What’s your corporate language strategy?

You have decided to go global. You have invested quite some time and money in research, due diligence, launching strategies and finally you have opened new offices or acquired some abroad. Now you have a multinational company with perfectly planned financial, marketing and HR strategies. You are ready to reach pole position in your industry, yet there is still something bothering you. Maybe it is the fact that you have not even thought about implementing a language policy and now your employees are working in a multilingual chaos?

Communication has a significant role in the development of every organization. It affects your company in every possible way and it has influence on every action you take. Going global means that you have to face issues which multilingual communication entails, which is quite a challenge. Implementing a well-planned, thoroughly-thought corporate language strategy may help you avoid many problems in the future – problems you probably have not even thought of.

Tower of Babel all over again

After reading the biblical story about the tower of Babel, every CEO of a multinational company should think lesson learnt, then roll up their sleeves and get to work on a language strategy. Why? Because, as stated above, communication can seriously affect your business performance.

First of all — the way your company communicates with clients, external vendors or business partners will have influence on sales. Second — the way your employees communicate with each other will have influence on day-to-day conduct, which in turn affects everything you are trying to achieve.

Most of executives see international mergers & acquisitions as a chance to conquer new markets. What they should see instead is that it is above all new people that are going to work on the company’s success that they should focus on in the first place. And once they take the first step into the international pathway, they will have to face the harsh linguistic reality.

International acquisitions or cooperation with foreign partners bring immense changes to a company. Not only is it a lot of work on the business field, but – most of all – you are kind of forcing people from all over the world to work together as one team. And that means different languages, cultures, values, traditions and work ethics.

Prevention is better than the cure

As many companies’ experience has shown, choosing one language for official corporate communication is the most effective way out of the linguistic shambles.

What you can be sure of is that languages spreading uncontrollably in your company will bring chaos in communication. And we are talking serious consequences here — employees not being able to communicate on the most basic level will not be capable of working together towards shared goals. And solving communication problems is not what regional managers should be occupied with. That is why the choice of corporate lingua franca alone may be a lifesaver. Or at least – a business saver.

So how do you choose? Does it always have to be English? Should there be a vote or something?

Firstly, look into your company’s resources. Think about the comfort of the employees, look for shared features between the regional offices and choose what is the best for everyone. This decision should not be based on the high-level management’s whims but on your staff members’ talents, knowledge and predispositions. Take into account the language culture already existing in your teams and analyze whether the employees have the tools and capacity to implement the new policy.

It’s a match!

A language strategy should also include a recruitment, promotion and relocation policy. Will be language skills the most important factor when hiring a new employee or promoting one? Should the lack of those skills be a deal breaker?

In the English-dominated business world, the lack of ability to communicate in this language is a serious setback. Thus in many international companies evaluating the language proficiency is one of the first steps when recruiting someone new. It is completely understandable, since that person almost for sure will have to deal with other team members on the international level. However it is a common mistake to let that assessment to cloud the judgment of the decision makers and stop them from identifying the candidate’s other accomplishments. Of course, language skills are important, but what about strong leadership, extensive expertise or technical comprehension? The cost of language training for an employee is pretty low compared to that of losing a prospective leader. Again, a company with global ambitions should not value language abilities above leadership skills or team cohesiveness..

This is the reason why people responsible for recruitment or relocation processes, such as HR or administration managers, should be perfectly aware of the language policy in place They should have broad knowledge of the language requirements for every job so they can prioritize the abilities of a candidate.

An exhaustive corporate language strategy may turn something that is a potential threat into a tremendous advantage for a company. Avoiding helter-skelter communication may only benefit your company’s business performance, your employees’ comfort and your brand as an employer.

So… why are you still here? Let’s get to work.

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