Research from the Association of Translation Companies highlights that “language skills and high cultural intelligence” can lead to increased sales and profits. The research found that those companies with internal language skills fare 30 per cent better when exporting goods overseas.
The research findings published in the LO-C 30 Report were concluded by a researcher at Aston University, Birmingham. The report itself investigated how language capabilities can benefit UK SMEs looking to go global.
This research is significant, as it is the most comprehensive study of its kind, exploring the exporting success of SMEs across the UK.
What do we mean when we say language skills? In this article, we’ll explore how various degrees of language skills can assist your SME as you look to make your mark internationally.
What’s behind the numbers?
Aston Business School researcher Ankita Tiberwal based her qualitative research on 415 UK SMEs across a representative sample of sectors. The purpose of the research was to understand the organisational language capacity across the selected businesses and its drivers.
The research made use of statistical analysis and modelling to track the impact of language capacity on SME export performances.
LO-C is a central metric within the research and this KPI was used to evaluate a company’s motivation, preparedness, and attitude to developing language-related capabilities, and the use of language skills in the workplace.
For UK SMEs looking for growth, there is good reason to bet on exporting to find it. Previous research has shown a notable link between exporting success and business development. It sounds obvious as there are more people to sell to outside the UK!
If an increasing number of SMEs consider exporting, supported by improved language capabilities, the UK economy could enjoy a substantial boost. SMEs make up 99.9 per cent of the quantity of UK businesses, totalling six million. They contribute approximately half of the turnover attributed to the private sector. Moreover, SMEs employ 16.8 million people, making up 61 per cent of the workforce.
Raisa McNab, CEO of the Association of Translation Companies, commented on the report: “SMEs have had a really hard time adapting to the challenges brought on by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, and we haven’t had any good news for a while. Language services are a very easy, accessible way to drive international growth, and the LO-C 30 Report shows that the returns can be significant.”
What are the different types of language skills?
The LO-C 30 report mentions that SMEs can benefit from both language skills and high cultural intelligence. There is an important distinction to be made here. The two skills are not necessarily mutually dependent, as you might find you have many employees with limited language skills but strong cultural intelligence within your organisation, whether they are well travelled, or simply enjoy the diversity of other cultures.
Or it may be that you have employees with some language skills which don’t stretch as far as the ability to translate between languages or hold a conversation with a colleague overseas.
Language skills don’t necessarily equate to the ability to be able to professionally translate, but this doesn’t mean they won’t come in handy. Staff members that possess some prior knowledge of a language are able to audit and check content for accuracy, tone and purpose.
This doesn’t mean that the employee will be able to rectify the content in question – you may require a professional translator for that. A copywriter, marketer or engineer, for instance, may understand what they want to deliver with a translation yet need the assistance of a translation expert to achieve it. Understanding the aim of a translation versus articulating it in practice involve two very different skillsets.
The discipline of translation requires experienced, native-speaking professionals that understand translation is a creative art, especially when marketing materials are in question. Cultural intelligence will help your organisation recognise when certain materials may need adaptation to speak to the audience in a new market. Add the skills of a translator to this scenario and you can see how language skills can benefit any SME looking to boost their growth by exporting overseas.
Language skills level up internal communications
Internal language resources, for instance employees with language skills, can be a great advantage when a company needs to be represented in meetings and phone calls across borders. Having employees in house who can speak the language of your overseas office or partners abroad can be invaluable in getting communication right.
Last month, we wrote about the end of the UK’s participation in the Erasmus Scheme, and what it will be mean for the language skills of the UK workforce. The ability to attract an international workforce to your business is an essential part of truly understanding the differences between cultures.
There’s certainly a possibility that fewer international jobseekers will settle in the UK as a result of the Erasmus Scheme ending. Many businesses have decried this fact, highlighting the importance of hiring a diverse workforce with insights into the different cultures around the world.
Offer language training to your staff
Offering language training to staff members without language skills that are willing to learn can also help your business export successfully. This will allow them to spot mistakes, collaborate with different territories and work with colleagues overseas
If don’t have an internal resource, a translation agency can act as a fast-responding extension of your team.
Dr Geoff Parkes, Senior Lecturer at Aston University, said “The results of the research strongly indicate that SMEs can significantly increase their export sales, growth and profits by hiring people with language skills and high cultural intelligence, providing language training to existing staff and investing in professional translation services using sophisticated language technology.”
Support your internal language skills with a translation agency
A combination of internal language resources, cultural intelligence and investing in a translation services agency will increase your probability of success when exporting. At Bubbles, we can support your internationalisation efforts, whether you require marketing materials to be localised to a new market, or guidance translating a specialised legal document. Our translation experts are highly experienced across a wide range of sectors.
We pride ourselves on quick and accurate turnarounds with the ability to customise our approach to your specific requirements, so get in touch for a quote today.