“We want to improve our employees’ English skills”
In less than two decades, Gestamp has become an excellent example of what a successful business looks like. This Spanish group designs, develops and manufactures metal components for cars. The highly competitive nature of the automotive industry makes fluency in other languages, especially English, a must. The company, which is present in over 20 countries all over the world, with close to a hundred industrial sites, 12 R&D centers and more than 30,000 employees, is currently allotting at least 60% of its training budget to language learning.
Languages have become a key issue for the Training Department at Gestamp. The group’s business needs, which have made English a working language, along with Spanish, have had a decisive impact on Gestamp’s choice to go all in where language training is concerned. The corporate team, in charge of coordinating, developing, monitoring and managing the business, is the central pillar of the group. “We work shoulder to shoulder with colleagues from different parts of the world, and we communicate mainly in English. The English that we speak,” says Francisco Alvarez, Head of Training, “is focused toward our business needs, which is why it is essential for all of us in the corporate team to be fluent in it.”
Close to 300 people within the corporate team are learning different languages. “Mainly in Spain and, more specifically, in Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao, although our branches in other countries also offer language training programs,” says Alvarez.
According to the Head of Training, when it comes to choosing a language training company, the key factor is their ability to select trainers who specialize in working with professional adults and are capable of developing a training program adapted to each employee’s needs.
“Languages are no longer a side issue; they are an essential element in employees’ professional development.”
After all, the company wants results: employees must acquire optimal communication skills to do their work effectively. The most critical aspect, Francisco Alvarez admits, is normally verbal communication. Even though it’s true that employees often communicate in writing, mainly via email, the phone remains a very important means of communication.
According to him, results are visible “after 90-100 hours of training. At that point, the business vocabulary becomes more accurate, communication in English is clearer, and there are fewer misunderstandings.”.
Striving for maximum effectiveness
Gestamp considers language training so important that they have implemented the figure of a Consultant to steer students throughout the learning process, combining linguistic aspects with other skills. Training Express plays a key role in this process, designing and developing an individual Learning Path for each manager, to guide and help them in the situations they face at work.
In the words of Francisco Alvarez, “Languages are no longer a side issue; they are an essential element in employees’ professional development.” In fact, “there are courses designed for specific technical, financial, leadership and other needs.” Additionally, English training is always provided to all those involved in complex technical projects. The reason for this is clear: “Many of the technologies being implemented within the group have been purchased from international companies whose specialized trainers are either native English speakers or provide training in English.”
For that same reason, the Master’s Degree in International Industrial Project Management offered jointly by the Comillas Pontifical University and Gestamp is taught exclusively in English. Training Express carries out a level test to determine whether applicants have the necessary level of English to participate.
The main objective of this Graduate Program offered by Gestamp is to develop and recruit future talent for the group’s international project management teams.
“We don’t believe in traditional training: there are ways to improve an employee’s language skills that go beyond the traditional teacher-student face-to-face sessions.”
Gestamp’s project for the future is to establish global guidelines for language training, aimed at improving employees’ languages skills worldwide. Another of their goals is to intensify integration in all areas related to technological innovation, including innovation in language training. “We want to be disruptive in how we look at language learning,” says Alvarez. “We don’t believe in traditional training: there are ways to improve an employee’s language skills that go beyond the traditional teacher-student face-to-face sessions.”
Francisco Alvarez points out that it’s very important for trainers to adapt to the current reality, where corporate students want what they learn to be useful immediately. This also affects training technology: different solutions must be found; resources that go beyond the classic textbook have to be made available to learners; sessions must be focused on students’ day-to-day work; and, more importantly, students must be able to see results quickly, and put what they have learned to use straight after the class.