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Poor business professional language creates confusion and misalignment when what is being thought in one’s mind is not conveyed accurately, resulting in reduction of work efficiency that could be short term or long term if the gap is not being closed.
Many countries have their own official and national language but one cannot deny that the English language is the universal language of the world as it is one of the widest spoken languages. If all of us did a quick recollection of the past, the time taken to learn the English language seems like a memory of the past – from adolescents to adults, we have invested years in picking up the language to reach our desired fluency level.
Nevertheless, learning the English language from scratch is not an easy feat if it is not your native tongue. Surely, one could learn the language during their times at school but if constant practice is not put in place to master the language, one’s proficiency level in the language would deteriorate in due time. Therefore, it is important to make it a habit to express, communicate and convey our messages in English, with family members at home, friends during outings, and colleagues at the workplace.
However, not everything is as picture perfect as we envision it to be like in the movies. Poor language proficiency is prevalent in the workplace, primarily in the English language. Many employees struggle to convey their points across either verbally or written in a business setting, when responding to a client or colleague, business professional language is not being exercised thoroughly.
This creates confusion and misalignment when what is being thought in one’s mind is not conveyed and expressed accurately and appropriately through the above-mentioned mode of communication. This results in ambiguity in the workplace, with constant back and forth communication from one party to another just to get the initial points across, if ineffective, misunderstandings might occur, employees might perform duties that are not required, project milestones are being pushed back and not achieved – all in all there would be a reduction in work efficiency and productivity, be it short term or long term if this gap is not being closed instantly.
In today’s fast-paced, globalized and digitized world, a person’s proficiency in English gives them the window of opportunity to enhance their professional and personal growth, and gain better job prospects. When an employee has a good command of the English language, not only would they have an upper hand in negotiating for a higher salary but it also helps them build trust with their peers, colleagues and clients which in turn further empower an organization to achieve their visions and goals.
According to a study by Pearson where an analysis is conducted on the return on investment on good command of English particularly on communications, employees that are effective communicators have a higher total return to shareholders of 47% over a five year course in comparison to those who were not effective in this aspect.
Another research done by the McKinsey Global Institute found out that nearly two-thirds of jobs are at risk of being automated away. As innovation progresses and jobs shrink, employees will be required to move to new positions and roles, and skills such as English language proficiency will be vital for adaptability.
Though having poor English language proficiency is an obstruction at work, it shouldn’t be seen as a workplace crime as there are many ways to work through communication barriers and to improve a language that is not an employee’s native tongue.
Here are some suggestions on how an employee can hone their proficiency in the English language and how employers can help them along the way.
- Employers should mandate a rule whereby employees are only able to communicate in English with all stakeholders at the workplace. This has proven to be one of the most effective methods (and cost free) to sharpen the English language. Take this analogy for an example: the more you drive a car, the better driver you will be. As cliche as it may sound but it holds ample truth, the short idiom of Practice Makes Perfect.
- Employers should take the initiative to invest in online or offline classroom-based training for all employees that require a boost in the English language. For instance, a crash course for employees during initial job training and ongoing learning classes thereafter would be beneficial. The sales team needs to understand the input and output of the products they’re offering to the public, the marketing team needs to understand the value of their products and relay that in a meaningful way to end users. There are various open online course providers that offer English classes such as Linkedin Learning, Coursera, Khan Academy, Udemy and more.
- Utilize visual methods of communication. In this day and age of instant gratification, short attention span and various easy modes of learning; lengthy paragraphs and sentences often fail many. Therefore, online learning companies pivot into images and visuals that are more compelling and effective than reading and telling. The usage of simple charts, diagrams and pictures to explain complicated concepts have been a tremendous win for many companies as visual cues are one of the simplest forms of getting everyone to be on the same page.
- Repetitions of sentences and words on a daily basis at the workplace is more valuable than one may think. Sometimes, employees need to hear a sentence or a word more than once to actually remember and comprehend it. Employers should not expect anyone to remember something that is being said once. Making repetitions of a useful phrase, line or word regularly is vital for communication in the workplace.
Based on a 2021 research by Statista, approximately 1.35 billion people on earth have English as their native tongue or second spoken language, however, there are still aplenty who are unable to speak the language fluently but not all hopes are lost. Though language barriers in the workplace or in general can be a hindrance to effective communication, with sufficient tools, resources and one’s drive and perseverance to hone the English language, it is not an impossible but attainable feat.