5 Ways to Improve Organizational Communication With Language Learning

 As business becomes more internationalized and remotely distributed, many companies have a new goal to improve team communication skills through language learning. Of course, there are challenges to achieving these goals — how do team leads know their solutions will work? And how will they affect organizational communication as a whole?

While there’s no doubt that better language skills can improve team communication, a sense of caution is understandable about innovating too much too fast and putting larger company communication systems at risk. As ever, unlocking the benefits requires careful execution. Here are five tips to make sure your entire organization gets the most out of its investment:

1. Use language learning processes as a model for organizational communication

Taking on new projects, we often fully intend to follow through — even if we fall short. When it comes to language learning, consistency is key and can help create further learning opportunities for organizational communication across the company.

For example, managers wanting to promote high engagement might send weekly emails to their teams, reminding them to take time to practice language skills. These routines can often be the difference between success and failure. The same practice can apply to similar structures in other parts of business communication

Every company has core values and standard procedures that don’t always get reinforced. Through language learning, teams can practice putting best intentions into action in the day-to-day, assessing small-scale roadblocks, finding solutions, and seeing results in a more contained way before applying these tactics more broadly.

2. Empower your employees to improve both team and organizational communication

To ensure the specific benefits of language learning become more widely beneficial to organizational communication as a whole, nurturing employee motivation is crucial. Rather than target just one area of your company, encourage your employees to use the language skills for broader professional purposes as well.

This idea could take the form of organizing networking events or more informal “blind coffee” breaks between teammates from different parts of the organization – or better yet, from different parts of the world as well. Tandem exchanges are also an exciting possibility between coworkers who fluently speak and are learning the opposite languages. These short chats could be a fun and meaningful way to get to know other teammates and practice skills learned in self-study or a class.

One of the signs of having mastered something is being able to teach it to others. As your employees improve team communication, support them in communicating the steps they took to the rest of the company as well. Doing this can create connections you might not have seen otherwise, streamlining organizational communication in the process.

3. Find the joy in language learning

The steps needed to improve team communication can take work to put in place, but the rewards are more than worth it. Better language skills can help individual and organizational communication across the board, provided that the people implementing them remain active and engaged. 

Remind your learners why they are learning a new language to help maintain morale. The reasons might be specific to your company or more tailored to the individual — whether to experience a new culture, build self-confidence, or improve an area of the business.

Giving teams access to learning materials and helping them focus is undoubtedly essential. However, the light-hearted aspects of learning languages can contribute to team building too. Activities like foreign language film screenings after work can help cultivate motivation to improve language skills and make the importance of organizational communication feel more immediate by fostering more connection.

4. Get competitive

Besides tracking milestones and improvements, nothing is more motivating to improve team communication than some healthy competition. To keep things interesting, team events like a tournament to inspire learners to hone their language skills could be a great way to bring everyone together. Different departments could compete over who can complete the most lessons or win at trivia in the target language each month.

As you find creative solutions to keep your teams motivated, opportunities for teamwork and incentives for other parts of the business will arise organically. Language learning relies on openness and proactive engagement — and in time, the same benefits are likely to transfer to organizational communication processes as a whole.

5. Encourage management to get involved 

Recently we teamed up with Sodexo, a Fortune 500 food service company and one of the largest multinational organizations in the world with more than 420,000 employees from over 120 countries. Together, we worked with researchers at the University of Massachusetts to conduct a ten-week study that would give us insight into what keeps language learners at Sodexo motivated. 

A key finding was that when managers also learned a language, the rest of the team felt significantly more motivated. The researchers working with us from UMass wrote, “Strong support from site managers may positively impact employee use and view of Babbel. One manager even acted as a role model by using the mobile app to learn a foreign language, clocking in over 60 minutes a week with the app.” In the study, the support and participation of managers likewise contributed to better organizational communication since everyone could share in the experience regardless of their position on an org chart.

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