It is quite an obvious statement in real terms – to communicate to each other we need to speak but we don’t all speak the same language. This is especially prevalent in this part of the world with such a large spread of nationalities having to find a common language to communicate with. This is also more so a critical factor for the facility management (FM) industry. Effective FM communication is often hindered by the lack of language comprehension shared.
An industry which is primarily focused around managing and organising staff to deliver tasks, inspections, reports and respond to emergencies – the importance of FM communication is critical. Some of the simplest of tasks and the most critical tasks such as a fire evacuation is dependent on effective communication. We all know there are experts within or organisations that we rely on and their language skills may erode that expertise – so how do we overcome it?
Many customers request in tender documents that the staff provided must be fluent in English or Arabic, but what does this actually mean? Let alone English and it’s thousands of dialects and spoken versions, the Arabic language has equally huge variants across Arabic speaking nations. For instance, a speaker from the Maghrebi Arabic region communicating to a Shihhi Arabic speaker could be as far and diverse as English and Spanish.
The key to the success of communication is in its understanding, so through addressing the basics of communication, clarity of comprehension is achieved. Do they comprehend what is being communicated? This is where it became more important to develop or identify a solution. For us, it was time to take some sort of a step forward.
The starting point we have adopted in Cofely Besix is to formally review the job profiles and agree on a language capability level against each profile. This is a complex task which starts with formally agreeing what your organisation’s business language is. Having done this, we further identify a method of assessment that has to be fair and impartial but not simply test the spoken language, but the ability to comprehend what is being communicated to take the correct action or transfer the right information.
By this we mean an assessment system that can cover the vast spectrum of employees – from helpers and cleaners to senior managers – without it being subjective or used as a method to exclude individuals. We selected an internationally accredited system that is independently assessed and used across the world. This way the grading and scoring is impartial. The clear point to stress is that by firstly looking at the roles we have within the organisation we set the language ability level. Based on this, it is important for our staff to understand that this assessment is about making sure they have the correct ability to communicate in English – which is proportional to the role.