Language learning insights for companies

Bayer’s story: Building intercultural awareness through language training

It’s interesting to think about how the meaning of one sentence can change completely from language to language. Imagine this: You recently moved into the UK, and while you are chatting to a colleague in the office, she uses the expression “to take the eyes of the ball”. You quickly translate the sentence in your head, but you can’t make sense of what she means.

Every language has phrasal verbs and common expressions that require a deeper understanding of the culture in order to make sense of it.

We had the opportunity to speak to  Stefanie Hedwig, Learning and Development Expert at Bayer AG, who talks about the importance of offering training in German to their employees as a way of easing their transition when they move into the country, building a more inclusive culture and improving communication in the workplace.

Bayer AG is a German life science organization and one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world with a presence in over 87 countries.

The scale of their global operations means language competency is crucial to ensure cross-border collaboration and employees must be supported as they transition from one country to another.

A need for digitalization

Language training has been of importance to Bayer AG for a long time. Now, with technology expanding rapidly, they wanted their training offerings to also remain ahead of the curve and cover their employees’ needs.

“With an increased focus on digitalization in recent years, it was time to give our training programs a fresh look and provide a larger and more diverse portfolio that our employees could take advantage of. This is how we put the EF Online German training in place, to support employees that are joining us here in Germany or those looking to continue developing their existing German skills. We believe in providing our people the tools needed to help them navigate their life abroad in the best possible way,” Stefanie shares.

Bayer AG currently offers a number of EF language courses to its employees including English and German. “It’s great to work with a training provider that is able to offer multiple languages at once and can adapt to our training needs.” The platforms are easily accessed by employees through single sign-on, reducing the administrational work, and other barriers to studying. “We particularly liked the look and feel of the EF platform, the different training offerings, and the fact that learners have a path to follow and know what to expect next. I went myself through all the German lessons in the school and particularly enjoyed it!” she added.

Intercultural awareness at the core 

Besides providing a program that can stand against today’s uncertainty, intercultural awareness is at the core of Bayer’s language training projects as they want their employees to experience a smooth transition into the place they now call home.

“We welcome a lot of ex-pats into our headquarters in Germany, so for us, it’s crucial to support them and their families to set themselves up personally and professionally to get started in the best possible way. It’s important to make our employees feel welcome, wherever they come from, we want them to feel at home. Learning the language while gaining an understanding of the culture at the same time is key” Stefanie added.

With the intention to train employees where it matters most, EF Online German, besides general language lessons, provides Bayer’s learners with engaging special interest classes that focus on the organization’s core interests:

  • Willkommen in Deutschland (welcome to Germany)which covers the essentials of the German culture including understanding dynamics, education, careers, festivities, traditions, among others.
  • Biowissenschaft (which translates into life science) related to the pharmaceutical and agriculture industry ranging from health, sustainability, and innovation to agriculture and pharmaceuticals, among others.

Focusing on these two topics helps build a more inclusive and diverse workplace where employees can understand each other better as well as the culture and language commonly used.

“We are receiving very positive feedback from our employees. They appreciate having the support, time, and space to develop their language skills. The best part is that we don’t force them to take part in the program but instead we help them understand the benefits so that they can make their own decision. Learners are on the driving seat of their development”.

EF and Bayer’s teams worked closely together to deploy the program across the organization and put in place a plan to educate employees about their language offerings and the benefits provided “We received great support from EF, which was very important to us when selecting a supplier. EF Online German is a good opportunity for our learners to get a closer look at the German culture while developing their language skills, so we are glad to see them taking advantage of it”.

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