Are mandating

Today 1.75 billion people speak English at a useful level—that’s one in four of us.

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Overnight, the Japanese language cafeteria menus were replaced, as were elevator directories.

And he stated that employees would have to demonstrate competence on an international English scoring system within two years—or risk demotion or even dismissal.

More and more multinational companies are mandating English as the common corporate language—Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, Fast Retailing, Nokia, Renault, Samsung, SAP, Technicolor, and Microsoft in Beijing, to name a few—in an attempt to facilitate communication and performance across geographically diverse functions and business endeavors.

Adopting a common mode of speech isn’t just a good idea; it’s a must, even for an American company with operations overseas, for instance, or a French company focused on domestic customers.

And any company with a global presence or global aspirations would be wise to do the same, says HBS professor Tsedal Neeley, to ensure good communication and collaboration with customers, suppliers, business partners, and other stakeholders.

But while moving toward a single language at work is necessary and inevitable, Neeley’s research shows that implementing such a policy is fraught with complications.

Similar concerns drove Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten—Japan’s largest online marketplace—to mandate in March 2010 that English would be the company’s official language of business.

The company’s goal was to become the number one internet services company in the world, and Mikitani believed that the new policy—which would affect some 7,100 Japanese employees—was vital to achieving that end, especially as expansion plans were concentrated outside Japan.

First-generation biofuels, made from agricultural crops, divert food directly to fuel markets and divert land, water and other food-producing resources from their current or potential uses for production of feed for animals and food for human consumption. Mandates prop up demand for biofuels, particularly at times when oil prices are relatively low. Wise and Emily Cole assess the spread of such mandates and targets, finding that at least 64 countries now have such policies.

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