Effective communication is an integral component of successful business deals – this is especially true for an IT organization that operates in a global market. For a Ukrainian-based company, a proficient level of English is “a must have” skill when conducting business with foreign vendors. Therefore, ELEKS has been investing in English language education for its employees by launching the ELEKS Language School three years ago. One of the greatest achievements is that the ELEKS website won a prestigious award in the category of Business-to-Business communication, allowing us to stand out among our competitors.
Liliya Mudryk, supervisor of the ELEKS Language School, shares a few words about the courses offered and how it helps ELEKS to grow.
Liliya, the Language School has been rapidly developing and offering numerous language and communication courses to both ELEKS’ employees and external students. Who generates new ideas for the program and how do you measure the students’ success?
Thank you. Well, actually I’ve never thought about who generates new ideas. Everything goes naturally. We are a team of teachers and trainers thinking out of the box and sensing the demand for a particular training. I guess as soon as any of us has an idea that we believe will work, we give it a try. There is a sense of risk in doing so, and on the other hand trying something new is at least a new lesson – even for the teachers. Teachers become better because while teaching they do not stop learning themselves. As to the success (of the program), I think it is a combination of thorough preparation of the course, a talented trainer who can bring out the best in people, and even trials and failures. When we receive positive feedback from attendees, when they ask to continue the course or enroll in other courses we offer, then I believe we did everything well. I am really proud of my team because I know I can trust people I work with and there is always a sense of drive in our job, mainly because we all are passionate about what we do.
The course dedicated to business communication has become very popular. Please tell us a bit more about the course and the plans for future training.
Language skills are typically evaluated on two criteria - fluency and accuracy, which are mainly mastered by learning vocabulary and grammar. However, there is one more criteria – effectiveness, which shows how efficiently you can use your language skills as a tool for communication. Actually, only this criteria is crucial in business communication. A person can have intermediate competence in language, but knowing how to communicate the message effectively will make him/her more successful rather than a person with excellent English who lacks business interaction skills. In our training on Business Communication (and there are about 10 different courses we offer), trainees work on improving their confidence in communication through a variety of case studies, role-playing and simulations. Each course contains elements of the psychology of communication with regard to cultural differences, the world of business, and personal values.
You launched the training on Soft Skills. What is the training about and how does it help IT specialists in their work?
The topic of Soft Skills is actually not new. In 2007 they were marked as crucial skills by a Microsoft-commissioned survey. The training helps people develop interpersonal skills and effective communication within their team and the company, and the most important – with customers. What we identified as a problem is that when IT experts are promoted to managerial positions, and their scope of responsibilities changes; many of them find it quite difficult to acquire the skills needed to become a leader and a manager people would follow; to establish teams who perform effectively and to maintain rapport with customers. The Soft Skills course has been developed to cover the need in such training, and I am very happy we have even experienced managers who attend and still learn many new things.
The public speaking training becomes very popular among business professionals who want to advance their career. What are the initiatives taken by ELEKS Language School to meet such demand?
The main thing with public speaking is not even about good English. It is about the lack of confidence people have when they deliver a speech to an audience, be it a meeting, a conference call, or a presentation. Still, when you have to do this in English, the stress is doubled. You have to watch your body language, the design of the slides and be able to keep the audience interested. You also have to use the power of your voice according to some rules, which are not typical, say, for the Ukrainian language. You need to make a pitch in good English as well. There are many courses offered on the market in Ukrainian. What we do – we offer presentation and negotiation courses in English, thus covering three key areas – psychology, business and language. So, when it is time for a person to take the floor, they definitely are trained to do it well, and do it in English.
Working for a global company like ELEKS, how important is it to understand the cultural differences in business and non-business communication?
It is absolutely necessary to be culturally aware. This of course deals with communication. I would even say speaking English, not knowing the business culture of Americans, the British, or Europeans, may lead to severe communication breakdowns, and as a result business issues that can take a long time to resolve. Let me give you an example. Responding to a typical greeting of “How are you?” by saying “I’m okay” means “Fine as usual”, whereas we tend to put a great positivity into the word, which distorts its original meaning. Another example is when communicating with customers and asking for or requesting something a good thing would be to use the phrase “Could you please…..” instead of just “Please…” which is perceived as a polite order. There are tiny things in the language, innocent at first sight which, when interpreted incorrectly, lead to misunderstandings. That is why knowing the mindset of the culture you communicate with is the way to build long-term, stable and positive business relationships.
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