improves stakeholder engagement  

Collaborating with business managers from the start and taking time to understand the business vision, strategy and priorities helps you build trust and relationships with key stakeholders. 

By focusing on outcomes-based metrics related to business performance, you can reassure managers that personalised learning will impact individual performance. Also, they will feel shared ownership of these metrics.  

A former sales manager had this to say about working closely with an L&D team post-pandemic: 

“Before 2020, I usually found out about new trainings in meetings. But when we returned to the office, the head of L&D came to us to get input on our exact needs. In the end, we developed a suite of digital tools, processes and microlearning content that helped the sales team and the business recover to pre-pandemic sales.”  

Over time, this kind of collaboration will improve the likelihood that managers provide budget and integrate personalised learning strategies into the continuous performance management process. 

3. Increases training completion 

From personal experience, you probably already know that motivating teams to complete training programmes can be difficult.  

Motivation may be high in the beginning, but many fail to finish traditional L&D training programmes, as low as 20-30%. This is especially true when they receive generic learning content that isn’t relevant to their needs and workplace context. 

But when learning is personalised and combined with microlearning content, completion rates are around 83% [4]. For example, 91% of the Polish sales team completed their personalised learning experience, compared to 57% of a general English course two years ago.  

Ensure that all case studies and scenarios are directly relevant to specific workplace situations that your teams need to communicate in in English. They will be able to use the learning immediately and see its impact on their performance. This will further motivate your teams to continue learning. 

To make completion rates even higher, combine curated content with self-directed learning. That way, employees will feel confident to take control of their learning. They will also enjoy being in charge of choosing which skills to develop in order of priority. Make sure to use  effective microlearning training content, such as short, bite-sized videos, AI-enabled platforms, gamification and more. 

4. Leads to better results  

Did you know that only 12% of learners apply the skills from traditional L&D training? [5] But personalised learning leads to higher engagement and better results. In fact, 77% of L&D professionals agree there is a clear link between the two.  

After 9 months of personalised learning strategies, the Polish tech company experienced: 

  • 21% increase in new leads 
  • 13% increase in sales  
  • 12% increase in repeat business 
  • 33% improvement in customer satisfaction surveys. 

The head of L&D of the Polish tech company was quite impressed by these results, “Compared to the general English courses the sales team did two years ago, the personalised English programme is actually helping to drive sales and business growth. The sales team is able to quickly use the language they learn. The session content is short, tailored and full of practical and applicable tips on the skills they need to sell better.” 

Key takeaways  

Use these four reasons to effectively make the business case for and communicate the benefits of personalised learning. You’ll be able to influence key stakeholders and get buy-in when they understand how it will: 

  • quickly upskill teams  
  • have a direct impact on productivity and performance 
  • lead to better business results. 

Discover our four-step approach to ensure personalised content, relevance and business impact for your teams, as well as our sector solutions.  

Find out more here >

Find more valuable tips about working across cultures by reading our blogs: 

[1] Accenture. 2021. The future of work model. 

2] British Council. Our levels and the CEFR. 

[3] CIPD. Learning and skills at work 2020. 

[4] Winga, Bennett. 2022. Dashe & Thomson. Microlearning Best Practices: Revolutionizing your Training in 2022. 

[5] Glaveski, Steve. 2019. Harvard Business Review. Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development.