"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
This famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein highlights what I see time and time again when it comes to business English procurement.
Companies continually take the same approach, only to find themselves disappointed again.
At TLG, we have a 100% success rate and guarantee results. Here are my tips for business, HR and L&D leaders looking for a provider that delivers a measurable return on investment.
1. Ask the right questions (and price shouldn’t be the first)
Usually the first question companies ask is: “How much does your service cost?”
But business English training and support aren’t commodity purchases. It’s not even the same as procuring external admin services. To get results, you need to think of it as an investment that must deliver a return – and ask questions from that mindset.
99% of prospective clients I visit should ask these questions but don’t (I must proactively direct the conversation in the right way):
- How is your service different from others on the market?
- What innovation do you offer?
- What return can I expect on my investment?
- What effort does my company need to put in to ensure the program’s success?
These are important points for evaluating the value you’ll get from potential partners.
2. Ensure the methodology links to business value
Employee satisfaction is important, but it shouldn’t be the dominant success metric. Your English approach must link to your business strategy so you can measure ROI in a meaningful way.
The provider should start by asking: “What do you want to achieve with more effective English?” And then recommend an approach to deliver on those goals.
For example, say your goal is for people to win more international contracts. You’re unlikely to achieve that by putting staff on a standard, pre-set English course focused on grammar and vocabulary. Instead, you likely need a strategy that includes:
- KPIs linked to practical business skills – an employee may do hours of training, but can they manage a meeting in English? Your provider needs to set KPIs linked to business outcomes
- Assessments to see where skill gaps are – assessments should focus on practical skills (e.g. writing, conference calls, webinars, presenting) not academics, so support is focused
- Flexible training with built-in accountability – so training fits into the reality of working life (e.g., quality digital options), with ongoing measurement to evaluate progress
- Native English support with writing and translation – it’s not a good use of everyone’s time to do English training. For some people, they’re better off having a mother-tongue speaker on hand to translate and review emails, draft document templates and take video call minutes. That way, they make the right impression in the most cost- and time-efficient way
With an approach like this, you’re focusing the business’ investment and people’s time on where it will have the most impact in achieving that overall goal.
3. Confirm the approach is realistic for staff
Are staff really motivated to spend hours pouring over English textbooks or tapping through a self-study app? Is there a more productive way for them to use their time?
If you’ve tried standard English training programs before, you’ll know it’s not easy to get staff engagement with independent study. The reality of business life means that lessons have to be cancelled. Last-minute deadlines and family obligations get in the way of best intentions. And then, companies lose value from their investment.
You only get ROI if you’re realistic about staff needs and constraints. Look for a partner that offers:
- Digital innovation – so people can study on any device at any time, making the most of their lunch break or a taxi ride
- Human interaction – digital is important, but there’s no substitute for engagement with a qualified trainer when it comes to getting targeted results quickly
- Flexibility – like the ability to reschedule lessons or do them over video chat, so you get every hour you pay for (even when life gets busy)
- Interactive techniques – staff have to want to engage with the training, so the methodology must maintain their interest. This means there has to be a direct link to their day-to-day requirements (in the form of practical skills) and variety in how lessons are presented (not just static videos or presentations)
- Real-time benchmarking and measurement – so people can see how their business English is improving, including how they compare to peers and international standards
- Immediate impact – you can’t always afford to wait 6 months until someone’s English email skills are up to scratch. Look for a partner who helps staff make the right impression now, whether it’s translating their emails from French/Italian, providing templates with the right salutations and sign-offs, or reviewing English drafts
4. Validate provider assertions
“The biggest surprise with TLG was relief. Finally, there was a solution that could help us. We had been trying for years with the same courses and thought we were unable to learn.”
That’s how Alessandro Mercuri, leader at Deloitte Consulting Italy, described years of experience trying to boost his team’s English.
After probing through the 3 elements above, ask for substantiation such as:
- Testimonials – from businesses that were in your situation
- Accreditations – like ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and Eaquals
- Statistics – linked to effectiveness in a business context (e.g. improvements in writing speed)
- Research – backing up the innovation and methodology
- Results – linked to business value, not just student satisfaction (e.g. winning business, securing places on corporate mobility programs)
That way you have an evidence base for comparing providers – and building a robust business case for your investment.
Get a business English strategy that delivers guaranteed value and ROI.
Zoe Flaherty, Founding Director of The Language Grid