The Conversis study of UK based business leaders, together with the survey of US based Hiring Managers, shows that many are finding it hard to operate globally because they can’t find new staff who can speak other languages.
One in four British companies that are currently or are planning to operate internationally have lost business opportunities because their employees do not possess the necessary foreign language skills, with one in six of all businesses in the US (where 33% of mid and large size companies had international operations and/or serve multilingual/multicultural clientele) said similar.
Moreover, two in five business in the UK and 14% of those in the US say a lack of cultural understanding amongst their newest employees has created a barrier to growth, and a third in the UK admit to difficulties in filling vacancies due to lack of language skills amongst candidates.
Gary Muddyman, CEO of Conversis, says: “The findings in this research affirm the reality that we in the UK translation and localisation industry have been aware of for quite some time. On the one hand, recent graduates in general are struggling to find employment, and on the other hand, UK companies wanting to find graduates with specific skills like those we have been researching have to look abroad to staff their organisations. For some reason, learning foreign languages does not appear to be a priority amongst young people and this disinterest may be costing them job opportunities that they would otherwise have had.” Our research found that two thirds of senior UK directors at businesses that are or are looking to operate internationally are worried that many young adults’ perspectives or educational experiences are not broad enough to function in a multicultural economy. This number rose to more than three quarters at large businesses with over 250 employees. A vast majority of those surveyed (80% in the UK and 70% in the US) believe colleges and universities should do more than they are currently doing to help young adults think more globally. Muddyman continues: “The global economy and the Internet have sparked a transition away from English as the default business language, but the UK and US are lagging behind this trend which ultimately will lead to a lack of competitiveness. The skills gap revealed in this research obviously also takes a toll on the national economy when it becomes a barrier for international expansion. It is not surprising that so many business leaders say that they would like to see higher education institutions do more to promote global thinking amongst their students.”