Designing and implementing a successful corporate language training program can be a complex and time-consuming task. Done well, such programs can deliver powerful results and help drive company performance. However, with ever-increasing workloads, training managers can all-too-often fall into a series of traps that can undermine the effectiveness of the training and lead it to be questioned by both the learners as well as senior management. We take a look at some of the most common temptations of a busy training manager and propose ideas on how they might be avoided, below.
Assuming there isn’t a language problem in the first place
An easy mistake to make is to assume that no language training is required at all. The thinking often goes that if workers have access to tools such as Duolingo and Google Translate, then there is no real need to provide them with formal training. Alternatively, when internationalization isn’t in the company’s strategic plan, language training can easily be overlooked. Understandably, training plans tend to focus on the immediate needs of the organization. However, in a rapidly-shifting landscape, an unexpected take-over or merger can quickly bring to light a company’s language deficiencies.
Acquiring a second language isn’t something that can be done overnight. While tools such as Google Translate can go some way to overcoming basic language barriers, it’s no replacement for true mastery of the target language. Training managers should therefore try to avoid the hidden costs of failing to invest in language training and look to adopt a longer-term approach to their planning process. A good starting point would be to ask themselves how well their organization would cope if they were suddenly required to operate in a second language – some areas to look into are:
- How much of your communication is done in English?
- Are there products or services that you buy or sell to/from international organizations?
- How sensitive or risky could a misinterpretation of language be? – think from just a sentence not being understood to life/death, or multi million dollar contracts or purchase orders
Cutting corners during setup
In initial client meetings, we often hear how training managers are massively behind schedule and need to implement their program ASAP. This time pressure can lead to the temptation of cutting corners during the initial setup process.
No time for an initial diagnostic? We’ll have the learners self-diagnose.
No time for a proper kick-off? We’ll just have the provider shoot the learners a quick welcome email.
Management too busy to get involved? We’ll just do it without their buy-in.
While these are all very effective time-saving measures, they can have a disastrous effect on the effectiveness of the program. Our experience has shown us that results are consistently better when companies invest more during initial setup. Setting clear expectations for the learners through a written contract; establishing roles and responsibilities for the provider, company and learners; and getting buy-in from leadership to ensure learners are given the time and space they need to commit to the training are all essential elements of a successful program.
Only after laying out the expected results, and understanding the steps needed to get there, will you actually be able to deploy a meaningful program with involved team members.
Hoping one size might fit all
Defining that there is a need for language training is one thing. To then define the specific needs and objectives of each learner can be a step too far for most busy training managers. Instead, the temptation is to provide learners with a one-size-fits-all solution based purely on their level. The results of this is that learners are provided with training that is often irrelevant, which can quickly lead to a lack of engagement.
A soccer coach would soon be out of a job if they were providing every member of their team with the same training plan. A goalkeeper who needs extra work on their positioning? Soccer training. A forward who keeps failing in one-on-one situations? Soccer training. A midfielder whose passing accuracy has dropped in recent games? Soccer training. While it might seem absurd, it’s the same as providing the company’s accounting department, salesforce and IT team with the same language training program.
Every student has specific needs, objectives, strengths and weaknesses. Defining them and designing a personalized study plan needn’t be time consuming for the training manager and the impact it can have on learner engagement and overall results is significant.
Letting the program run itself
Even the best training managers can fall into the trap of heavily investing their time during setup, only to forget about the program once it is up and running and leave it solely in the hands of the provider. With buy-in from leadership so important to the success of a program, it’s essential that they remain involved throughout.
A simple way to achieve this is having access to real-time data that is visible to all stakeholders, rather than just relying on standard monthly reports from the provider. If the training manager and leadership are able to see top-level metrics on their team’s performance and make timely, informed decisions it can maximize the efficiency of the company’s investment.
Another way to ensure increased involvement from decision makers throughout the program is to schedule monthly or quarterly reviews, where the provider can report on the results of the program against clearly defined expectations (see point 2 above). These meetings needn’t be longer than 30 minutes, and the continued involvement of the training manager will help avoid any nasty surprises at the end of the program, when it’s too late to intervene.
Measuring satisfaction but not ROI
With training managers being held increasingly accountable for the results of their programs, many have turned to Kirkpatrick’s learning evaluation model. However, many only get as far as the first level, with students sent a simple end of course survey to measure their satisfaction.
Unfortunately, having happy students doesn’t always equate to a positive return on investment. While it can be an important factor in driving learner engagement, a truly successful program will be able to demonstrate measurable results and tangible benefits for the organization. Whether that’s improved efficiency in communications or an increase in sales to foreign clients, it’s important that the program is set up to measure success based on ROI.
There are several ways of achieving this and each organization will want to measure ROI based on the drivers that are most important to them. However, it’s important that ROI is on the table from the first meeting with the provider so that the design, implementation and reporting can be set up to deliver on these expectations.
If you want to know how The Language Co. and Voxy help training managers avoid these 5 temptations and deliver successful, results-driven language training programs feel free to get in touch.
Joseph Williams is an educator, researcher, and entrepreneur. Born and raised in the UK, he has lived and worked in Chile since 2003. He is a co-founder and General Manager of The Language Co., a private language school based in Santiago, Chile. Since 2017, The Language Co. has partnered with Voxy to provide its clients with a high-quality alternative to face-to-face English training.