• Shelley Purchon

Diverse recruitment and staff inclusion

If you have employees whose first language isn't English, you may need the services of English Unlocked but you may also need to provide English lessons. Both of these improve staff inclusion. Read on to learn how Sarah Spicer's company The English Coach does this, and how her services compliment the communication training we provide here at English Unlocked.



If you employ people who did not grow up speaking English, there are two things you can do to help those employees feel welcome. You can provide them with English classes AND you can train your native English speakers to speak in a way that's easy to understand. The latter is what we do here at English Unlocked - we show native English speakers how to be more inclusive communicators.

We're called English Unlocked but we don't provide English lessons

We leave that to English teachers like our trusted partner Sarah Spicer, today's interviewee.



How does employee inclusivity improve if you provide English lessons for staff who speak English as a Second Language (ESL)?

Sarah, why do your clients recruit staff from non-English speaking countries?

The main reason is skills shortages. I predominantly work with engineering companies who are struggling to recruit enough engineers in the UK. This has meant many have had to actively recruit from overseas.

If their English is good enough to get hired, why do they need extra help from you?

Many of the skilled workers I help have good English skills. They may even have completed an undergraduate or master’s degree delivered in English. However, even if they have a good level of English, many find native speakers difficult to understand. Native speakers have unfamiliar accents, speak quickly, and use phrases that aren’t taught on traditional English courses. Phrases such as, “Let’s get the ball rolling”, “Can I pick your brains?”, and “I’ll show you the ropes”, don’t translate directly and can be very confusing for ESL employees!

What kind of misunderstandings do you help prevent?

Culture influences how English is used - British people tend to use more indirect language. For example, a ‘polite’ instruction may be phrased as a question: “Could you send the email this afternoon?” rather than “Send the email this afternoon”. This is confusing because the question suggests there is a choice, but this is not the intention of the speaker and this can often lead to a breakdown in communication. Not only that, but if ESL staff use direct language in communications with British clients, they may be viewed as impolite, when that was not the speaker’s intention.

Why do ESL employees need extra help to feel included?

Many ESL employees feel less than their native-English speaking colleagues. My learners tend to worry about making mistakes, which takes their attention away from delivering their message. It often means they don’t speak up in meetings and share their valuable ideas! In these cases, I do a lot of work around mindset and confidence building.

What other obstacles to inclusion do you help your clients to overcome?

I help with business skills such as delivering presentations, communicating over the phone, networking and writing emails. I also give learners the tools they need to develop their skills in the future by helping them to build habits that will empower them to continuously develop their skills. Employees’ increased confidence means that they feel empowered to share their valuable ideas.

Are there any workplace efficiency benefits?

It saves time - managers can feel confident that their employees’ communications with clients are clear and professional, without having to check everything first. Altogether it creates a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Do ESL employees appreciate the support?

Absolutely - providing this support will set you apart from others in the field. Every employer who cares about equality, diversity and inclusion should remember that ESL employees have moved away from their home country, which is a big deal! If they don’t have a close support network in the UK, knowing that their employer cares means a lot. This includes even the most advanced speakers

What about the native English speakers?

Companies often fail to realise how much they’ll benefit if native English speakers learn to ‘unlock their English.’ It occurs to them to provide English lessons for their ESL staff but unless I suggest it they don’t think about training home grown staff to communicate in a more accessible way. Sometimes I get asked to deliver training to the entire workforce (for example on how to give presentations.) When this happens I also take the opportunity to help the non-ESL staff to communicate more clearly with their ESL colleagues and clients. I was really pleased to see that English Unlocked does this same thing, because it's much needed. The whole company benefits, especially if they work in international markets.

If people are interested in your services, what is the next step?

The first step is to book a consultation. In this meeting we establish your company’s needs and the communication difficulties that your staff are having. After completing assessments with the staff, I will then design a bespoke course.

You can read more about the courses I offer on my website www.theenglishcoach.biz or email sarah@theenglishcoach.biz to book a consultation.

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