Zurich : Lunch & Learn

21 Mar 2012

The Enterprise Dilemma
Impact of Business English Capability on Business & Performance

Dan Tesnjak, Director of Strategic Accounts at GlobalEnglish Corporation

70% of today’s global workforce is non-native English speaking while only 7% percent are fully competent to do their job effectively in the required de facto language of business – English. This poses a formidable challenge to global HR, L&D and business leaders to understand the impact on their business and address the issue with the right scale and resources. In his presentation, Dan Tesnjak stepped the IHRC members present through the general state of business English today; presented data showing the impact on business; and offered ideas on how to address the problem.

Dan used the analogy of the boiling frog syndrome to illustrate how the evolution of the global corporation and the global human network since 1950 led to the potentially lethal skills gap existing today. Performance in the global market requires a common language and while 92% of non-native global employees say English is critical to their job, only 7% say their current English skills are sufficient. The demand for qualified talent is not being met and the #1 reason cited is lack of English skills. To illustrate, Dan showed a chart ranking business English index for a variety of industries. All ranked between 3.26 and 5.15 on a scale of 10. At this competency level, Dan told the audience they would only understand 60-70% of his presentation.

In answer to the question “What Are Your Organization’s Top Business Challenges for 2011?”, Senior HR and Business Executives cited a 45% increase from 2009 to 2010 for the need to accelerate innovation; 100% increase for global expansion and a 400% increase for rapid business growth. An IBM Global CEO Study identified the challenges as unprecedented interconnection and interdependency; rapid escalation and acceleration of complexity; and poorly equipped to cope with volatility and uncertainty. The opportunities include manage complexity through collective creativity; connect with clients and employees in new ways to create new growth opportunities; and revamp and simplify operations to react with greater agility. The business areas most adversely affected by lacking business English skills are team productivity, the inability to collaborate virtually, misinterpretation of direction, peer frustration, individual disengagement and duplication of efforts. The enterprise fluency dilemma results in missed opportunities for innovation. Dan showed figures to quantify how the loss of imperceptible fragments of time due to poor productivity can add up to over $70 million per year. This does not include the qualitative aspects lacking as a result of poor business English. The Towers Watson 2009/10 Communication ROI Study showed companies that are highly effective communicators had a 47% higher  total return to shareholders over the last 5 years.

Today’s reality requires the need to learn at the speed of business. New solutions are required to address the fundamental shift in the methods of learning and acquiring information. Dan presented a model to foster business English proficiency based on 70% on the job experience, 20% informal social learning and 10% formal training. To achieve a complete solution and enable better business outcomes, companies need to address the whole problem using any channel, any time and all the resources. Social networking tools provide opportunities to increase the ability to collaborate more effectively.

Key Take Aways:

  • Boiling Frog – Business English is an issue that is creeping up on you and will increase in scale in the years to come.
  •  Impact on Business – Enterprise Fluency is vital to your business impacting core organizational capabilities.
  •  Rethink your current approach – develop a business case for a cost effective enterprise-wide strategy to systemically address your global workforce’s Business English proficiency.
  •  Leverage new technologies – make sure your strategy is focused on helping employees get work done quickly and accurately in Business English rather than developing general English skills.

Dan Tesnjak advises leading global companies on how to develop their global business communication capability and drive higher productivity and performance. Prior to GlobalEnglish Dan held global business development and consulting roles most recently with Aperian Global in Zurich and the Corporate Executive Board in London and Washington D.C. He has led consulting engagements, coaching and team building sessions around the globe focusing on issues of global leadership, global diversity and multi-cultural team performance for companies like Accenture, Novartis, Boston Consulting Group, Carlsberg, Goldman Sachs, Dell, KPMG and Pfizer. He’s currently based in Zurich.

Special Report: The Enterprise Fluency Dilemma

Text by Mary Bronson/IHRC Support Team
Photos by Julie Collins Photographie http://www.juliecollins.net/