English as a Second Language (ESL) from GlobalEnglish adding business benefits to Global Organisations

by | Oct 20, 2009 | Articles

‘English as a Second Language’ is not new. In fact the business world has debated the topic many times in the past but we’re starting to reach a point where many major multi-national, global organisations recognise the need to provide adequate English language training for their global workforce. In many of these organisations those with English as their natural language often represent less than 10% of the workforce, so the need is significant.

These organisations have clearly defined that English is their chosen business language and are taking steps to address the language training need with organisations such as GlobalEnglish, who are the leaders in the field with over 500 clients across the globe. What’s surprising is that many organisations either still don’t see the training need or choose to simply ignore it, and that puts them at a significant competitive disadvantage as well as not harnessing the talent they have across the organisation.
GlobalExchanges EMEA 2009 Review
Deepak Desai, President and CEO, GlobalEnglish Corporation welcomed the delegates before handing over to the moderator for the day, Rich Taylor (Director of Learning & Performance).
The first speaker was Charles Jennings – now an independent consultant, well known to many in the learning technology world and a regular valued contributor to Towards Maturity. We live in an ‘information rich, attention poor’ world and Charles focussed on the value of Experiential Learning. Adults learn by experiences, practice, conversations and reflection. Charles used a number of quotes during his session and the following from Eric Kandel at Columbia University struck a chord – “learning is the ability to acquire new ideas from experience and retain them as memories”.
Longitudinal research – He also drew on longitudinal research recently conducted by Carnegie Mellon which asked ‘what % of what you need is stored in your mind?’ In 1986 the response was 75%. In 2008 it was between 5 – 10%. It seems that knowing where to find information when you need it is key, which reminds me of a short story. When Albert Einstein was being interviewed by an eager young journalist who asked the great man for his phone number. Einstein couldn’t remember it so he scrambled around for a piece of paper with the number. The journalist was aghast as to how one of the worlds’ great mathematical masters struggled to remember his phone number. Einstein’s response was simple – ‘I don’t need to remember it as long as I know where to find it’!
Richness & reach – Charles used a chart to convey the need to balance learning ‘richness’ with ‘technology reach’. His point being that the smart use of experiential learning can be achieved at a distance.
He expressed that there are 5 key barriers to experiential learning:
• Inefficiency
• Inertia
• Conspiracy of convenience
• The Plato mentality
• Training rather than performance
And finally he spoke about the 70/20/10 rule, i.e.: 70% of what we learn is from doing, 20% through interaction with others, and those two represent ‘experiential learning’, and the final 10% is from formal training courses, which is where almost all the budget goes!!
Charles was followed by Christian Standaert, General Manager of ArcelorMittal University who outlined some basic metrics for organisations to consider when assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of e-learning. ArcelorMittal are the worlds’ largest mining and steel company with revenues in excess of $120 billion in 2008 and a global workforce of over 300,000 people. English is their global business language and with a diverse global workforce on that scale then it’s a key challenge. GlobalEnglish play a key role in helping ArcelorMittal meet that requirement.
Diversity & Inclusion – The subject of diversity and inclusion is not one that would normally provide riveting content even for the most attentive of audiences, but we were treated to one of the most compelling presentations on the topic from Andres Tapia, Chief Diversity Office, Hewitt Associates. On arrival at the conference there was a complimentary copy for all delegates of a book by Andres entitled ‘The Inclusion Paradox’ (ISBN-10: 0-615-28943-6 & ISBN-13: 978-0-615-28943-4). I confess that I hadn’t heard of Andres before the session, but now feel compelled to read his book from cover-to-cover. You may ask why? Well Andres was able to share real-world, personal experiences that somehow brought the whole subject to life in a way that I hadn’t fully appreciated before. As a former VP, Global Marketing with staff based all over the world, I would have benefitted from his insight and knowledge! Andres expressed that the characteristics of the emerging workforce are changing and that we are experiencing some major trends that we all need to recognise:
  • Seismic Demographic Shifts
  • Economic & Political Volatility
  • Fewer Government & Corporate Guarantees
  • Rapidly Advancing Technology
  • Globalisation
Andres stated that ‘diversity is the mix and inclusion is making the mix work’, but perhaps most revealing was his view that ‘companies are ready for people who look different but not for people who think differently’. There’s a key message there for all of us as we live and work in a global, culturally diverse world.
From compliance to tolerance & sensitivity to cultural competence, his session was a tour de force on the subject of diversity and inclusion.
Panels – After lunch we heard from an ‘Implementation Panel’ and a ‘Best Practices Panel’ from users of GlobalEnglish. The implementation panel comprised Indubala Ashok, Foreign Language Initiatives Lead, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Loes van Staveren, HR Associate, AmgEn Dompe Italy. Indubala explained that TCS are the oldest IT Services Consultancy in Asia and that there are 72 different nationalities in the organisation. Following a successful five week pilot they implemented GlobalEnglish in November 2008. AmgEn Dompe are a US based biotech organisation, specialising in protein based pharmaceuticals with 19,000 employees across the world. Following a merger of AmgEn with Dompe Biotec in Italy they faced a particularly difficult challenge in applying English as a Second Language as none of their Italian staff spoke English! However after a successful four week pilot programme they have now purchased the relevant licenses from GlobalEnglish, so it clearly works.
The best practices panel consisted of Val Nash, Project Manager, CSC and Vincent Maurin, e-Academy Lead, ArcelorMittal University. Val explained how in an organisation of 90,000 global employees the GlobalEnglish licences were not being used effectively and how she took steps to address. That’s a theme that we’ve picked up many times in our research at Towards Maturity, so not surprisingly securing engagement and stakeholder involvement are critical elements in the Towards Maturity model. Vincent provided insight on how they market the GlobalEnglish programme, including the establishment of 100 HR/Training Champions as key ‘local’ contacts around the world.
The pilot approach – In between the panels was a session from Alessandra Miata, Deputy Head of HR, Capgemini Italia. Capgemini have 90,000 employees in 30 countries and are the largest in their field in Europe with revenues in excess of €8.7 billion in 2008. Again after a successful four week pilot programme with some of the 1,500 staff in Italy, they implemented GlobalEnglish. What was common in all these organisations was that the pilot programmes were short, well managed and successful.
Strategic Product Direction from GlobalEnglish – As is customary at such events the final session was from GlobalEnglish to share some of their Strategic Product Direction overseen by Les Schmidt, COO and Mahesh Ram, VP, Worldwide Business Development. Les gave a review of existing products and new features which included:
  • BelitPlus – a business English speaking assessment feature
  • Personal Coaching – private phone based coaching with integrated GlobalEnglish content
  • Mobile Learning Network harnessing Podcasts, Vodcasts with the ability to download content to iPods and other mobile/MP3 devices.
Lot of things are being explored by GlobalEnglish for the future, but thankfully there were no false promises and seemingly a high desire to base any improvements and new features on client demand. Les gave a short demonstration of some new feedback mechanisms for pronunciation, communication and writing.
Mahesh recapped on the basic model that all GlobalEnglish client solutions are based, namely analysis, recommendation and implementation.
Employer story extracts – You can read extracts about three organisations experiences here.
ROI for ESL – here you’ll find a fascinating and detailed research article into measuring the ROI (Return on Investment) from an ‘English as a Second Language’ program.

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