As I’m sure you will all be aware (and probably bored of by now) Britain recently made a decision to leave the EU – otherwise known as ‘Brexit’. Now, before I begin I would like to mention this is not going to be a debate about whether it was the right or wrong decision, that’s been done to death. And anyway, I doubt there is anything I can add! Rather, this is going to be a brief guide on how best to prepare your business for the forthcoming years from a language point of view.
The Brexit Guide
The general consensus is that upon Britain leaving the EU, English may be dropped as an official language. This could mean the importance of the English language may be called into question. So here is our guide to preparing your business on the language side for survival and success.
Consider targeting work abroad
You may be feeling worried about the falling pound and therefore reluctant to target overseas business, but I can assure you now is perhaps the best time for this. When the pound is weaker our exports are cheaper and more affordable to clients outside the UK. So, you become a more attractive option for them and could experience sharp increases in demand. Use services such as translation to target your marketing at your new area.
Your company needs to be ready for the differing regulations and laws across Europe, as Brexit begins to unveil. In order to comply when trading in Europe, your company will have to produce a great deal of new paperwork. Paperwork that will need to be translated into official EU languages. So, get yourself a translation partner now who can translate documents for you at the drop of the hat, agree with them a set price, because as demand increases so too does price! Make sure they are up on their legal know-how as well!
The free movement of labour
Now this one is not set in stone – but this is a contingency plan if the UK no longer has free movement of labour with EU countries. It may become more difficult for your business to recruit a foreign-speaking workforce due to the added complications from visa and work permit applications, a skill which may be of absolute importance to you. In effect a change of strategy from multilingual recruitment to training your monolingual employees in another key language to your business may become be a stronger and essential focus.
Up to today (and probably for the upcoming years), English has been the predominant language in the business world, regardless of whether it is a UK-based company or not. There has always been the misconception that everyone speaks and understands English as it is such a popular language. Well… whether this is right or not, things may soon change as the new EU structure takes shape. So, start planning ahead how and when you will train your workforce to operate in other languages, just in case they pick up the phone and have to speak French ‘au point’, or like we say, to perfection.
Design processes to meet the needs of the customers
Your company needs to define what future success looks like, and what needs to be changed in order to achieve it. Does your business need more multilingual workers? What language skills do your workers have? Do you need more training in one language than the other? How can you meet the needs of your customers? I cannot stress enough the importance of having a workforce with balanced language skills, as this will be needed in the eventual case of your expatriate employees having to leave the UK.
Step 1- Define your objectives
What are the objectives of your company? How can these change in the future? It is critical that your business understands that there could be a change in objectives and that understanding these will have an important impact on success. Can you envision what success will look like in the future?
Step 2- Look at your existing processes
As you have probably heard over and over again, the future of your non-native employees is now uncertain until some agreement is made as to what laws will be applied. How is your business communicating with customers? Will this work in the future? How could you do it differently?
Step 3- Start defining the vision of what your processes may look like and what objectives it will achieve
Now is the time to start thinking how your business may need to change its existing processes, depending on what changes are made due to ‘Brexit’. Start making a number of different assumptions for different scenarios. Define various objectives for those assumptions and the possible outcomes of what these will achieve. You may be reluctant to change, especially when the future is uncertain, but I can assure you that it will be vital to ensure the success of your business.
Whether you were an “inny” or an “outy”, we are all in the same boat now. So, let us recognise the challenges ahead and embrace and get prepared for the changes that leaving the EU are going to bring. The future is bright when you prepare the correct way. Use this guide to help you, or give us a call and we will be pleased to help you prepare your business for all your language-related challenges ahead.