The Case for Improving Your Company’s Business English

English is the default business language. When employees do not have sufficiently strong Business English skills, it hinders communication and collaboration, which has been shown to impair business results and weaken financial performance.

 Poor Business English affects strategy, operations and relationships both with employees and customers. To truly resolve the issue, a company needs to address Business English on a strategic enterprise level.

Follow these six steps to identify what’s at risk for your company and determine a cost-effective solution.

Step 1: Look at the Business English Index

A larger industry context helps illustrate the breadth of the problem. One way of providing that context is via the Business English Index (BEI).

The following chart shows the typical BEI for companies in a variety of industries, based on a Pearson English Business Solutions analysis of its experience with Forbes Global 2000 companies.



Step 2: Profile Your Company’s Overall Business English Competency

There are a number of ways to benchmark your company:

  • Conduct an anonymous web survey of employees, asking them to rate their level of Business English and how their proficiency affects their performance;
  • In a similar vein, conduct a survey of your customers and their experience working with your employees in English;
  • Speak with managers to identify instances where poor Business English led to undesirable outcomes, such as errors in a product design or lost sales opportunities.


Step 3: Estimate the Hard Costs

The easiest way to do this is to establish the cost of lost productivity due to Business English deficiencies. The basis for this calculation is employee and management estimates of average time lost per week per employee because of a lack of Business English proficiency. The figure should come from the surveys and interviews, recommended in Step 2. To estimate the annual hard costs to your company due to a lack of Business English competency, complete the following steps:

Hard costs

Step 4: Estimate Soft Costs

Soft costs can also shed light on the potential extent of the problem. The surveys you complete can reveal the following soft costs caused by an enterprise weakness in Business English:

  • Strategic: Misdirected strategies, poor communications with business partners and customers lost due to poor communications.
  • Operational: The additional cost of less efficient operations due to a lack of effective communication and collaboration, as well as missed opportunities.
  • Human Resources: Additional recruitment costs as well as escalated retention costs due to employee frustration, lack of engagement, lower job satisfaction and restricted chance of career advancement.


Estimate the Revenue Loss

Directly quantifying these factors can be difficult. However, you can estimate the revenue loss in the following way:

  • Multiply the number of employees by the number of total employee working hours in the year;
  • Divide the annual corporate revenue by the total number of employee hours worked;
  • The result is revenue per employee per hour.


Step 5: Estimate the Cost of Your Solution

Different employee populations in your organisation have differing needs:

An executive may need intensive private instruction with a dedicated Business English coach to achieve targeted and significant results very quickly. An individual contributor may need access to on demand formal coursework for steady, ongoing skills development. Still others may benefit the most from quick and easy access to performance-support tools.

step 5

Step 6: Compare the Solution Cost with the Lost Opportunity Cost

A simple comparison of your company’s annual lost revenue (as determined in Step 4) and the cost of a Business English solution (as determined in Step 5) will indicate the extent to which your company can benefit from implementing such a solution.


Excerpts modified from a Pearson English Business Solutions White Paper with the same title as the article. Download the complete White Paper or get an access to the complete Pearson English Business Solutions’ BEI report.

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