Blog Series: The Unasked Questions.
Erin Janklow, Founder and CEO, Entrada ESL, www.entradaesl.com
“What if we teach our staff English, and they leave?”
This may be an uncomfortable question to ask, but it’s a valid one. Leadership teams and human resource departments are constantly evaluating how best to allocate resources to learning and development. While there is an element of trust that comes with investing in employees, research continually shows that investing in staff is a good use of time and money. It’s true for employees at all levels of the workforce. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94 percent of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.
While this question isn’t usually voiced outright in our conversations, it appears to be a genuine concern for many leaders. It may be based on past retention trends, industry norms, or the simple fear of trying something new and risking a new and unforeseen outcome. But, this is a common thought nonetheless because someone eventually must account for how funds are spent and what they achieved.
Part of our work is educating leaders to understand the significant impact language training can have on non-English or limited-English-speaking employees in and outside of the workplace — and how to measure results so they matter in the long-run.
One area we urge leaders to consider is how they value training, no matter the position. Is it comparable across different segments of the organization?
More often than not, we see vast disparities between opportunities for staff of different levels.
Many companies’ core values include a point around employee authenticity, development, or continued learning. If this mantra applies to the corporate headquarters, should it not also be available to the front-line workers who perform the heavy lifting, day in and day out?
There is an understandable difference in what type of training is suitable for C-suite executives and hourly employees, such as housekeepers or factory workers. However, the importance of training for both is vital to long-term company success, in large part for its ability to develop an engaged workforce as well as for a society where everyone is able to thrive.
A CEO may receive media training for up to $1500 an hour to prep for a critical announcement or televised interview. That is a steep price tag, but the leadership team also knows the potential fallout and millions (or even billions) lost if the announcement goes awry. That’s not just revenue lost for investors, but jobs and income for hardworking employees. It’s logical for companies to be prepared and make that type of training investment.
However, internal communications are equally important. For the same price as two to three hours of media training for one employee, a company can provide a workplace English program like Entrada to its housekeeping, maintenance, or any limited-English staff.
Entrada’s program, in particular, uses English training to improve employee communications, customer satisfaction, and internal operations. No different to CEO’s, when limited-English employees have the right communication skills, they can clarify manager requests, handle customer needs promptly and independently, and often collaborate more with colleagues.
We’ve seen the results:
- 94% of Entrada graduates report that their understanding at work improved during and after the Entrada program.
- 96% of Entrada graduates use English in new situations.
- 100% of Entrada graduates increase appreciation for their managers.
When we hear the question “What if we make the investment in training and our staff leave?,” we know there are bigger questions behind that. Leaders may really be thinking “What if the program doesn’t work?” or “Nothing is ever going to help retain hourly staff. There’s no loyalty.” In some cases, the question may be ingrained into outdated mindsets that have viewed physical laborers to be largely interchangeable and unskilled.
Whether this is a thought at the conscious or subconscious level, exploiting the lowest levels of the workforce is a reality that must change. There is always a solution, and part of that solution comes when we shift our perspective.
Consider the positive changes that could come about from offering an English program. With a shared language, employees stay longer and contribute more. The HR department creates a robust pipeline of talented mid-level managers. One day, those same employees work towards becoming general manager or CEO. Outside the workplace, more conversations happen between neighbors, teachers, strangers, etc. in the community.
If there is a certain group of employees that a company considers less loyal and more likely to leave, maybe there’s an opportunity to stop, listen, and show more loyalty to them first. It all starts with a conversation, and it could change things for the better.
To create scalable, sustainable change in your workplace and to learn more, please visit www.entradaesl.com