Unlocking Potential

language barrier

The advantages of employers providing language training.

By Chris Brotherson 

The foodservice industry is not only one of the largest employing industries in the United States, it is the nation’s leader in employing immigrant workers. Language barriers within the field are continuing to broaden, creating a spotlight on the fact that many of these employees possess limited proficiency in English (LEP). 

More than 23 percent of individuals employed at restaurants are born outside of the U.S., compared to 18.5 percent for the overall economy, according to QSR. With analysts predicting that an additional 1.6 million jobs will be created over the next 10 years, the number of immigrant employees within the foodservice industry will continue to increase, as foreign-born workers and their children will fill many of these new jobs. A deficiency in basic English skills can hinder both the foodservice organization’s bottom-line and the confidence of the employee to successfully perform their job.

Language barriers within the field will also continue to broaden. Yes, immigrant workers are an imperative part of the foodservice industry; however, it is important to acknowledge that many of them possess limited proficiency in English (LEP). A deficiency in basic English skills not only puts the workers themselves at risk, but also their co-workers and customers.

Although many LEP workers have expressed the desire to improve their English language skills, it remains difficult for them to do so on their own. The National Skills Coalition reports that “31 percent of workers said they would have liked to participate (or participate more) in learning opportunities over the past year, but had not been able to,” mainly due to a lack of both financial resources and time.

language barrier 2Looking at the situation realistically, the odds of LEP workers overcoming their challenges without employer-sponsored support are unlikely. Data from the National Skills Coalition found that “skill gaps among U.S. service sector workers are a significant challenge that often prevents people from achieving their full potential. Unlocking this potential will benefit individual workers as well as the businesses that employ them and the wider U.S. economy.”

Implementing on-site language training opens the doorway to advancement and helps employees continuously develop. For example: in 2016, the management team at the Wendy’s restaurant chain used a Rosetta Stone program to set up English as a Second Language (ESL) training for their employees, allowing workers to use a mobile app where they could complete lessons on their smartphones and study during their breaks.

Similarly, Panda Restaurant Group offers Rosetta Stone’s online-based software to its workforce. The tool that has led to a decrease in employee turnover by as much as 20 percent, significantly cutting Panda’s training and rehiring costs.

Foodservice employers who offer on-site language training will gain key advantages, such as:

* Skillful customer assistance: Workers with a competent command of English can provide better customer service and ensure a higher rate of returning customers, especially with 82 percent of food chain workers being in frontline positions.

* Lower risk of accidents: Workers will be better equipped to understand specific instructions for food preparation and be able to clearly communicate with customers and other workers to ensure meaningful information isn’t lost in translation. According to a report in the Journal of Extension, “it is expected that food handling behaviors will improve due to improved knowledge and result in safe food handling practices thus reducing the incidence of foodborne illness.”

* Ability to fill positions faster: A survey by the Society For Human Resource Management found that “the approach HR professionals consider most effective is to train existing employees to take on hard-to-fill roles.” Training an outlet’s existing workforce in the way that managers prefer allows them to promote from within their company—cutting down on churn rates, lowering HR costs, and maintaining a skilled, stable workforce.

* Higher retention rates: Providing on-site language training shows an employer’s commitment to their employees. Workers are more likely to be loyal to employers who invest in their advancement, ensuring lower turnover. It’s evident that in order for LEP workers to improve their English language skills most effectively, their employers must play a role. As you can see, employers won’t simply be enhancing just the abilities of their staff by implementing on-site language learning, they’ll also be ensuring the future success of their establishments.

Reprinted with permission from Rosetta Stone Ltd. © 1999-2017 Rosetta Stone Ltd. All rights reserved.

Chris Brotherson is the senior director of enterprise sales at Rosetta Stone responsible for leading a sales team of more than 20 people that work with large businesses and global organizations looking to provide language training to its workforces. He is a seasoned sales leader having worked with numerous global businesses in the software, technology and education space for more than 15 years. Brotherson can be reached at cbrotherson@rosettastone.com.

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