- People do not attend classes – their commitment to learning decreases quite quickly.
- Despite regular learning, managers do not see any progress in employees’ language skills.
- Language courses for employees are expensive, and you have to pay for them for a long time in advance – usually a minimum of one semester or half a year.
So – it didn’t work. The money has been spent, there are no results, and people are not particularly satisfied with the effectiveness of the language course you purchased.
What happened? There are two reasons for this.
First, language learning is a long and demanding process. Employees should be well prepared for it – it is worth choosing the appropriate learning method, as well as considering every possible risk that may make people hesitant or discouraged from learning a language.
Secondly – a lot of language schools consider just starting training or a course for the company to be “job done”.
Language schools often do not care about absences of employees during classes.
They do not ask if the participants are satisfied with the materials, do not verify whether the people who are taking part in the corporate language course REALLY are at the same level (in tests, two people may have the same amount of points, but it may turn out that half of the group are grammar experts, and the other half are vocabulary experts – so you can be sure that at least one group will be bored during classes).
Meanwhile, the key is to ensure regularity and employee involvement throughout the whole language learning process. You have to keep an eye on their motivation and commitment at all times. It is the provider’s job not only to make sure the money arrives, but also to ensure that the people participating in the corporate language training, or course meet their language goals and are satisfied with the learning process throughout it.
Why is it so important to monitor what is happening during corporate language training in your company?
You probably know that soft / commercial / team training programmes are often rated better than language ones. Employees in surveys often evaluate such training better than the corporate English or German training in your company.
What’s the reason?
It is largely because it is easier for employees to change a given course of action (say, better conduct of conversations, better techniques for writing e-mails or formulating their messages) than to learn English, German or any other language, which is an extensive a system for communicating, expressing thoughts, conveying ideas – not only in a professional environment.
If, during one day of training, we learn how to use Outlook wisely, look at the materials and change our daily patterns and habits – then we will be able to manage our e-mails better from tomorrow on. But after one day of learning a new language – say, German – will we communicate relatively freely with contractors in this language? Probably not. The chances are slim.
Learning a language requires perseverance and commitment from the employee.
Today, it is simply more difficult to find persistence, commitment and focus in people. If I need information – I can look it up on Google, if I order a package – the next day I can find it in the parcel locker, if I want to contact my friend – I can write to him on Messenger, which means that I can communicate easily and quickly. That is why it is becoming more and more difficult for us to master languages. Here, you have to achieve something that takes much longer than a few days, and we are used to quick results.
Therefore, as an organiser of language training for employees, you have two options:.
- Pay for ineffective corporate language training and complain about it, or about your own employees not being able to organise themselves to take advantage of what you’ve given them.
- Help your employees – give them the know-how and tools to increase the probability of success. Show them how to learn effectively, monitor their activity, appreciate them when they are active, and remind them to keep learning the language, even if their commitment to corporate language training decreases.
What can we do to increase our chances of success in a language project?
In this text, I will tell you about what you should know before you even start looking for corporate language training (and if you are interested in what a well-conducted language solution implementation process looks like, we invite you to consult our specialists).
Let’s go back to the hypothetical situation in which you have more and more signals that your employees want to learn a language (English, German, etc.). If you are faced with this, try asking your employees the following questions first – then search for a course provider to work with.
Why do you want to learn a language?
Answer: because they want to develop linguistically, or need it for work – is not enough in this case. Find out the specifics. Make a survey and ask the employees:
What is most difficult for you in using the language? In what areas do you feel confident? What do you want to improve your language skills in? What are your expected benefits of learning? What’s your language goal?
What happens if you don’t improve your language skills?
If an employee answers: I will fail the project, I will not get along with my colleagues from the branch in Germany, I will not have good sale rates, because customers do not want to talk to someone who speaks so little English and does not understand them – you get a specific hint as to their motivation. If they reply that ultimately nothing will happen, do not immediately conclude that you must take away the opportunity to learn from them. This response simply gives a signal that perhaps more attention is needed to keep the person engaged in the learning process.
