Why should a company invest in language classes?
Recently, I conducted Spanish language safety class with a group of workers. I have been providing regular safety training with this company for a while now. The employees are eager to learn, and I have come to know many of them. There hasn’t been a lot of turnover and these employees have proven to be loyal.
One thing that I did notice was a distinct lack of motivation. The Latino workers spoke very little or no English. Their belief was that they would never have an opportunity to progress with this company. They settled with the idea that all they would always be laborers; nothing more.
Interestingly, the same day I conducted that class, a manager approached me saying that the Hispanic team did such good work and had been with him for many years. He wished that they could learn English so that they could communicate better; some of them could be promoted to greater responsibility and higher pay.
He explained that, at times, he promoted less qualified people with much less experience only because they spoke English. Most immigrants I speak with would love to learn English. However, their really big problem is their heavy work schedule. As a result, they have very little time and energy to learn English.
What if a company recognizes potential in an immigrant worker who has proven diligent and loyal? It just might be worth it to dedicate a set amount of regular time to teach the employee English and mentor him towards a leadership position. I believe that in the long term, the investment will be tenfold.
Now in this case, what I’m saying isn’t self-promotion. Why? We do not teach language classes. We do bilingual Spanish or English safety training and provide interpreters in a variety of languages for company meetings. Training in the language the workforce understands best shouldn’t be discarded. However, I believe in effective communication and continuing education. Basic communication requires people to speak and listen. For some people, this must start with a language class. Obviously, every company must evaluate their return on investment. Considering the cost in retraining and high turnover, training great workers to become better seems to me to be a no brainer.