90 percent of business leaders recognise language challenges in their company but only one in three are tackling this problem strategically by engaging human resources to find solutions, according to a study by Rosetta Stone Inc.

This follows an earlier study by Rosetta Stone in January 2015 and reaffirms the previous results. Both studies show a demonstrable impact business leaders can have on employees and the overall success of their business by providing language training and the skills needed to be competitive in today’s global economy.

Robert Steven Kaplan, former vice chairman at The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and current Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, says:

“This study clearly supports my conclusions that, no matter what the industry, language strategy continues to be a ‘blind spot’ in business strategy and makes global businesses, in particular, vulnerable.

“Developing a comprehensive strategy for managing language challenges can help transform that vulnerability into a source of competitive advantage and is integral to good global talent management. A concerted, well-developed language strategy will undoubtedly protect smart global businesses from leaving money on the table.”

The new survey, conducted by IDG Research Services,  sampled 300 business decision makers from companies representing a wide range of industries in the UK, US, Germany, France, China and Brazil.

Judy Verses, president of Global Enterprise and Education at Rosetta Stone, says:

“It’s disconcerting that despite language permeating every aspect of business, senior management and their HR counterparts are typically not collaborating to close these language proficiency gaps in a coordinated, strategic way.

“The consequences of not connecting the dots here can range from less productive relationships and high employee turnover, to lower levels of customer satisfaction, job injuries and revenue loss.”

Other findings from the survey:

  • The effects of language proficiency challenges vary across functional areas, with IT/Technology, Sales/Marketing, and Manufacturing/Operations most often impacted
  • Nine out of ten senior management leaders report some language-based challenges within their functional area
  • More than two out of five organizations believe employees in their functional area need advanced everyday language skills, intermediate and advanced business language skills, and industry-specific language skills
  • Two-thirds of those surveyed reported the greatest language proficiency challenges in employee to customer communication; and half reported it as employee to vendor communication
  • Top issues faced by business leaders as a result of language proficiency challenges include less productive relationships, longer resolution time for customer support, and increased stress levels across the team





Amie Filcher is an editorial assistant at HRreview.