Setting a new agenda for Business English and productivity

English is the global language of business. Yet for many organisations—and most professionals—it is increasingly difficult to know what "good Business English" really means.

Employers are grappling to understand what levels of English proficiency their teams and individual roles need for their company to be more competitive, more productive and to be truly successful. It’s no real surprise, since there hasn’t been a truly accurate global measure of Business English skills. It’s time to set a new agenda: Share your support by tweeting @PearsonEnglish using #englishforwork.

Some business leaders recently discussed the benefits and challenges of bilingualism in business at an exclusive FT event. Watch the video below for highlights:

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What is the English skills gap costing you?

The cost of this skills gap to organisations is high: Research from Towers Watson shows that companies that are effective communicators had a 47% higher total return to shareholders over a 5-year period compared to those who weren’t effective in this area.

By strategically investing in English programs, companies can see productivity gains that result in hundreds of thousands in savings. Our research shows that for every 500 employees, productivity gains from improved Business English skills can lead to at least $390,000 in savings each year.

Download the full report, Measuring the Continuing Impact: Business English as a Prerequisite for Global Business, to learn more.

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Approaching the English skills gap in a systematic and measurable way

To close this productivity gap and help businesses reap the benefits of investing in their employees’ professional English skills, we’ve launched a suite of tailored learning objectives to meet the needs of professional English learners. These objectives are part of the Global Scale of English (GSE), a granular, numeric scale from 10–90 that provides a far more precise measurement of the learner’s ability across each of the four language skills—reading, listening, speaking and writing—than any other existing methods, which tend to categorise proficiency in broad bands.

The GSE is a tool that helps employers understand an employee’s individual English capabilities and identify the specific English skills needed in order to perform their role successfully. The GSE learning objectives are rooted in real-life, practical everyday business English. They allow professionals wishing to develop their English to plan a more effective path to English proficiency. For example, from a business perspective, a customer service team may wish to focus more on speaking interaction to improve customer relations and less on reading skills. On an individual level,

  • a chief executive who faces complex discussions and problems may want to strive for a GSE score of 75 in spoken English to be persuasive and convince others
  • a lawyer who fulfils key responsibilities such as questioning witnesses during trials would be advised to aim for a score of 68 in spoken English to ensure questions are asked politely in potentially difficult or sensitive situations
  • an accountant who reports to management on finances may want to aim for a score of 75 in writing to effectively produce detailed, structured reports

Download the GSE Learning Objectives for Professional English now or explore additional resources below:

"Can do" statements for each of the four skills

Mapping English skills across job roles

Defining what it means to be "at a level” in English

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The need to learn English for work is growing

New research from Pearson shows that English skills are considered critical for entry-level employees, no matter where in the world they are looking for work: About 30% of English learners in global markets like Asia, Europe and South America said they were learning English to apply for a job in their own country, and another 30% of English learners said they were learning English to work overseas. We've captured several stories of improved productivity from employees at multinational companies.

We also gathered data from existing knowledge workers at global companies. Their sentiment supported the notion of English as being a critical pillar of their vocational success. Of those surveyed, 92% of employees said English was required or important for their job, and 93% reported that English was required or important to receive a promotion. What’s alarming to us—and causing a major performance gap globally—is that only 7% of those same employees thought their current English skills were good enough to do their jobs. That’s a skills gap of sizable proportions, which is causing miscommunication, strategic confusion, diminished problem solving and wasted operational time.

This is just the beginning of a new agenda for Business English. Join the debate by tweeting #englishforwork.