Top Tips for Selecting a Business English Program

In an increasingly globalized world, an estimated 244 million people live in a country other than their country of origin and global trade has been increasing over the past decade reaching a record high of $28.5 trillion in 2021. Matching this geographical expansion in employment and business, companies’ workforces are becoming increasingly diverse, bringing together people from varying languages and cultures into single, sometimes geographically dispersed, teams. But how do these teams perform? Their performance greatly hinges on their ability to communicate effectively using a common language and a shared cultural understanding. To most organizations, this is where Business English online programs come in. According to international statistics, $9.6 billion were spent in 2020 alone on English Language learning as more companies and individuals strive to enhance their global competitiveness.

But almost anyone who has tried to learn a foreign language has been through the dilemma of trying to find an effective course and, in particular, a course that one can commit to for a more extended period of time. To help you through this hassle, we have compiled some important features that signal that you have found an effective Business English course. So, next time you are selecting a program for your company’s employees, you know what to look for.

1: It’s not just an English language program; it’s a Business English program

You may think this does not matter, but the truth is there are 171,146 words in the English language, and only 1.4 % of them are used in daily life, even less in business contexts. So, to reduce learning clutter and sift through the learning curve, simply go for a course that actually teaches you the grammatical structures and vocabulary relevant to your target use. Extrapolating on this point, the more industry-tailored the program, the more effective, since you’ll be learning material that is directly relevant to your needs and you can put instantly to application.

2: It reflects sound instructional design

A well-designed business English course would include pre-assessments that determine your employees’ levels and it will feature a learning journey that takes learners through a sequence of logically-organized modules that build on each other. Moreover, important to learning in general and language learning in particular, an effective language learning program would employ the Velcro effect where learners get presented with new information within a larger context of previously learned information. In a Velcro-based course, new information presented at any given time would not exceed 20% of all information presented. So, courses that simply present learners with 100% new vocabulary every lesson are not a very good idea. Yes, your employees will seem to learn more each lesson, but they will be challenged with a high cognitive load. They will also tend to forget what they learn as the Velcro effect naturally embeds the spacing effect in the learning design. In case you’re wondering what that is, the spacing effect is the observation that repetitions spaced in time produce stronger retention than repetitions massed closer together in time. So, a Velcro-based program will not only enhance your employees’ comprehension but also boost their retention.

3: It is designed with a high level of interactivity

According to the learning pyramid theory, we retain only 30% of what we read, see, and hear, but this retention level significantly increases as we engage more actively with the learning material. So, it is important as you choose a business language program for your employees that you select a program that features higher interactivity. Steer away from the read-and-watch kind of programs, rather look for programs that enable discussions, presentations, practice, role-playing, and problem-solving. 

4: It is skill, not knowledge, based

A typical instructional design flaw in many available language courses is the unnecessary high focus on the acquisition of grammar and vocabulary knowledge while demonstrating a high disregard for skill acquisition. In the end, language is a competence that is based on four skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It is true that these skills are based on knowledge of grammar and vocabulary but focusing on knowledge at the expense of skills makes one know a lot ‘about’ the language without actually knowing the language. In fact, skill practicing in an effective language learning program should constitute 80% of the course.

5: It’s an immersive and task-based program

If the business language program is immersed in the business requirements of your company’s employees, the chances are employees will commit more strongly to the program and will find it more engaging and useful. By being immersed, we mean that the program provides opportunities for your company’s employees to complete their work-related tasks with the help of the program. Perhaps, you have an employee who has an important presentation to deliver in the English language or who needs to prepare for an important negotiation in the English language. A program that aids learners in completing such tasks is considered immersive. In an immersive program, learners learn the language, not with the purpose of learning the language, but with the purpose of completing a work-related task using the language. 

6: It leverages effective feedback

Have you ever heard the adage, ‘practice makes perfect?’ 

Well, we’re here to tell you it’s wrong! Practice without feedback will only make you perfect at making mistakes. This is why an effective business language program will not be a program solely focused on teaching, but it will also have a one-on-one coaching or feedback component.

7: It’s not only a language program but also a cultural program

There’s no better ROI than hitting two birds with one stone! With a business English program that features a cultural focus, you ensure that your employees do not only succeed in learning the language and communicating within a global context, but you also ensure that they acquire the cultural sensitivity needed for them to navigate an increasingly global work environment and build more harmonious global teams.

8: It fits your employees’ lifestyle

We all know this! Language learning is not a hit-and-run course; it’s a long-term commitment that could extend for 550-900 hours to achieve fluency. A wise decision here would be to select a program whose modalities and schedule fit with your employees’ lifestyles and work schedules to guarantee commitment and completion.

