Important to keep messages concise at the workplace
Language proficiency affects not only the employee, but also his organisation. -myp
By Sophie Hong
It is getting increasingly important for companies to make sure that their employees speak proper English, as their proficiency in the language affects not only them, but also their organisations' image.
This is because English is the primary language used in today's global market, said managing director and head of POSB Koh Kar Siong.
"Being able to communicate clearly and effectively with your business partners, potential investors and the media is very important," said the 42-year-old.
"And that reflects on both the company's and the individual's image," he added.
One way in which good English can be practised effectively in the workplace is to keep e-mail and other messages short and concise.
Mr Koh said: "Go straight to the point. Do not use bombastic words or long-winded sentences. "If people need to take a while to understand what the text is all about, then I think you have distorted the message and probably lost a customer along the way."
If you are unsure of how to compose a concise message, just tune in to news broadcasts and pay attention to how the news is delivered, he advised.
He explained that as reporters and newscasters have to deliver news within a stipulated time, they are very effective in getting their message across.
Mr Koh's employees are also constantly encouraged to go for language and communication courses that improve their proficiency in English and help them communicate better in a business setting.
The courses typically last a few days and are conducted by the company or through external organisations, such as the British Council.
But it is not just up to a company to help its employees brush up on their command of the language.
The employees themselves can also help the company to create an environment where good English is practised all the time, so that those who are weaker in the language can pick it up gradually, said Mr Koh.
In order to create that kind of conducive environment at the workplace, Mr Koh encourages his staff to correct each other's mistakes when they are interacting at work, but added that no strict rules are enforced.
"It has to be a free movement, where everybody embraces and participates in speaking good English wholeheartedly, rather than having parameters and penalties put in (place)," he said.
Otherwise, a lot of stress and pressure will be put on everyone, he added.
He also noted that extra care has to be exercised when correcting a co-worker or an employee at the workplace, so as not to hurt anyone's feelings unintentionally.
Mr Koh said that if a colleague is unable to accept criticisms or does not take well to having his errors pointed out in the open, one way to get around this is to "pull the person aside and talk to him privately".
However, this method is not applicable to all employees, and employers need to exercise flexibility when faced with such situations.
"The supervisor or organisation has to adapt or adopt certain approaches that are relevant to that particular individual or situation," said Mr Koh.
That said, he added that the individual must also be open to criticisms and be willing to learn, even from someone who is of a lower rank.
An oft-touted example would be how Mr Koh lets his children correct him whenever he says something in English wrongly.
"Learning language is an ongoing process. I am still learning from my colleagues, be it my seniors or co-workers," he said.
Three tips from Banker Koh Kar Siong
TIP 1: Keep your messages short and simple
When sending out e-mail, try to avoid using long sentences and bombastic words.
Instead, go straight to the point and stick with simple vocabulary.
This will help reduce the number of errors made in your e-mail and ensure that the message can be understood easily.
This way, misunderstandings can be avoided and you do not need to waste time explaining your message all over again.
TIP 2: Sign yourself up for language courses
Attending a language course conducted through your firm is one way to help improve your English.
Try to go for specific courses that might help you in your work, such as those for business presentations.
If you want to attend an external course, such as those by the British Council, check with your company to see if it offers any reimbursements for the course fees.
TIP 3: Have a positive attitude towards learning
Do not take it personally when a colleague or supervisor points out and corrects your mistakes.
Instead, see it as an opportunity to improve your English.
If you have colleagues or friends who are proficient in the language, get them to correct you whenever you make a mistake, and do not hesitate to approach them for help when needed.
The Getting It Right series is brought to you by the Speak Good English Movement.
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