China / Society

Companies put emphasis on English

By Luo Wangshu (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-10 07:39

More than 80 percent of large Chinese companies with overseas branches offer English lessons to their employees, according to a new survey.

"Companies value proficiency in English in today's global market," said Yu Feng of international assessment company Educational Testing Service. "Over the past dozen years, foreign-invested companies entering China have required employees with proficiency in English.

"More recently, Chinese enterprises aiming to enter the global market also need employees with adequate English skills."

ETS administers the TOEFL and TOEIC English tests and carries out research, and Yu is executive director of its global TOEIC and partnerships divisions.

The survey, conducted by ETS and Ipsos Public Affairs, involved interviews with 749 human resources leaders from large and multinational companies in 13 countries. The aim was to assess their views on challenges to global expansion, and 70 HR decision-makers in China took part.

Among global respondents, 78 percent said the need for employees who are proficient in English has increased. Its importance is fully recognized in China, where 75 percent of companies said they encourage proficiency in the language.

"Like their counterparts around the world, HR professionals in China believe that an English-proficient workforce helps to retain and grow client bases, improve communication across international company offices and influence greater productivity and efficiency," the report said.

Although 87 percent of global respondents indicated that English proficiency among employees is important, only 65 percent said their employees have sufficient skills.

In China, 88 percent of respondents believed English proficiency is important, but only 70 percent said their employees have reached an adequate level.

"Although companies pay heavily to provide formal training, the majority do not assess the results," Yu said. "The lack of effective assessment after formal training may result in money being wasted."

Globally, only 24 percent of respondents run tests to assess proficiency at the end of training programs. The number drops to 18 percent among Chinese respondents.

The report found that employees' individual development is linked closely to their level of English proficiency.

"English-language proficiency becomes a greater requirement as positions become more senior," the report said.

Globally, 48 percent of entry-level positions require proficiency in English, while 73 percent of executive-level positions require proficiency in the language.

In China, 33 percent of entry-level roles involve the use of English, and 80 percent of executive-level positions require proficient English.

"Our company invests a huge amount of money in English training each year," said Li Hao from the HR department of Sinopec's engineering design division. "The company takes 5 percent of annual salary from all employees as a training fee, and English training is a part of it."

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