 

This is our list of the eight top features to look for in a Business English language program to help you achieve the highest training ROI. So, next time you need to select a business English language program for your company’s employees, you will be able to make the right choice that gives you the most bang for your buck. 

What XpertLearning Can Do for You?

At XpertLearning, we are aware of how Business English language learning programs can greatly enhance the performance of your global teams, this is why we provide several Business English learning solutions, through our partners, that vary from self-paced programs to blended programs and personalized coaching. To know more about our language solutions, please  visit here.

 

 

Top Ten Questions to Ask When Buying an eLearning Program

The online learning industry has grown 900% globally since its birth, giving rise to a massive range of options for selecting an online program. This huge increase in options, while positive, often leaves prospective learners with a bad case of analysis paralysis or, even worse, could lead them to make wrong choices about the programs they select, rendering them dissatisfied by the end of their learning experience. To help you choose the right eLearning programs for you or your organization, in XpertLearning, we have created this list of questions you must ask before you purchase any online learning program.

Q1: Does the content match your objectives?

You must know what you want to achieve from undertaking the course in the first place. With your clear objectives in mind, you must compare your objectives with that of the course. And do not simply compare the objectives but the course outline too.

A common mistake that learners make here is that they set lofty or irrelevant goals to start with. Falling prey to ‘shiny-object syndrome’, they tend to feel an urge to achieve various learning objectives that may have little to no bearing on their careers or personal lives. To counterfeit this, put your learning objectives to the ‘Litmus test’ by asking this simple question: will I be able to immediately apply what I have learned in this course in my life?

Q2: Is the course author or presenter an expert on the topic?

As the saying goes, if you want to learn, learn from a pro. This is why it’s generally best practice to take note of the course’s author or presenter and double-check whether they are an expert on the subject matter. An excellent way of getting to an honest, objective view is to check their social profiles in search of social proof. Also, if the author or presenter has written books or blog articles on the topic before, they are worth a try before you enroll in the online course and dive in at the deep end.

Q3: Is the course content visually appealing?

You might think this is an unnecessary luxury but this is content that you’ll be viewing for hours on end. So do not underestimate the power of aesthetics. There is nothing more than poorly designed visuals, a mismatching color pallette, and outdated graphics to distract you from your learning and off-put you throughout the learning process. Studies confirm that visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text and that good visual design significantly affects attention, comprehension, and course retention.

Q4: Is the course interactive?

The last thing you want is to find yourself reading long text for hours or passively watching videos. For you to enjoy the course, apply your learning, and retain information, you need an online course with high interactivity. Interactivity could include scenarios for you to think about, problems to solve, decisions to make, games to play, or even simulations for you to experiment with. In general, the higher the interactivity, the higher the likelihood of your meeting your learning objectives and completing the course without dropping mid-way.

Q5: Is the course updated?

The authoring date of the latest version of the course is important because knowledge and best practices are in continuous development. You do not want to be learning principles or topics that are no longer relevant to the world today. Most of the top online course providers make sure to update their courses regularly to reflect any changes. So, usually, an updated modification date is a good sign that the course will be relevant and include the latest research findings, statistics, and insights.

Q6: How long is the course?

Online courses vary in duration from 1-hr courses to courses that can take months or even years to complete. You need to be realistic about how much time you or your employees have available for the course and only purchase courses that you have time for. By that, we mean not only the time to complete the course material itself, but also the time needed to review the material, complete any necessary readings or assignments, and, most importantly, apply what has been learned in your career or life.

Another thing to look for regarding course duration is the chunk-ability of the material. Does the course apply the principles of microlearning which have proven results in improving comprehension and retention? Or does it present the material all in one big, long chunk? 

Q7: What is the course’s mode of delivery? 

Is the course synchronous or asynchronous? In other words, will you need to be available at specific times to attend the course or is it self-paced? Or does it combine both in a blended learning fashion? No particular mode of delivery is superior to others. It all boils down to your time availability or the availability of your organization’s employees along with the degree of direct contact required to maintain engagement with the course.

One other thing you may want to check is the mobile compatibility of the course. With 30% of smartphone owners already using their phones for on-the-go learning, mobile compatibility can further increase your chances of course completion and your organization’s.

Q8: What’s the social proof of the course’s effectiveness?

This is a tricky one! Many online learning providers will present you with their own customer testimonials and reviews. Although helpful, this remains to be very subjective reporting of the course’s effectiveness. So, top this with checking the course’s reviews outside the website of the provider, especially in topic-related online communities and forums.

Q9: Can you try out some part of the course before a full purchase?

