Four Reasons Your Business Needs a Language Strategy

Beware of the Blind Spot

You've seen your business grow in markets you wouldn't have dreamed of when you first started out. You've been able to onboard people from around the world who bring diverse backgrounds and skill sets to the business. And you've worked hard on engaging and retaining millennials, now the largest generation group in the American workforce.

This is what a competitive global business in the 21st century is supposed to look like. Not so fast, says Harvard Business School professor Robert Steven Kaplan, who led global investment banking at Goldman Sachs for more than 20 years. In today's global marketplace, Kaplan says, successful businesses need a language strategy, and failure to recognize this leaves you vulnerable to loss.

"...No matter what the industry, language strategy continues to be a 'blind spot' in business strategy and makes global businesses, in particular, vulnerable. Developing a comprehensive strategy for managing language challenges can help transform that vulnerability into a source of competitive advantage and is integral to good global talent management. A concerted, well-developed language strategy will undoubtedly protect smart global businesses from leaving money on the table."

Your company might be growing, but are you ignoring critical shortcomings in client relations or missing out on opportunities for greater growth, efficiency or collaboration? As business leaders in 2015, we need to avoid this blind spot to stay ahead of the curve.

At our company, we serve customers all over the world, and we regularly work with clients to address their business' specific language challenges. We also hear about the tangible benefits of implementing a language strategy that are shared across the business--driving collaboration, communication and efficiency among employees and business leaders, and with clientele. Here's what we've learned in working with business leaders and human resources executives around the globe:

Why Your Business Needs a Language Strategy

1. You risk a decrease in productivity: A recent study (conducted by IDG Research Services and released by Rosetta Stone) shows that 90 percent of senior business leaders recognize language challenges in their companies. And what do those challenges look like in the workplace? Less productive relationships, longer resolution time for customer support and increased stress levels across the team. Despite the fact that senior business leaders are aware of these consequences, only one in three senior business leaders are tackling this problem by engaging Human Resources to overcome these challenges. Developing a language strategy can help foster workplace collaboration, increase employee loyalty and improve productivity.

2. Gaining a Competitive Edge: Language skills can unlock a world of potential growth opportunities, literally. According to another survey we conducted of nearly 1,900 employees from more than 300 companies globally, more than half of customer service and sales respondents said language training enables them to serve a larger range of customers, and three-quarters of all workers surveyed said that learning a language has made them more effective at their jobs. Language skills are an essential communication tool for building new relationships and strengthening existing relationships for your employees. Put simply, developing a language strategy can give your business a competitive edge.

3. Building rather than buying: As the global economy becomes increasingly multilingual and multicultural, language skills are a highly valuable commodity to global HR departments--and for good reason. When it comes to language skills, it might seem more appealing to hire externally for international positions--for example, HR might seek to hire someone with strong language skills, even if those skills might overshadow other functional or interpersonal shortcomings. Aside from being less cost-effective, this strategy can also negatively affect company culture. Alternatively, HR leaders can look to train promising junior management and high-potential entry-level hires in language skills, developing leadership capacity from within and building a cohesive global business.

4. Engaging Millennials. Having just surpassed Generation X as the largest share of the American workforce, millennials must have the skills needed to thrive in today's global marketplace and ensure your company's future growth. Language training can help close key skills gaps, prepare employees for working with a diverse workforce and develop millennial business leaders.

Stay ahead of your competition and don't make the mistake of overlooking the language needs of your business. Give your team a competitive edge and avoid this potential blind spot. By investing in your team's growth, you'll enable them to look at new markets both domestically or internationally by aligning your talent to the customers you're trying to reach. Smart businesses are taking note of the growth potential this presents and more and more, Human Resources executives around the world are collaborating with senior leaders to develop language strategies that can enhance the workforce and help their business grow. At the end of the day, it's a win-win situation all around.

About Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone Inc. is dedicated to changing people's lives through the power of language and literacy education. The company's innovative, personalized language and reading programs drive positive learning outcomes in thousands of schools, businesses, government organizations and for millions of individual learners around the world.

Founded in 1992, Rosetta Stone pioneered the use of interactive software to accelerate language learning and is widely recognized today as the industry leader in providing effective language programs. The company's cloud-based programs allow users to learn online or on-the-go via tablet or smartphone, whether in a classroom, in a corporate setting, or in a personal learning environment. Rosetta Stone is also a leader in the literacy education space, helping millions of students build fundamental reading skills through its Lexia Learning division. Additionally, the company's Fit Brains business offers personalized brain training programs developed by neuroscientists and award-winning game designers to be fun and help keep your brain sharp.