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  • Writer's pictureIndy Language Center

Workplace English Training Is a Strategic Investment for Every Company

By: Vikey Chen |

IWEC's English in the Workplace: Creating Globally Minded Businesses Conference was held recently in Indianapolis. Our Education Director Giancarlo, representing Indy Language Center, delivered a presentation on the necessity and benefits of Workplace English Training. Our teacher Jihyun also shared her experience of on-site English classes in the panel discussion.

This event brought together business leaders and education experts to explore opportunities to provide English language instruction in the workplace. They shared views on how offering employees on-site English classes improves company culture and morale, increases employee productivity, and saves businesses money down the road.

Workplace English Training is a strategic investment that every company should consider. You will find out why in the following article which has been edited and condensed from Giancarlo’s presentation in the conference.

Why do Businesses Invest in Literacy Training?

In Indiana, more and more local businesses invest in continuing education for their employees. They see a good return on investment of employee development initiatives such as workplace English classes.

Historical and Growing Need

There is a historical and growing need to improve English skills. Over 1 million members of Indiana’s workforce are in need of workplace literacy training, and the number has been growing over the last 20 years. It is an extremely significant number which reflects a wide English skills gap of a large and growing workforce.

The lack of English proficiency could potentially impact employees’ performance or their perceived performance at work. Miscommunication can be costly and sometimes fatal.

However, it is not just job performance. Businesses are recognizing the need for a lingua franca, or common language. HR representatives would say, “I need help getting our staff to be capable of fluently communicating with supervisors and colleagues.” Because only in that way, they can build a true community within the company.

Stigma in the Workplace

Stigma is sadly prevalent in the workplace, and English training is a way to reduce stigma.

There is an implicit skill inequality in language gaps. For example, if you have an accent, it is very likely that you will be treated differently. Stigma carries over in your management and also other people who work with you. Your supervisors may have a lower cognitive ability to understand what you are saying. They may need more time to train you. They may treat your job skills as less valuable. You may be micromanaged due to the fact that you speak English with an accent.

Stigma also leads to effective wage gaps between immigrants and non-immigrant workers. When all of the above perceptions are floating around in management’s mind, no doubt they will devalue those employees and pay them less. Typically, immigrants are paid 5-30% less than non-immigrant workers.

Benefits to Society

English training brings benefits to society. It promotes civic engagement and higher educational achievement. Immigrants who received workplace English training report better work satisfaction and are more civically engaged. They are also more likely to go back to school.

Most of the people in Indy Language Center’s English classes are those that have a degree. They had a career in another country. After they moved to the U.S., they suddenly felt devalued as a human being due to the lack of strong English skills.

For example, people who practiced in careers like accountant, engineer, doctor, and lawyer in another country are cognitively and socially capable. They are back at ground zero here, because they cannot communicate in English fluently. They come to our English classes in order to “have a life” in this country. That's a very different goal from “I want to travel to Italy,” “I want to visit my family in France,” or “I want to make Chinese friends.”

Their innate urgency to improve English proficiency makes them really good students and very engaged in the learning process. I heard so many students eventually earn a higher degree and restart their careers here.

Which Skills do Indiana Companies Value Most?

FutureWorks prepared a report for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 2005. It was to research the literacy needs of Indiana’s workforce as a part of Indiana’s Employer-Driven Workforce Literacy Project.

This report offers food for thought. In the spectrum of skills that are either looked for in a hiring manager or noticed when performance reviews happen, language skills pop up over and over again in the top 10.

Reading and writing skills are ranked 3rd. English language skills is ranked 9th. Teamwork (ranked 4th) and verbal communication (ranked 6th) obviously are affected by the ability to communicate in English. They implicitly represent that English proficiency is what managers or supervisors will look for.

What are Indiana Companies Achieving with Language Training?

We have served many companies to deliver workplace English training for their employees. Entrance and exit interviews were conducted with their HR managers. We asked them certain questions such as “what made you want to pick up the phone and call us,” “is it people getting hurt due to misunderstanding,” and “is it people not able to produce at the expected level.”

A Happy Work Environment With a Common Language

Most of the time it was not an emergency thing. A majority of HR managers gave us similar reasons, “I want our staff to feel like home. I want them to feel like they're part of a community. There's not always a specific group such as a Burmese cohort, a Vietnamese cohort, or a Hispanic cohort that doesn't socialize with others.”

Companies want the entire workforce to feel like a family, so they try to foster a happy work environment with a common language. More than 80% of employees reported feeling more inclusion within their work team during and after company-sponsored English classes.

Higher Productivity

Managers reported an average savings of 4 hours/week of training and retraining those associates needing extra direction in workflow and operations. In the same way, associates are more satisfied with the quality of their own work when their expectations are clear.

Decrease in Employee Turnover

General managers and HR representatives reported quarterly decreases of over 20% in employee turnover during and after English classes were offered. Employees even claimed that their employers are major benefactors to their welfare by helping them improve English skills. Virtually all students who attend classes cited their employers as contributing to their overall quality of life inside and outside of work.

Significant Reduction in Workplace Accidents

Many workplace accidents are caused by language barrier and miscommunication. Businesses emphasized that costly mistakes leading to accidents and injuries were decreased by more than 35% after English training was offered to employees, and this reduction was enormous.

Unlock the True Potential of Their Employees

Our corporate clients said they tended to tap internal talent rather than recruiting externally after offering English classes. There are many employees who have talent in their native language. Instead of looking outside of the company for new hires, managers can recognize people who already have the capability, as long as their language ability is improved.

Language training for your employees is a strategic investment. Workplace English classes improve internal communication, build cohesive teams, and increase employee retention. Indy Language Center helps build real fluency among your team. Our corporate language experts design custom courses tailored to the language needs of any industry.

Let’s discuss your company’s unique needs. Send a DM, email us at:, or simply call 844 503 1237 for more info.

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