• Shelley Purchon

7 signs your company is less inclusive than you think

Updated: Feb 24

If your company is failing to integrate employees who are learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL), how can you tell? In this article you'll find 7 signs to look out for if you care about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.


I train people to unlock their English. Most of my clients speak English as a mother tongue (a few have learned it as a foreign language to a really high standard.) I help them to understand why the way they speak English causes problems for their clients and colleagues who speak it with less ease and confidence. We might call this Problematic English Fluency.

"Once I told the English team that they were the only ones there who didn't know to speak English. Of course, it was a joke. But it was true that all of the other nationalities were perfectly able to communicate between us but all of us had difficulties understanding the English people." Pablo Aznar

Many people who work in international teams have Problematic English Fluency. Perhaps most. Unlocking their English consists of opening their eyes to what is difficult about the English language and the way they speak it.

We provide a short cut

These are communication skills which people usually accrue slowly, learning from their mistakes over the years. English Unlocked communication training provides a short-cut to a higher level of expertise.

Why have you never heard of this?

Many English speakers are blissfully unaware that their English is too much for some of their clients and colleagues. Especially if they are monolingual, they lack awareness of how difficult English can be and how endless the job of learning a language can feel for those who didn’t grow up speaking it. Our training is very specialised and practical, and very few training providers are addressing this need.


Did you know? Companies of 100 employees lose an average of $420,000 per year through poor communication. (Reported by David Grossman in “The Cost of Poor Communications”)

Here are 7 signs that you need our help-


1. Deciphering begins as soon as you leave the room

Staff meetings are followed by a secondary huddle where a few team members try to work out what was said. Is this what happens when you leave the room?

2. A preference for emails

Staff can Google the words in an email, or ask a friend what they think you mean. If your international colleagues prefer to read your emails than listen to you talk, it is a sign that you have not adapted your speaking style for them. Of course you shouldn’t dumb down what you’re saying. Training by English Unlocked shows you how to be clear without being patronising or diluting your message.

3. Staff retention is not equal

You might find that retention of staff who learned English as a foreign language is lower than that of staff who grew up speaking English. Have you measured using this criteria? It might not show up in data you are already gathering to ensure racial equality.


4. Everything takes longer than it should.

Stand-up meetings which should take fifteen minutes last twenty or thirty. More oversight is required than you would expect from a productive team member. You brief your offshore team, they go away and do it half right. If any of these sound familiar, communication training might help.

5. Underperformance

How well do staff who learned English as a Foreign Language perform? If all the potential you spotted in their interview hasn’t quite materialised, it may be because of the way that the mother tongue English speakers around them communicate.

It may appear at first glance that your screening process for English language skills is insufficiently rigorous. Are you going to raise that bar higher and higher, missing out on talent as you go? Yes you should make sure your recruits speak English to an acceptable standard, but this alone may not be enough if the speech of your most fluent English speakers is full of-

  • idioms and phrasal verbs

  • jargon and acronyms

  • regionalisms and slang

"As a non-native English speaker I have seen how mediocre people were hired in a company only because they had a great level of English instead of trying to find the perfect fit for the role independently of the nationality." Pedro Lozano, former C-suite global leader

6. An extra burden of stress

If stress levels among EFL staff are higher and motivation and confidence lower than the norm, this can be a sign that you haven’t created a level playing field for those members of the team. Yes it’s hard work (especially at first) working in your second language, but is it harder for them than it needs to be?


Many international companies provide free English tuition for staff members who need it, and it’s great to invest in your staff in this way. But should the burden of overcoming the language barrier fall entirely on their shoulders? By training your mother tongue English speakers to communicate in a more inclusive way your company sends a strong signal to EFL staff that this burden is not theirs to carry alone. This reduces pressure, is highly motivating and creates loyalty.

The consequences of communication breakdowns in the workplace can be seen through increased stress levels (52% of respondents), delay or failure to complete projects (44%), low company morale (31%), missed performance goals (25%), and lost sales (18%). From The Economist

7. The occasional calamitous mistake.

You might fail to notice the other 6 signs, but this one is impossible to miss. Think of the product that doesn’t come to market on time. The big client who walks away. Who do you blame when a communication breakdown causes an expensive mistake? Have you ever considered that by unlocking the English of your most proficient English speakers you can reduce the prevalence of mistakes like these?


Let’s start a conversation

Book a free call with Shelley Purchon, director and founder of English Unlocked.


Click to go to my LinkedIn profile. I love to make new connections and answer questions.

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