Workforce ‘digital chatter’ puts international businesses at risk
With company brands now being defined by employee ‘digital chatter’, new report finds only 37% of today’s workforce is appropriately skilled
•84% of respondents feel social media has changed the nature of communications
•83% see social media increasing in importance in the next three years
•However, only 37% of the current workforce has the language and social media skills needed for the digital age
Although four fifths (84%) of business professionals think social media has changed the nature of communications, only a third (37%) of today’s workforce have the English language skills required to communicate effectively through digital channels, according to a report published today by leading academic Professor Michael Hulme and Education First Corporate Language Learning Solutions (EF CLLS)*. Leading the way in providing a positive digital communications experience are a young, motivated demographic – the “Linguarati”. These employees have the level of English language proficiency and digital know-how to communicate effectively on social media and are eager to improve their skills.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Andy Bailey, CMO of EF CLLS, said: “Social media has radically changed the way that customers interact with brands, and businesses need to ensure they have the caliber of workforce to respond to that change”.
Professor Hulme added “businesses should train the many, not the few. If you train only the Linguarati you will have areas of weakness. Failing to take advantage of many employees’ appetite to improve their language skills could affect the international competitiveness and global brand of your business”.
Digital and social media have come to dominate communications at both a personal and professional level. The report found that 82% of all employees are now using social media to some extent at work. This shift represents a new risk for businesses given the ‘permanent footprint’ of digital communication, and the greater opportunity for miscommunication that social media allows. Even employees’ personal conversations can be traced back to their place of work through information published on Facebook or LinkedIn profile pages.
The report coins the term Reputational Resource to describe the sum of the digital conversations a business has with the outside world. The strength of this resource is dependent on the English language and digital communication skills of its employees. Those employees who pose the greatest risk to a business’ Reputational Resource were those who are very active on social media, yet have very low English proficiency, termed the ‘Loose Cannons’.
According to the research, businesses should be looking to the Linguarati as the example to help boost the global brand of their business through engaging customers in positive digital communications. The Linguarati are young, connected both online and offline and committed to further improving their language skills despite being fluent in English.
However, whilst a significant 85% of employees aspire to improve their English language skills, a mere 46% of companies are currently supporting these ambitions through the provision of language training. This trend needs to be rectified for organisations to regain control of their global brands and manage their reputations online effectively.
There are four key ways businesses can rectify the current employee skills gap, according to the report. Businesses must face up to hyper-connectivity by being capable of representing themselves in English across many different types of media. They must also support staff members who are reticent to improve their skills by encouraging all staff levels to be personally ‘market ready’ as part of their career development. Businesses should develop English language skills appropriate for the digital world, and not keep the digital and social media skills separate. Finally, they should offer learning opportunities tailored to individual learning styles.
For further information visit: www.linguarati.com
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*About the report
The paper draws on a number of sources and is authored by Professor Michael Hulme from the Social Futures Observatory. Supporting material is drawn from a wider range of academic, commercial and public sources, including the international research study undertaken by Redshift Research. The study polled 1,023 business professionals across 10 countries. All of those surveyed were business people with decision making responsibilities, working in large organisations who had at least some level of contact with people working overseas as part of their job.
About EF Corporate Language Learning Solutions
EF Corporate Language Learning Solutions, an EF Education First company, is the world leader in corporate language training for multinational businesses and public sector organizations. Over 1,500 organizations and 20 million students worldwide have put their trust in us for a reason - we have proven time and again that our training solutions generate real results. With a worldwide network of offices in over 50 countries, executive language institutes in Cambridge, UK and Boston, USA and the world’s most advanced online, on-demand language school, EF CLLS provides the highest returns on language training investments. Currently, EF is the Official Language Training Supplier of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and served as the Official Language Training Supplier of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
For more information on EF Corporate Language Learning Solutions please visit: www.ef.com/corporate