The Lingo Ledger

Managers… Help Your Team Members Improve Their English - Part 1 

By Kat Ramage / October 26, 2016 /

Communication, Management

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Set Clear & Meaningful Objectives

Managers are vital partners in helping employees improve their English skills at work. Without your guidance and feedback, it is extremely difficult for teachers to design lessons that will help your team members make meaningful and noticeable improvements in their English. Whether the entire staff in the Tokyo office is taking English classes or you have identified individuals at the US headquarters who are being held back because of their English, management’s participation is integral to success.

According to an article by Forbes Insights on reducing the impact of language barriers,

“The impact of these <language> barriers may be significant. Asked about consequences, nearly two-thirds of respondents (67%) said that miscommunications were leading to inefficiency. More than 40% noted that miscommunication made collaboration difficult, and a similar percentage noted that productivity was lower than it should be due to language barriers”

In this first article of the series, we will give you some ideas on how to set meaningful objectives for your employees who need to improve their English.

Have you ever written (or are you always writing) the following feedback in your performance appraisals, “Li needs to improve his/her English”? What does that mean exactly?

  • Does he have a strong accent that is difficult for everyone to understand?
  • Is there often miscommunication when she receives verbal instructions but performs well when given written instructions?
  • Are his presentations boring because he speaks in a monotone voice, doesn’t make eye contact with the audience, or just reads from the slides?
  • Are her Powerpoint/Keynote presentations hard to follow because they are poorly-formatted, have too much detail, or undecipherable graphics?
  • Is it obvious that he is extremely uncomfortable when he has to speak in front of a group?
  • Are her presentations good, but she struggles with the Q&A portion?
  • Does he do OK in 1:1 meetings, but seems to lose track of the flow when many people are talking?
  • Does she have adequate technical vocabulary, but struggles when conversations move to more social conversations?
  • Are his emails full of grammatical mistakes?
  • Are her blog posts grammatically correct, but seem disorganized and fail to get to the point?
  • Does he have good ideas, but fails to share them in team meetings?
  • Does she try to participate in team meetings, but hesitates too much, or speaks too fast, or speaks in a voice that is too quiet?
  • Does he fail contribute his ideas during brainstorm sessions?
  • Is she unable to champion her ideas when she is challenged?

The list can go on and on, and will be unique to each employee. Please provide specific objectives—on their performance appraisals and for their English lessons. Remember, we are often not the best judges of what we need to improve. If you can give your staff (and their teachers) a clear roadmap, we can help them reach their destination—to become more competent and confident English speakers.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article series in which we will talk about giving helpful feedback.

Learn more tips for managing non-native English speakers with our free guide.