Instituting a Corporate Language Hiring Policy is Easier than You Think
How do you decide whether potential employees need to understand, speak, read, and write the same language that’s used at company headquarters? Which criteria should human resources (HR) and hiring managers apply when evaluating potential hires who will work out of regional offices? Based on recent consulting and advisory sessions with global companies, here are four pointers to help you develop hiring profiles for international staff:
- Integrate four types of fluency into decision-making. These are listening, speaking, reading, and writing in the corporate language. Not all job functions require expertise in all four areas. For example, app developers in Romania may need only to read and write well enough to produce code, e-mails, and documentation in English (or whichever language your company mandates). However, the in-country marketing team in Brazil has to be fluent in all four areas because it participates in weekly calls with teams all over the world and reviews corporate campaigns and videos for local adaptation.
- Identify what each employee group must accomplish. Their job functions will determine how articulate they need to be in your corporate language. Will they participate in conference calls with headquarters, other offices, or partners worldwide? Will they work daily with non-localized back-end systems? Even those with less frequent or minimal interactions in your common business tongue, for example, local cleaning or sales staff, will need some training in the corporate language. To raise them to a minimal level of proficiency, provide training videos, short manuals, or access to online language courses as employee benefits.
- Map out typical communication paths. Not all e-mails, conference calls, webinars, and presentations originate from headquarters, especially as you expand. To encourage collaboration, in-country offices and partners must be able to communicate between themselves, as well as with the home office. In that case, it’s usually most effective for interactions to take place in the corporate-mandated lingua franca.
- Create use cases for internal systems. These will enable your company to determine whether it requires localization or enhanced training materials. For example, if salespeople in Japan and China will use the corporate-wide CRM system, this system must – at a minimum – be internationalized to accept local-language characters, address formats, and telephone numbers. Depending on the importance of the markets in question and your chosen profiles, you may opt to localize some – or all – of the corporate systems in the future. However, you don’t necessarily have to do that for the first round of hires.
Don’t get hung up on the requirement that all employees must speak the language used at headquarters. Identify scenarios where communication in the corporate language is expected – as well as where it may not be required. Assess the degree of fluency in speaking, reading, writing, and listening separately for each job function. Expand your hiring sources and validate fluency claims by candidates. Following these guidelines and planning for hiring profiles to change over time will make your corporate language policy decision-making much easier – especially for monolingual hiring managers and HR staff.
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