Report after report indicates that companies are having difficulties hiring staff with an international outlook. Why is the education system failing to prepare young adults with the skills required by modern-day internationally focused organisations?
Collectively, more young adults have had an opportunity to go to university than their parents. The competition in the education sector has given access to previously elite skills to anyone with the determination to learn.
Do graduates have an international outlook?
Unfortunately, in the business world, new entrants may be in for a surprise. Although their academic knowledge and ability to articulate their thoughts well in an interview may be excellent, they may also have little awareness beyond their own culture. In an increasingly globalising world, they may have just fallen at the last hurdle.
In an article published in HRM Magazine, nearly half of all HR managers report they struggle to find candidates with a good international outlook. They are looking for candidates who
- understand different cultures
- speak different languages
- who can communicate effectively
Many candidates who come from countries where English is the mother tongue fall short. Lack of awareness of different cultural values and communication styles means these candidates are more poorly equipped to enter a global job market than others.
Nearly half of all HR managers report that they struggle to find candidates with a good international outlook
They may have little awareness of the different ways people think, behave and prioritise their day.
To be fair, young adults come from a variety of backgrounds with a wide range of experiences growing up. Some young people are comfortable in a diverse, multinational, multicultural, multilingual environment because they grew up in this environment and for them, it’s just normal.
Adults from such backgrounds, even those who are monolingual are not threatened or intimidated by diversity.
On the other hand, young adults who have only been exposed to a homogenous environment or who have been taught that exposure to others is an ‘us and them’ or ‘us vs. them’ situation have probably learnt a very different lesson.
Some young people are comfortable in a diverse, multinational, multicultural and multilingual environment
Thus, post-Brexit, we see the results through the voting patterns of mostly comfortable multicultural London neighbourhoods vs. the more isolationist conditions found in Lincolnshire, also revealed in this county’s voting patterns.
This is a pattern found in the USA, Germany, France, the Netherlands and even in Scandinavia. More and more young people are looking inward rather than outward.
So, all else being equal, does this mean a multicultural Londoner has a greater chance of being employed in a multinational global organisation than someone from Lincolnshire?
Young candidates might be in a better position if they were lucky enough to learn Mandarin Chinese or perhaps even spend time working and travelling abroad.
Gap years that focus on getting to really know other cultures rather than simply socialising with other gap year students in their own language can be invaluable experience and a real talking point on their CV.
A lack of foreign language skills is a significant problem for people from most English-speaking countries. This is especially true in the UK, where there has been a de-emphasis on language learning just as organisations began to ramp up their need for multilingual employees.
A great opportunity for multilingual employees coming to the UK, but little chance for most monolingual British employees looking for work in a global organisation that expects them to be able to communicate in different languages.
Prospective employees from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are at a similar disadvantage, and in many cases are even more isolated than their British counterparts.
3. Popular culture
Paradoxically, many British young graduates are more likely to be familiar with popular culture from other English speaking countries than they are with their immediate neighbours in Europe. This happens through music, television and other popular culture. It also happens due to a lack of foreign language skills.
4. Institutional support
Governments and especially education systems must take note. As the world continues to globalise, English speakers may find themselves at an even greater disadvantage, especially as more and more people from Brussels to Bahrain to Beijing become fluent in the English language – and with English speaking cultures.
As the world continues to globalise, English speakers may find themselves at an even greater disadvantage
By providing young adults with a practical way to learn another language effectively, they also learn how to communicate better across cultures, building bridges and seeing everyone as ‘us’.
Higher education focuses too much on literature and high culture when teaching language skills, and not enough on practical, real language.
In the meantime, it is important for young adults to take the initiative and embrace the opportunities that a multicultural and multilingual environment presents.
It is all around most of their American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand counterparts as well. Then, prospective employers can place that final Tick! in their international outlook box.