• Arun Jagannathan

5 Reasons Why Corporate English & Soft Skill Training needs to be a Top HR / Business Agenda in 2019

If you were born before 1985 then you know that today the business world is different from the time you started your corporate career.

The mobile phone was predominantly used to make free calls (and of course who can forget the “free SMS” schemes offered by various telecom providers. The only source of entertainment was the cable TV (or Tata Sky - isko lagaa daala to life jingalala!)

Today - your average 25-year old is spoilt for choice. He has various WhatsApp groups to give him company. Or he can spend endless hours on Instagram (no one really posts on Facebook as much!).

In short: people have changed!

Now add to this - the gig economy. You don’t need to hire someone forever - you just need to hire them for specific projects. And yes they “work from home” or wherever they wish to. Add to it, with most applications being on the cloud you don’t need anyone to be on the premise for anything.

In short: the media has changed!

The nature of work has also changed. Today’s knowledge worker is not a farmhand, whose productivity had to be counted by the number of trees he cut in a day. He is measured by the quality and not quantity. He doesn’t need to produce widgets as all of that has been automated.

In short: the type of work has changed!

However, let us now imagine how a fresh graduate (born in 1997, the first mobile in 2012, never worked on dial-up or on a desktop in her life) sees the world. She wakes up one morning and decides she is not keeping well. She just drops a WhatsApp to her manager saying she won’t come in today. The manager is angry because as per company policy she has to send in an email and assign her tasks to someone else in the team. He is thinking she is not being responsible. While she doesn’t even know what is expected on her apart from informing that she isn’t well.

You get the drift?

Everything else has changed and the new workforce entering the market place is somehow expected to know these corporate “rules” automatically. 20-year old employees are expected to understand what their 40-year old managers need. They want to - but they just don’t have the rule book.

What is needed is a better understanding of the current communication tools (have you noticed there are fewer “urgent” emails - because they got replaced by chat?). And a very good understanding of how your current policies are in relation to the changing workforce demographics (have you noticed no one really teaches you how to resign from the company?)

Here are a few tips that would help convince your team why training your employees need to speak the “same” language:

Soft skills training

Soft skills are the oil that is going to reduce friction. Different teams working in different locations on different priorities with different backgrounds -- means there will be a lot of misunderstanding. This can pull down business results.

Do you know how long it takes the Ferrari race car team to change the tire? They do that in under 3 seconds! I kid you not. See for yourself:

There are a few things you can explore here:

  • Go back to your process chart and ensure that you have clearly articulated to the team how each step should be done.

  • Try to start out all new projects with a kickoff and necessarily have the communication protocol detailed clearly.

  • See if you would like a one-time team-wide training conducted. They might have joined at various times and it is important to “reset” the expectation of how to communicate internally.

English Language proficiency

Speaking well in English is not “good” communication - being understood is. There is no point if you are the only one in the room who speaks well. Instead, try to focus on getting your message across to the recipient.

Having said so, English is the lingua franca in most corporates today. At least that is the expectation when you speak to a client or write an email. However, not all of your employees might have the same level of proficiency in using the language.

The good news is that speaking and writing clear and correct English is a very trainable skill.

The idea is to ensure that employees are able to create sentences that convey the intended meaning. But in many cases, very talented employees are not given their due credit because their spoken or written English is poor.

Here are a few ways you can start the process:

  • Create a brown bag lunch routine at your workplace. One of the employees can volunteer to speak on a topic related to communication. There are plenty of videos on YouTube and blogs on the internet. Just ensure the speaker is touching on just one point but in a deep way. This will benefit both the speaker and the participants.

  • And if your company is large enough or you are willing to volunteer then you can even start your own ToastMasters Club. This could be a good way to not only help your employees learn but also show your company’s CSR.

  • Get external help - may be a trainer or a company that specialized in soft-skills training. The idea is to ask them to help you evaluate your company’s current status, provide you with a clear plan on how the training will benefit your employees. A note here: beware of “experienced” trainers who have been using the same PPT for eons.

We can provide a free company-wide English proficiency audit for your company. If you are interested, just let us know here and we will get in touch with you.

Induction Programs

Become conscious of things such as the age of the employee when dealing with newer workers in the team. Remember that the way they look at the world is different from the way you look at it.

It is also important to incorporate within your induction training certain elements that might look obvious to an older employee. Such as:

  • What is the preferred form of communication?

  • What is the expected response time for an email?

  • When I call in sick - what do I do?

  • What is the expected process to apply for leave?

And it is important that the training is very hands-on so they learn how it is done than learn just the “protocols”. Also, they might just not want to go through a PPT presentation - it is important that you use technology that they are used to such as video.

Did you know our Email Edge program has a complete video-based learning solution that your employees can view at their convenience on their mobile phones? Click here to see a free email training video.

Company Policy

Also, it is supercritical now for companies to evaluate their own policies. Maybe there is a need to improve based on changing market trends. (You might have heard the news about Goldman Sachs’s plans to change its requirement of wearing a business suit for work!)

Let us ask you a few questions:

  • A client is asking for details of the document to be sent over WhatsApp? Usually, IT teams insist on having a long confidentiality note with disclaimers. What about WhatsApp?

  • A manager has formed a Slack group among his team and is asking status updates at odd hours? The manager is saying it makes the team productive. How should the company handle this?

  • When do office hours end? What if an employee doesn’t want to take calls after he goes home for the day? How do you handle this?

It is important for the management and the HR team to sit together to assess the current policies and (with the help of the legal team) draft a new set of policies that cover situations that you might have not anticipated a few years ago.

Corporate culture

Finally, understand that the key to clear communication is to have a culture that everyone believes in. Once the team understands that they would succeed only if they stick together for the team objectives, the rest is magic.

Don’t take our word for it - this is what Google found when they were looking for the answer to the question: Why some teams excelled while others fell behind?

So ask yourself:

  • What is the culture you would like to promote?

  • Do you have a culture book by which your new employees get to know what it takes to succeed?

  • Is your current organization structured in a way that promotes this culture?

  • What are the routines and the stories that you tell to promote this culture?

We hope this article was insightful and your time was well spent. We also hope you made some notes that you will try to implement at work. More importantly, we hope this starts a conversation within your workplace on how to encourage and promote good communication. Especially in this time and age when everything from the people, the media, and the very nature of work is changing.

English For India is an ed-tech startup that hopes to address this need in the market. We partner with companies of all sizes - our smallest client had 5 employees and the largest one over 5,000. We work with you to first understand your pain points and come up with a custom solution that will work. We use innovative delivery methods (video-based learning supplemented by group video calls, WhatsApp-based support) to help meet the end objectives.

Let us know if you think there is a way for us to work together on this.





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