· News

Language skills and adaptability key for global employees

Most HR managers believe speaking multiple languages will be important for employees' global employability

HR managers see adapting to new cultures and speaking foreign languages as the two most important skills for employees wanting to work abroad, according to research from Universum and CEMS.

The Going Global report, which surveyed more than 1,200 respondents including hiring executives, graduates and students, found that 87% of HR managers believe speaking more than one language will be important for global jobseekers' future employability. Almost half (48%) identified the ability to adapt to new cultures.

However, only one in five (19%) HR managers rated the mobility skills of their young employees as strong, suggesting young people could be doing more to develop their skills or self-confidence when it comes to working abroad. Six in 10 (61%) hiring executives recommended that working outside comfort zones helps boost the career growth of young professionals, while 36% cited taking on international assignments specifically.

Roland Siegers, executive director of CEMS, said that graduates need to find ways to set themselves apart. “As international assignments within global companies open up, candidates with the language skills and the ability to adapt to new and challenging environments have a clear advantage when it comes to securing roles and progressing in the workplace,” he said.

“For young professionals to acquire these skills it means going out of their comfort zone, living and studying in a foreign environment at an early stage in their career, and immersing themselves in different cultures. In addition, many students are still under the impression that English is the international language of business, but learning a range of languages fluently will make the difference between an average candidate and an excellent one.”

Bertrand de Laleu, global vice president of HR at L’Oréal, said the scope of global business is expanding. “With English you just have half of it,” he said. “We need to enlarge the scope. Beyond the language skills, the ability to work in very contrasting economies is a differentiator. Organisational diversity is crucial. It’s no longer only about New York, London, Paris. Now it’s also about Sao Paulo, Lagos and Mumbai."