Get a strategy!
I have a promise for you. For the first time in weeks, I am not going to talk about Scottish independence or the eurozone. (Although please note that the value of the euro is now falling nicely, as I have long predicted.)
No, what I want to talk about this week is language(s). There are three reasons why this subject is particularly topical at the moment:
- Last Thursday (26 September) was the European Day of Languages (not the Day of European Languages, because it also covers non-European languages within Europe.) The aim of the day, organized by the EU and the Council of Europe, is to raise awareness of the importance of both language learning and language policies.
- Spotlight Verlag and Business Spotlight will be media partners at two upcoming language events in Berlin: the Expolingua Berlin trade fair on 21 and 22 November, where I shall be giving a talk about job interviews; and the Languages & Business Forum on 3 December, which I shall be moderating. The forum's title is "Language Training in Companies:
Why, When, Who and How?". For more details of the two events, see here.
- The third reason is connected to the second one. The September issue of the Harvard Business Review contained a fascinating article by Tsedal Neeley and Robert Steven Kaplan entitled, "What's Your Language Strategy?". Although the authors say that, "language pervades every aspect of organizational life", they argue that "leaders of global organizations, whose employees speak a multitude of languages, often pay too little attention to it in their approach to talent management". The authors say that, "choosing a lingua franca, or common language, can dramatically improve how employees collaborate across borders — even though it also introduces new challenges." They also believe that companies need to get the balance right between language capabilities and other skills when recruiting and promoting staff. Rather than relying on mid-level hires with pre-existing language skills, it may be more efficient to hire and groom outstanding entry-level hires and to beef up language training within the organization. More generally, the advice to companies is to "align your language strategy with your company's overarching priorities".
What was that you said? Your company doesn't even have a language strategy? Well, now is the time to think about creating one. You could start by reading the Harvard Business Review article in full and by attending the Languages & Business Forum in Berlin in December. I look forward to seeing you there.
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