This is the best proof you can get! It not only tells you whether the course meets your objectives and the learning quality standards you expect, but it also tells you if you are comfortable with the style of the course presentation. However, in some instances, this option may not be available. In this case, does the provider offer any other free learning material such as blog posts, cheat sheets, webinars, etc.? If yes, make sure to check them out to get a view of their learning material quality from a point of view that is closer to reality.

Q10: What type of after-sales or technical support do they provide? 

After-sales support is often one of the most overlooked features of an effective learning course. After all, what people care about the most is the content, accreditation, and pricing. However, if your online learning experience is disrupted by a technical glitch, you will need immediate support or your progress will halt indefinitely, sending you off track and increasing your chances of not catching up or dropping out.

Learn Like a Pro with XpertLearning

Here you go! These were the most important questions you need to ask yourself before undertaking an online course. And because we know how important these criteria are, in Xpert Learning, we incorporate the principles of instructional design, visual design, scenario-based learning, microlearning, gamification, etc. in our learning programs. To know more about our online courses, check this page here.

And that’s not all! Before we let you go, we have these four bonus questions for you which you should consider if you are purchasing an online course for your organization, not yourself.

Bonus Q1: Is this technically compatible with my organization?

You will be quite distraught if you purchase an expensive online course only to find out that it does not work or does not fully load on your organization’s LMS. This is why a good rule of thumb is to go for courses that are SCORM or AICC compliant because most LMSs support such courses. Moreover, you are also better off checking the file size of the online course to ensure it works on your LMS or organization’s servers with little to no technical lag.

Besides ensuring that the online course is technically compatible with your organization’s resources, you also need to check if it is compatible with the technical skills of the end-users– the employees. Will the employees be able to easily access the course and navigate it? Will their current gadgets and technological literacy support this course?

Bonus Q2: Does this course support your organization’s diversity & inclusion strategy?

Effective organizations in an increasingly globalized world employ a diverse and inclusive workforce. So to make sure that everyone in the organization benefits from the course you are purchasing, you must check the course’s accessibility features. Does it incorporate Universal Design for Learning principles? Is it consistent with WCAG 2.0? Does it support learners using assistive technologies?

You should also check the languages that the course supports especially if your organization’s workforce is spread out around the globe. Can the same course be delivered in multiple languages? Does it at least come with multiple-language subtitles?

Bonus Q3: How can you assess the effectiveness of the learning process?

If you are purchasing an online course for the organization where you work, you already know that the management board always needs a business case and an ROI to justify the investment in the program. So it is an important question to ask the learning provider if they offer pre and/or post-course assessments and surveys to enable you to track the course’s learning effectiveness and capture its ROI.

Bonus Q4: Can you have it customized to your needs?

Perhaps you have specific learning objectives that you need to achieve across your organization that cannot be met by any off-the-shelf learning program. Or perhaps you prefer that all learning courses taken in your organization present your organization’s brand. In these cases and more, you are better off working with a learning provider that can create ‘custom content’ for you. Several online learning providers provide that option but you are highly advised to check some of their previous works before you dive full-length.

What XpertLearning Can Do for You?

At XpertLearning, we are aware of these needs, this is why our solutions vary from learning management systems that help you measure the effectiveness of your programs to online off-the-shelf courses and custom content that can be tailored to your specific needs and brand. To know more about how we can help you, please contact us at enquiries@xpertlearning.com.

 

 

Four Tips for Women Leadership

Women have gone a long way in building careers for themselves and maintaining a healthy balance between work and family. However, although women represent 48% of the employees entering the workplace every year, only 21% of them eventually make it to C-Suite leadership roles. And this is not because of gender bias or discrimination but rather because of the deeply-rooted inclinations of women. 

This is why, in XpertLearning, we have decided to support these women at the top and other aspiring women with our top tips to become great women leaders.

 

Tip 1: Be comfortable with authoritative behavior

Research by Deborah Gruenfeld, Professor of Leadership & Organizational Behavior at Stanford University, proposes that when it comes to power, there are two opposite extremes: authoritativeness and approachability; with most women lying towards the approachable end of the spectrum. First of all, what do these dimensions mean?

– Being authoritative means behaving in a way that emanates the impression that you are in charge, able to make decisions, able to give directions, and have more privileged knowledge and experience than others. 

– Being approachable, on the other end of the spectrum, means behaving in a way that makes you seem more open, empathetic, willing to take others’ knowledge & experience into account, and relating to others on a human level. 

