Is English language training worth the investment?

As companies plan their annual budgets, they are faced with the question of how much to invest in the professional development of their employees. In Latin America, this most definitely includes English language training. But is this type of expenditure worth it? Are companies really seeing a return on their investment? Studies are now showing that English training indeed brings a variety of benefits to companies and that those who are willing to make the investment are reaping the rewards.

Expansion into the Global Economy

The most obvious benefit is the ability to do business outside of Latin America in the English-speaking world. There are approximately 1.5 billion English speakers on the planet, and it is either the official or the primary language in more than 50 countries. Latin American companies that are exporting agricultural products or natural resources and wish to expand into international markets will surely find it much easier to contact new clients and close deals with an English-speaking sales staff. Without effective communication in the world’s business language, expansion is next to impossible.

In addition, these same companies often import machinery, equipment or vehicles from English–speaking countries, making it necessary to have staff members who can communicate in English in order to properly research the types of equipment they are interested in and then make these types of transactions. Whenever maintenance or repairs are required for large types of equipment and machinery, usually an English-speaking engineer must travel to the country for inspection and repair. Communication in English is required by someone in the company to speak with the engineer and understand not only what the problems are, but what steps must be taken to fix them.

Cost Reduction and Increased Company Efficiency

In addition to the benefit of business growth, studies suggest that knowledge of English among employees reduces costs. Many multinational companies with offices in Latin America use English as their official corporate language. Even organizations that are based in non-English-speaking countries like Italy, France, Germany and Japan have adopted English as their official language. Company-wide notices, online forums and platforms are solely written in English. Employees with no understanding of English waste lots of time asking coworkers to translate for them. One study of 400 companies found that the cost of miscommunication was close to $62 million per year, or $624 per employee. A greater understanding of English among all employees will prevent these huge losses. High-level managers will no longer have to spend time translating company literature and can focus on running a more efficient company.

Furthermore, regional managers of multinational companies operating in Latin America largely depend on English speakers on staff to prepare and present financial information. Business activities must be reported in English both orally and in writing. Weekly conference calls between local and regional managers are commonplace, and it is crucial that they explain local laws and practices to ensure that the company remains in compliance with these regulations and avoids hefty fines.

Improved Employee Retention

Another reason to invest in English training is to avoid the high cost of employee turnover. In recent years, many organizations have generally increased their recruitment efforts and, according to a study carried out by Willis Towers Watson, 25% of employees are at a high risk of leaving their companies. This study indicates that over half of the companies around the world have struggled to keep some of their top performers on staff as they look to further their careers. If there is no career advancement in sight, it is only natural that an employee will look for opportunities with another organization. These days, employees generally feel that they will be able to find an equal or better job within a short period of time. It is up to the company to show their employees their worth, and investing in professional development is key to demonstrating to employees that they can indeed further their careers without changing companies. Investing in the professional skills of employees has proven to keep employees with the company. When an employee feels valued, their work performance tends to improve as well.

Most Latin American companies are well aware of the benefits that English training can bring, and have already begun this process. Those that are still considering this type of investment are losing valuable time, losing out on increased profit margins, and losing some of their top employees. There’s no time like the present to make an investment that has proven to be well worth it.

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