Business agility is vital in the fast-moving international marketplace we face today. Organisations need to be able to place skilled staff around the world as new opportunities arise and new customers are won. Employees are no longer siloed in static roles but are resources enabling their organisation to compete effectively by creating new teams and cross-skilling rapidly. Underpinning all of this, effective workforce communications skills have a direct impact on the bottom line as employees across the world communicate effectively with each other, their suppliers and customers.
Respondents to a survey1 of over 250 global HR directors, learning and development professionals and C-level executives believed that better organisational communications would also improve collaboration across borders (43%), allowing staff across the globe to collaborate on projects while enterprises source talent from the whole organisation. The vast majority (85%) of HR directors, CXO and senior L&D managers consider communication and foreign language skills to be important or very important for business success.
Boosting enterprise communication skills
There are a number of drivers for the growing need for better communication skills. Organisations are increasingly tapping into the cloud to deliver integrated global collaboration systems. As a result, the long-held goal of colleagues working together across borders and time zones is very much a reality for many multinationals. Routinely, colleagues and managers collaborate using a variety of technologies including email, phone, chat or web conference. As work is becoming collaborative and flexible, so too is learning, and organisations are turning to e-learning to support language training and wider communication skills development.
When it comes to language skills development, HR departments are pivotal for helping speakers of different languages work and do business together. The focus need not necessarily be on technology solutions. Only 6% of HR directors, CXO and L&D senior managers that responded to the Speexx Exchange 2014-15 Survey cited technical obstacles as impeding communications across borders. Of highest importance was the lack of language skills – a problem for 39% of respondents, followed by intercultural differences, cited by 28%.
HR and L&D professionals can take practical steps to make better communications a reality and help to improve business agility. Many organisations have embraced the BYOD (bring your own device) approach so employees have become used to accessing work systems and data on the move and in their own time. HR and L&D can tap into this trend and deliver technology-enabled language and communication skills training to mobile devices.
In tandem, global organisations are looking to the cloud as a cost-effective way to deliver centralised enterprise data or productivity or collaboration solutions. Initially, security was a concern when it came to hosting workforce development in the cloud, due to the personal nature of much of the data held. However, as HR and L&D managers come to realise that signing up for cloud-based services can actually outsource the headache of data security to providers guaranteeing high levels of security, workforce development is increasingly moving into the cloud. By now, just 38% of organisations rely on local learning management solutions (LMS) to manage workforce performance while almost a third (30%) have already moved to a cloud-based or hybrid (partly on-premise and cloud) platform.
There are simple steps HR and L&D professionals can take to get started in boosting business agility through better workforce communications:
- Tap into the mobile and collaboration technology platforms that are supporting employee and supply chain communications to deliver communication and language learning.
- Integrating e-learning into employees’ daily workflow and enterprise systems is a highly effective way of delivering learning, compared with traditional classroom training, but watch out for overwhelming already hardworking employees and work with line management to ring fence time for learning in employees’ schedules.
- Use Big Data about employee learning progress and organisations’ activities and development to tweak learning delivery. HR and L&D should aim to be proactive rather than reactive in delivering language and communications learning, not only meeting but anticipating training needs.
Organisations that are successful in breaking down barriers to delivering better workforce communications are likely to reap benefits ranging from faster time-to-decision across borders (cited by 41% of HR directors, CXO and L&D senior managers responding to the Speexx survey), competitive advantage in global projects (39%), increased quality of customer care (38%), reduced internal conflict (33%) and cost savings (23%), not least the savings made on recruitment expenses. Superior language and communication skills give organisations a real competitive edge and put them in the best position possible to compete on the world stage.
1 The Speexx Exchange 2013-14 Survey of over 250 global HR directors, learning and development professionals and C-level executives.