HR & Management News South Africa

Subscribe to industry newsletters

Search jobs

The importance of language competency in management

While language competency is very often mentioned in the requirements section of vacancy advertisement; it is the one competency that is almost always ignored by many.

Often managers are appointed on the basis of qualifications and years of experience, and not on language capability and other soft skills such as communication and interpersonal skills, team player skills, ethics, ability to value diversity, responsiveness and willingness to change.

Admittedly, many would not raise the question of poor communication skills by managers, as it is an accepted form of incompetence. However, the question arises: aren't we being hypocritical by insisting on work competence and yet failing to enforce language competency? Unfortunately, many executives and boards overlook the fact that they are entrusting these managers with representing their brand in key forums and units, and the success thereof depends on how the brand is carried and communicated, especially in service industries.

In an article by Patricia M Buhler on The importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace, she refers to a survey that was conducted in American businesses where employees were asked about the skills they wanted to see in their employers. The results revealed that soft skills are consistently in demand. Understandably so, since work is people-oriented and its success depends on effective communication at all levels.

While companies can train managers on technical skills, there is not much that can be done to train people of soft skills. It is a skill purely dependent on the person in question and their ability to recognize and acknowledge falling short on communication skills. Until we begin to see the importance of such skills, we will continue to have problems with skills retention, especially as a result of avoidable circumstances such as miscommunication, personality clashes, or even talking down to subordinates.

Moving forward, this calls for a commitment to soft skills. A commitment that doesn't begin the first day on the job, but starts even prior to entry in the workforce and stems from the dedication to become a lifelong learner - constantly updating and revising skills to better meet the needs of the changing marketplace.

Let's do Biz