Wondering why most women tend to consistently demonstrate approachable behavior? Because for centuries, women have been socialized to be nice, sweet, and likable, which has made approachability almost second nature to them. Although this approachability helps women a lot at the beginning of their careers, it is exactly this approachability that works against them when they start climbing the organizational ladder. Being less ready to demonstrate authoritative behavior than men, they tend to be seen as less competent or less directive– impressions that make them drop in the list of potential senior leadership candidates. 

So, how can women start being more authoritative?

Deborah Gruenfeld proposes you start by taking up more space. Feel free to demonstrate expansive body language that shows that you are relaxed in your position. Moreover, cultivate the habit of speaking your mind with openness, without seeking approval in the eyes of others. In meetings, focus less on taking notes and more on contributing to the discussion. Simply demonstrate confidence in your knowledge, experience, and right to be there.

 

 

Tip 2: Switch comfortably between being authoritative and approachable

The infamous ‘Heidi versus Howard Roizen’ case study pioneered by Harvard University has unfortunately shown that in leadership roles, although men and women behave the same, they are perceived differently, doing the same things. In the research, participants are presented with a story of a career person as they navigate their way up the corporate ladder. The trick, though, is that the protagonist of the story is ‘Howard Roizen’ in the control group and ‘Heidi Roizen’ in the experimental group. The findings? Striking! Although participants rank both Howard and Heidi equally competent, when asked who they would rather work with or hire, the choice is predominantly ‘Howard’. Simply, Heidi seems way less likable than Howard although they behave in the same way! 

The simple reason behind this lies in the societal expectations of both men and women. People have been hardwired to expect women to be more approachable and find it unappealing when women behave otherwise. That should not discourage women from experimenting more with authoritative behavior. The best advice is to balance both styles in the workplace. Women need to assess the situations where they need to be more authoritative and then should permit themselves to be so. In all other situations, feel free to be as approachable as an effective leader should be, and do not jeopardize your likability.

 

 

Tip 3: Don’t go out till you’re out!

In a widely-shared speech for Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, she explains that she has observed that there comes an age in every woman’s life where she seems to be expecting a career exit as she plans to build a family. Women in these situations, as per Sandberg, often start implicitly exiting from work while still being employed. They simply show less enthusiasm about joining new projects or working hard for the next promotion. They simply exit before actually existing. Sandberg advises women to push through till their last day of employment. Her reason? If you leave the workplace with a track record of success, you are likely to have something to come back for when you are done with your career break.

 

 

Tip 4: Desire leadership if you want it 

Research by Cornell University has shown significant results too, further enforcing that there are other reasons than bias lying behind the gender gap in corporate leadership. The main culprit according to this research is that women “associate more negative outcomes (e.g., time constraints and tradeoffs) with high-power positions, perceive power as less desirable, and are less likely to take advantage of opportunities for professional advancement. Women view high-level positions as equally attainable as men do, but less desirable”.

The basic finding in this research is that women are not as excited about being in leadership positions as men. They seem more aware of the high cost of these roles as they tend to have more life goals than men. Our advice to you is to make the choice that works for you. If you are unwilling to pay that high cost, then do not stress yourself into making compromises that risk your life goals. But if you are willing to pay that cost, then go for what you want. What you need to do first is assess your life goals and make a choice. 

Parting Words

These were our four tips to become a woman leader. These tips should not distract you from working hard and smart, however. Because regardless of how you are perceived, achieving tangible work results is still the number one secret behind career success.

 

 

Agile Leadership for an Agile World

 

In a world with everchanging conditions and unexpected events, the age-old five-year strategies and action plans are suddenly being replaced by agile strategies and plans. And agile strategies and plans require agile organizations and leaders. But what is agile? How can it really help a business thrive in this age of flux? And if it really is helpful, how can organizations build agile cultures and leaders?

If you’re interested in answering these questions, read on to know more about how to develop an agile organization and leadership.

First things first, what is Agile?

Agile is a project management methodology that originated in the software development industry in the early 2000s. Contrary to the waterfall methodology, it is a methodology that focuses on continuous iteration and open communication to meet changing customers’ needs. The principles and values that govern the Agile methodology have been outlined in the Agile Manifesto which was created by some of the notable Agile leaders of software development in 2001.

 

 

Agile Values

The Agile Manifesto outlines four values that make it easy to understand what Agile management is all about. Here are the values that Agile teams live by:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

In a fast-paced world with changing customers’ needs, as a leader, you need to put less emphasis on process and more emphasis on people. That includes all aspects of people management starting from hiring the right people all the way to motivating them. The focus here is on achieving results fast by leveraging ‘people power’ rather than following long processes that may or may not achieve results.