Where on the scale of your priorities is language development?
Let us assume that 1 means that language learning is unnecessary for the employee, and 10 – that it is an absolute priority. This answer will allow you to draw important conclusions. If you see in the survey that people from one of the teams have marked 1-3 as their priority, and you are planning an intensive corporate English course for the entire team, with one-and-a-half-hour lessons twice a week … it may be worth rethinking this project.
Is there a deadline for which you want to see specific learning progress?
This question, strange as it may seem, might be important for many employees. Perhaps someone starts working on a new, international project in two months’ time? Maybe someone is planning an important change in life for which a new language will be useful? A deadline may indicate that a given person will be more willing to engage in a course or language training organised by the company.
What are you most concerned about in learning a language?
Few employers ask their employees this question. In our opinion, you should definitely ask them this! Why?
- There are people who don’t like learning with others. Often they are people who are excellent experts at their work, but learning with colleagues is something that they have difficulties with, which stresses them a lot or even overwhelms them.
- There are people who cannot deal with Zoom, Teams, Skype or Google Meet at work and may also be afraid of online lessons – they might be afraid that they will not know how to join in the lesson, how to find their way through it all.
- There are people who remember words very well, but find it difficult to switch their pronunciation and accent in another language. Therefore, they feel uncomfortable when they hear their colleagues, who may create grammatically incorrect statements but speak with a better accent.
- There are people who are afraid of the teacher’s assessment, who fear the glances of others when they have to think about how to say something.
There are many examples, but it is much easier to… ask.
So ask your employees – find out about their concerns and objections.
How do you like to study?
Most assume that people like to learn a language with a teacher and that’s it. Companies spend a lot of money on classes with a tutor, which after three months are attended by 70% of people, and after six months it is sometimes difficult to get even 50% attendance.
But did you know that there are those who prefer learning by watching movies? Or listening to music? There are people who like to make paper cards, take visual notes, write articles and stories in a foreign language? Use mobile applications and online platforms?
Often at work, we are surrounded by analytical minds, who prefer to have time to focus and reflect on a problem.
There are teachers who quickly introduce new issues on the board, and students must immediately start using them in practice – for people who do not have too much experience with learning a language in a group, this can turn out to be a real nightmare.
First of all, because they do not have time to digest it in their minds, to write down at least three examples, or try to logically organize what they are doing.
Many people like to learn in peace – they hate the impatient looks of other group members, but love to learn at their own pace. Such employees will be best at learning a language on their own – with podcasts, YouTube videos and applications (e.g. SuperMemo), and if they feel that they need help in a given field, they will consult a teacher and ask them to clearly explain the problem at hand.
In conclusion: it is worth asking your employees how they like to learn a language, how they usually learn, and what ways of learning are attractive to them. And with this knowledge, you can start looking for a supplier.
And if you start looking for corporate language training for your company without this knowledge, at least give the supplier the opportunity to ask your people about their goals, motivations, expectations and preferences.
This is step 0.
The next step is to show employees how to learn.
How does memory work, how do we remember, what helps to increase the effectiveness of learning with the course, what are different ways of learning, how can we develop a habit and what are their atomic habits, how are we to weave language learning into our daily routines, just as brushing our teeth is woven into them?
Then you need to establish a process of action for the needs of your team, plan the learning and its monitoring, set goals and consider a few other important matters needed for the language project to be a success.
Even if you treat language classes as a non-binding bonus for employees, it is worth setting goals, in order to be able to summarise the general level of commitment and results. You can use this knowledge in feedback for employees and in making later training decisions.
We are aware that there are many topics to consider – we discuss them all when implementing SuperMemo in companies. If you are interested in this subject, contact us and make an appointment with our specialist.
But most of all, before you start sending inquiries to language schools and education companies, find out what your employees want, how important learning a language is to them, what they fear and how they like to learn. Determine what you expect from the training, and then you will know if the goals have been achieved, and what reports and data you will expect from the supplier.
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can easily start looking. And one more thing – it’s a lot of work, so why not ask your supplier to do it for you, or at least help you with it.