The language proficiency of front line employees may not be a top priority of many CEOs or company heads. With global markets, regional political turbulence, interest rates etc to think about, the fact that a department head can order a coffee with low-fat milk in French or Russian can seem irrelevant.
This feeling is often reinforced by the fact that the benefits attributed to language learning are individual in nature – the higher career prospects and better cultural understanding benefit the person, rather than the team.
However, collectively, the skills acquired through speaking multiple languages can be magnified tenfold, for those who rely on human interaction to generate profits – such as hotels and other service companies – these skills can turn directly into profits.
The benefits of learning a new language are well known, and have been studied and written about extensively, especially when it comes to the workplace. Learning a language improves cultural awareness, which in turn allows the employee to lead multicultural teams – essential in today’s globalized workplace.
Knowing an additional language provides the employee with more options, makes him/her more in demand and therefore improves job satisfaction, salary and career prospects – further increasing confidence, loyalty and job retention. From the employee’s standpoint, learning a new language often makes economic sense.
But how do these individual benefits result in company profits?
It is no secret that a team can achieve more than an individual. This is especially true for a hotel, where many different employees work together across departments to provide service to guests. Often there are multiple touch points during even the shortest guest stay (Front Office, then Rooms, then F&B) which require coordination, teamwork – and communication. If just one employee fails to perform, and causes a poor experience for the guest, then all previous work could be wasted.
Language is often the biggest cause of miscommunication and low guest satisfaction – it is inseparable to great service – and so the ability for an entire team to communicate in whatever language the guest speaks will significantly reduce instances of poor service. For many hotels in Asia who increasingly find they are catering to high-spending Chinese travellers, a team proficient in Mandarin could result in higher guest satisfaction, and higher profits for the property.