At the heart of this value too lies the Agile focus on face-to-face interaction as a more effective and time-efficient alternative to emails and reports to save time and create opportunities for fruitful collaboration.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Due to its origins in the software development field, this value emphasizes the importance of working software. For leaders from other industries, however, tangible results can be used as a substitute for ‘working software’. Read this way, this value emphasizes results over documentation. A 2019 State of Work report released by Workfront surprisingly shows that employees on average spend around 60% of their time on tasks unrelated to their primary jobs. But as an Agile leader, you need to maximize your team’s amount of time spent on achieving results.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Agile leaders understand that the reason they are in business is to serve the customer. They also understand that both they and the customers may not start out with a clear understanding of their own requirements. Moreover, what the customer wants can always change.

This is why one of the tenants of Agile leadership is maintaining a continuous two-way channel of communication with customers to understand their changing needs. The trick, though, is not only to understand these changes but to respond fast enough to them. Cue in the fourth value.

Responding to change over following a plan

Agile management shatters the deep-set perception of a manager as someone who sets a long-term plan and then spends the remainder of their time following up on its progress. Instead, as an Agile leader, you understand that plans are not set to be followed but rather to be continuously changed. An Agile leader emphasizes the continuous collection of customer feedback and the continuous creation of plans that act on this feedback.

It is important to note, though, that the Agile Manifesto dubbed these values with this statement, ‘that is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.’ That is to say that Agile teams do not operate with zero documentation, customer contracts, processes, or plans. The crux of the matter is that they do not prioritize them. In an Agile team, if you must choose between results or process, choose results. If you need to choose between changing requirements or following a long-set plan, welcome the change.

 

 

Building Agile Organizations

Of course, such as with everything in life, these values may seem easier said than done, so to help you put these Agile values into practice and move towards becoming an Agile leader, here are some of the main aspects you may need to work on in your organizational transformation process. 

Teams

Structure your teams to be multi-disciplinary and structure your workspace to be an open space that allows for face-to-face communication. For multi-disciplinary teams to be effective, try to reduce hierarchy and promote self-organized teams. Build both a process and a culture for peer-to-peer accountability and distributed leadership. Processes that can help you with this are setting daily stand-up meetings or weekly retrospectives among team members, championing cross-functional self-led initiatives, and encouraging small-scale risk-taking.

Processes

Making the shift to Agile does not mean eradicating all company processes and simply drifting on free-float mode. As per the theory of constraints, individuals become more creative in the presence of constraints, not the lack thereof. Therefore, you still need to have a few processes, but the trick is to have as few processes as possible to structure work and spur creativity.

Strategies

Being an agile leader does not mean operating in a state of total lack of strategy. Instead, another word for strategy in an agile organization is ‘direction’. An agile strategy helps give your employees direction as to where the company is going, why, and how. 

Stanford professor of Organizational Behavior, Jesper Sorensen, draws the analogy between your company strategy and a good story. He advises that your strategy is your company story. If you are going to tell someone a story about what your company is, what it’s doing, and why it will succeed, will the story hold together? If the story holds, you have got a good strategy. If the story does not hold, you need to work on pivoting your strategy. As Jeff Bezos puts it, ‘Be stubborn on the vision and strategy and flexible on the details and tactics.’  

Learning & Experimentation:

At the heart of Agile is the core belief that an effective organization never stops learning from its customers, markets, and its own mistakes. This is why, as an Agile leader, it is essential that you promote a culture of risk-taking and learning from mistakes. 

Promoting such a culture cannot work without putting the appropriate structures in place. For example, perhaps you can set your team members’ workload to be 80% results-focused and 20% learning-focused. You can even set learning and innovation goals and KPIs or perhaps you can set a monthly team event where failures resulting from active innovation and experimentation are celebrated.

There are many ways by which you can make the transition to becoming an Agile leader. Start with the ones you are more comfortable with then move to the more challenging ones.

 

 

Agile Principles

Before you go ahead in your journey of transition, we would like to leave you with the twelve Agile principles as developed in the Manifesto. 

These principles were originally created to meet the needs of the software development industry, but we have tweaked them to meet the needs of almost any industry:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of results.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in product development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver results frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and product developers must work together daily throughout the product development process.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Results that match customers’ requirements are the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. All team members should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to product excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  • The best products, services, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

 

Start Agile Now

This was a simple introduction to what Agile management is and how you can live its values and principles. If you feel overwhelmed by this all, simply make these four areas at the center of your focus: people, customers, change, and results. For more in-depth information about Agile management, check our online courses  HERE.

How We Can Help

At XpertLearning, we have some of the best online leadership development programs that you can use to upskill your teams and build your next generation of leaders. Contact us at enquiries@xpertlearning.com for more information.

 

 

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