Diversity workshops and cultural skills training pale in comparison to the convenience of actually knowing a foreign language. Unfortunately, the vast majority (90 percent) of organizations struggle with language barriers in their day-to-day work, according to a survey by Rosetta Stone. And this problem could become more acute: 71 percent of business leaders are planning to expand into markets in areas where English is not spoken and 66 percent of multinational corporations rely on global virtual teams—but just 30 percent of companies invest in foreign language skills training.
The survey also found that upper management often is unaware of language barriers. That's because more than six out of 10 line managers report that they solve the problem within their teams rather than go to HR. Yet skills gaps are increasingly an HR issue. Language barriers can hinder productivity, collaboration, customer retention, and market expansion, and even pose safety issues.
In another survey of 600 employees of multinational corporations, language barriers were listed as a reason why 40 percent of global virtual teams were not successful. In an additional study, 64 percent of business leaders reported that employee-customer interactions are the primary language challenge their organizations face. Formal, cross-functional language training can be a powerful solution to these issues.
Language training also can be a value proposition that will attract and retain employees. Eighty-one percent of employees from the Rosetta Stone survey said that having access to language training makes them feel as though their employer takes an interest in their professional development. Millennials have an especially keen interest in foreign language training.