With a growing global workforce, English language proficiency has become one of the most sought-after skills. Additionally, given the reliance of multinational companies on an increasingly migrant workforce, with people moving to countries seeking not just new jobs but also career advancement opportunities, the need for fluency in the English language and to be able to communicate effectively has also increased. Therefore, not just to ensure success to organizations that bring in employees but also to enable those employees to be successful, the need for English language testing to examine proficiency level has also increased. These English language requirements, however, range from beginner level to business level and are not only based on an employee’s profession but also the position.
Some important questions regarding proficiency level in English that are usually associated with any job that requires English language skills include:
- How well should employees be able to communicate in English?
- In an organizational context, how comfortable should employees be with English in order to work on specific tasks successfully?
- Does the necessary English proficiency level vary based on the job position?
- Is it essential to train employees in English to improve their chances of being promoted?
- Does a higher proficiency level in English lead to a better understanding of the culture?
It is important to emphasize that some jobs may require working in a collaborative team environment, or may be more client-focused, therefore requiring a high level of proficiency in English, whereas some jobs may not involve working with people and require only a basic proficiency in English. Having said that, living in an increasingly connected world, does make communication an important part of the process, and people who can communicate well are more likely to grow professionally. Therefore, not only does English language testing enable finding gaps in English language proficiency but also in making hiring and promotion decisions.
ACTFL assessments are largely used worldwide not only by academic institutions but also by government agencies and private corporations to assess hiring and promotion qualifications. Language Testing International administers ACTFL assessments to major corporations and government agencies all over the world. These assessments are designed to result in a valid and trustworthy language credential that reflects an examinee’s language proficiency. By providing four main categories of language testing and assessment, speaking, writing, reading, and listening, these assessments utilize an all-inclusive methodology in assessing language skills and abilities. Given the resources that go into the selection and hiring process in general, it is important for any business or organization to gain information regarding the potential proficiency level of its job applicants when making hiring decisions.. Making decisions about promotions is equally important. Higher level positions usually require employees to communicate with teams and clients, , which makes it essential for them to possess a higher level of proficiency in English, as opposed to employees in lower level positions. Having standardized language assessments in place to examine proficiency will enable organizations to make these decisions in an objective manner. ACTFL assessments can also be utilized to identify specific gaps in the language skills of existing employees expecting to be promoted.
Professionally, the main benefits to conducting English proficiency testing include:
- Job Success: Studies have shown that employees who score higher on proficiency assessments are less likely to leave the organization, thereby leading to higher levels of employee retention and a more productive and efficient workplace overall.
- Accuracy: Proficiency assessments are higher in accuracy than observed understanding of language level.
- Standardized: Proficiency assessments use a standardized scale to measure candidates’ proficiency level, which leads to having a more definite understanding of candidates’ capabilities. This in turn makes is easier to choose the best fit for the position. These assessments also make it easier to compare candidates, thus facilitating the decision-making process.
- Streamlined Interview Process: By administering a proficiency assessment, before or after an interview, employers can focus on the candidate’s other job-related skills without having to simultaneously gauge their skill in the desired language.
- Fair Recruitment Practices: Hiring decisions become more defensible because candidates are measured against a standard, rather than a self-reported or observed or perceived proficiency level.
In conclusion, given the need for employees to be proficient in English in order to be more successful in today’s globalized corporate world, and the benefits that English language testing can have for employees themselves, it is even more necessary for organizations to assess the language proficiency of their prospective or existing employees.
- The ACTFL English Study – Preliminary Report (June 2016)
- Assessing Evidence of Validity and Reliability of the ACTFL Reading Proficiency Test (RPT) (2020)
- Assessing Evidence of Validity and Reliability of the ACTFL Listening Proficiency Test (LPT) (2020)
- Assessing Evidence of Validity and Reliability of the ACTFL Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) (2020)
- Assessing Evidence of Validity and Reliability of the ACTFL Speaking Proficiency Test (SPT) (2020)
- English communicative events and skills needed at the workplace: Feedback from the industry – Kasim & Ali (2010)
- Language, Cultural Intelligence, and Inpatriate Turnover Intentions: Leveraging Values in Multinational Corporations through Inpatriates – Frose, Kim & Eng (2016)
Devyani Mahajan is an Industrial Organizational Psychologist, and her research interests include psychometric scale development, selection and assessment, and quantitative data analysis. She has a doctorate from Kansas State University and has worked with organizations in developing and validating selection assessments and has also enabled better decision making by utilizing standardized assessment methods.