Finding talent with job-related skills is one thing. Finding talent with the communication skills to do the job is another.
Hiring the right workers requires spending hours upon hours of assessing and getting to know potential employees’ qualifications. Even a dedicated HR leader who knows exactly how to assess job skills probably isn’t an expert at assessing language skills.
With all the resources dedicated to hiring the personnel you need, why waste the time and money interviewing candidates who, no matter how good they are, don’t have the language skills necessary to communicate in a global marketplace? A better, more cost-effective approach is to dedicate the resources after filtering out those who are lacking the skills your company needs to be competitive.
In 2018, the average hiring cost for a single worker was $4,500, including interviews, assessments, advertising, and so on. The spending costs for exams and assessments alone are a nightmare, and most of those resources are dedicated to screening the highest-level employees. The higher level the position, the more expensive and extensive the examination process.
This leaves a gap at the bottom of the workforce chain with employees who are screened poorly due to the prohibitive costs of high-quality assessments. Hiring under-qualified employees adds to the overall costs of HR. Companies that do not use effective hiring processes have attrition rates at least 20% higher than those with robust screening in place. An effective process includes low-cost, high-quality pre-screening exams, which allow companies to reach a broader candidate pool and focus interviewing resources only on those who have the prerequisite skills.
It is no secret that English is one of the most dominant languages across the globe. To gain a little perspective as to just how much, in 2016, 69% of corporations in non-English speaking countries labeled English as “important”, “very important”, or “main language used”. In India, that number rose to 85% with the trend of English as a language of business increasing around the world.
The obvious concern about adding English screening to the hiring process is that another test has the potential to increase overall hiring costs, as a larger percentage of employees at more levels are expected to be able to use English in professional communication. However, instead of English screening increasing hiring costs, it has the potential to reduce those costs, depending on how and when it is implemented in the hiring process.
If English testing is conducted before the interviewing process, it can actually save a company money by allowing them to dedicate hiring resources only to those who the necessary and fundamental language skills for the job.
Companies, such as BPOs, with many employees, stand to benefit a great deal from a more effective means of English screening. Globally, BPOs added 36,000 workers in 2018, and the BPO industry overall is predicted to grow by 34% by 2021, which translates to higher hiring costs since the average hiring cost for a new call center employee is $2,500.
The BPO industry is highly dependent on effective communication skills. These proficiencies are being tested in one of two ways; personal or automated assessment. Using personal assessment with a face-to-face examiner for each candidate is very expensive ($30-$50) and time-consuming (60-120 min).
While this method may provide more detail and insight into the candidate’s job skills abilities, it requires a lot of time and money, and more importantly, is not an effective means of assessing English. English assessment by an interviewer without a strong background in language testing lacks validity and reliability of results due to the limitations of the judgment of the examiner and his or her lack of effective measures. These interviews are also highly subject to bias, often being disproportionately influenced by accent.
Automated assessment on the other hand, while requiring less time, money and manpower, until recently has not been sufficiently accurate. Many current solutions rely on either multiple-choice testing, which clearly does not test communicative competence, or relies on very limited and constrained speech examples – very different from the free speech required of employees on the job.
This lack of automated evaluation of authentic speech leaves many large companies (especially those in assessment, staffing and recruiting industries) unsatisfied with the market’s current solutions and eager to adopt something more effective, coinciding with their need to minimize their budget.
Effective communication skills are the most critical factor in job performance. Workers need enough vocabulary to express ideas, enough accuracy so that the message is clear, and enough fluency and clarity that the ideas are conveyed efficiently, with a minimum of frustration and miscommunication.
Personality is important, but the most effective leader will be silenced if she is not comfortable speaking the language in which the business is conducted. The most cooperative, supportive subordinate will make mistakes and be inefficient if he doesn’t understand what others on his team, or his boss, are asking him to do.
When all is said and done, if an employee doesn’t have the appropriate level of English, they can’t perform in a multinational context.
The need for a comprehensive, effective and low-cost solution to measure authentic English is growing – one that is accurate and reliable with the ability to scale. Israeli start-up “Speak” has developed an English assessment test that can accurately measure one’s level of English (including fluency, vocabulary, pronunciation, accuracy and comprehension) within 10 minutes at low cost.
The test score is aligned to the CEFR, the most widely accepted international standard of language proficiency. With this test, companies can automatically rate their applicants in half the time for half the cost, enabling them to spend less time on unqualified applicants and more time on getting their job done, without reducing the quality of the process.
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