Empowering communication skills in the workplace

by | Nov 29, 2012 | Articles

An increasing number of organisations are beginning to realise that integrating learning technologies within the workplace can dramatically improve staff skills and organisational productivity.

E-enabled foreign language learning – rather business communications skills training – has experienced the strongest growth in this area, along with training for sales, marketing and basic skills. According to Towards Maturity, around 35 percent of organisations are offering foreign language training to their workforce and around half of these are now e-enabling them – 350 percent more than two years ago!

The upward trend of organisations using language technology is indicative of a global shift in recognising the significant long-term value of enhancing and maintaining communication skills. In an audit conducted among Senior HR managers and L&D professionals this month, ahead of Online Educa Berlin 2012, Speexx found that e-learning was used by organisations to deliver four key areas of content:

First, improvement in language and business communications skills (48.7 percent of respondents) and improvement of IT skills (41 percent). This was closely followed by improving customer service skills within the workforce (26 percent) and general business skills (26 percent). Interestingly, those same respondents considered their organisations to be multinational and multilingual (54 percent) and a further 66 percent of respondents believed that “business communication and foreign language skills were critical in determining organisational success.”

  • Improvement in language and business communications skills (48.7 percent of respondents)
  • Improvement of IT skills (41 percent)
  • Customer service skills within the workforce (26 percent)
  • General business skills (26 percent)

The focus on improved organisation communications is also echoed in the 2012 Towards Maturity Benchmark Survey*, which shows that over 43 percent of organisations are e-enabling foreign language skills training today. E-enablement of language training has experienced the strongest growth compared to all other skills listed, with a 350 percent increase since 2010, where only around 12% of businesses were e-enabling these skills.

Despite these trends, the challenge remains to find strategic solutions to maintain and develop staff communication levels once a course has ended. While keeping motivation and incentive alive for individual users is key, management teams still need to take the right steps to align their learning initiatives to practical day-to-day business needs.

Business alignment and long-term tactics to strengthen learning
It is essential to implement short-term strategies to keep online learners motivated throughout their course. Integrating a long-term strategy to keep those skills alive after the course has ended is equally imperative. Learning through a combination of regular assessments and review of competency levels with instructor-led support has been proven to ensure continuous skills enhancement. In fact, we have found that students using the Speexx performance tracking tool on top of our cloud-based learning system have a much higher motivation level and an average success rate of over 90 percent – an excellent figure compared to conventional language training methods or stand-alone e-learning.

Nevertheless, many organisations still lack a well-defined strategy for improving communication skills within their workplace. This is partly due to the pace at which organisations are evolving and partly due to budgetary and time constraints. Integrated learning systems provide a sticky productivity tool that can be used even after a course ends and also improve ROI on existing learning infrastructures. This may include templates, such as email communication, customer presentations and dictionaries with work-specific terms. All of these will support the ‘application’ of such skills in the longer term.

Communication skills training is not just about vocabulary or grammar exercises. It is about aligning training with an organisation’s individual circumstances. A course involving any form of communication empowerment initiative must be aligned to the practical needs of both the business and the user. In China, for example, businesses increasingly require their staff to have a good and understandable command of English and pronunciation is a high priority. In other countries, business needs may lean more towards productivity goals such as writing emails and conducting web presentations.

Incentives for empowerment
At the heart of the incentive to improve and maintain communication skills lies employability. We are facing a new age of training courses, where students communicate across borders in a virtual space with the help of integrated learning systems. The main incentive for students is the fact that strong communication skills lead to greater employability and career mobility.

By contrast, a common disincentive for students is the time required to actually maintain their language skills during work hours. Organisations can solve this by letting students devote practical time to maintaining their communication skills, e.g. by using work-related collaboration tools, such as web-based conference calls. Many of the world’s leading organisations are already successfully resorting to these tools. For example, one of the largest providers of web-based communication tools claims that it sells 60 million hours of work conferences per month – and this is just one provider!
Keeping it real and personal
When it comes to empowering communication in the workplace, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and personalisation is crucial. Long-term success stems from keeping learning and development relevant to the daily working life of the organisation, whilst offering the appropriate support mechanisms at local level. The main challenge is to ‘keep it real’, avoid local classroom silos with just one teacher and allow staff to make regular contact in the virtual communication space with native speakers. Only in this way will they start to interact, apply their knowledge at a business level and build a true sense of empowerment.
*Towards Maturity Benchmark survey conducted between June and August 2012 http://www.towardsmaturity.org/article/2012/05/14/2012-13-towards-maturity-benchmark/

This article has been contributed by Armin Hopp.

Armin Hopp is Founder and President at Speexx, the provider of award-winning online corporate language training. The company operates in over 80 countries and has a worldwide network of more than 1,200 online e-coaches. Speexx offers an extensive range of innovative language-learning solutions and has delivered award-winning results for more than 7 million users worldwide.
Speexx is one of Towards Maturity’s Ambassadors who support the work of our independent benchmark, ensuring the results are freely available to all.

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