Armin Hopp (China) - Turning Local Heroes into Global Stars

This article examines why a multilingual environment is the ideal platform for creating workforce mobility and creating business agility.

In the recent Speexx Exchange 2013 Survey which involved 230 organisations from five continents and represented more than 1.6 million employees, 49% of respondents confirmed that they were ‘e-enabling' foreign language and communication skills training. More than half were also using eLearning to improve general business and customer service skills. Interestingly, 54% of those respondents considered their organisations to be multinational and multilingual. A further 89% believed that "business communication and foreign language skills were critical in determining organisational success."

Looking beyond the statistics and speaking to CXOs directly, it is evident that they are starting to understand that globally empowered communications will improve commercial success. Better communication removes language silos and speeds up time to results. What's more, by breaking down communication barriers, skilled staff can be more easily identified in the global talent pool and moved into different areas of the organisation. This also creates greater career mobility for highly skilled staff.

For instance, an employee working for a Hong Kong headquartered company with specialist IT skills might be transferred to fill a vacancy in the company's London subsidiary - providing he has the right language skills. Such ‘local heroes', who work in a particular subsidiary and are top performers in their field, should be empowered with communication skills. This allows them to be elevated to a level where their knowledge can be leveraged across the entire organisation.

Improving market value by optimising talent
Boosting business growth is not about finding additional revenue streams. Rather, it is about working with what we already have. Optimising the business potential of multilingualism begins with a culture of inclusion. Real progress is achieved when businesses take stock of existing language skills and use these to their advantage, while ensuring the consistent development of new ways of learning that are both motivating and compatible with the demands of the workforce.

By taking time to understand the latest learning content available within the cloud of integrated talent management resources, organisations can create an overarching attitude of learning. Recruitment policies, training strategies and business plans should be reviewed to ensure language learning is an integral part of the organisation. Talent can further be enhanced by developing creative and target-driven learning strategies from the ground up, which are adapted to individual needs.
Organisations aiming to gain a competitive advantage and leverage talent need to step outside ‘local silo' ways of operation and embrace the exciting breadth of global knowledge, learning content and connections currently available. The time is now for organisations to re-evaluate their training, performance management and succession processes in order to ensure talent mobility is truly facilitated to deliver sustainable growth.

Leading the way
According to recent news reports, the combined total for imports and exports of Chinese goods hits $3.87tn, edging past the US for the first time. Fast growing economies such as China have been quick to adopt online language training, as they provide a virtual portal into the foreign language environment which may be otherwise unavailable to local students.

Communications skills are not just soft skills - strategic advantage can be gained by establishing a new layer of talent management which addresses communication skills development by means of cloud-based learning systems. Identifying and developing "hidden champions" and getting them out of their language silo results in improved succession and reduced hire cost, which may be as high as $60,000 per hire according to Josh Bersin. So, for organisations working in multilingual environments, empowering communication is the glue of any successful multinational TM and HR-strategy - and it adds real value.

Access to technology and the need for businesses to remain agile is driving talent. What's encouraging is that numerous global companies are now actively incorporating communication skills training and language learning within their talent strategy, nurturing staff from the ground up and making talent accessible on a global scale.

By Armin Hopp, Founder and President of Speexx