We live in a multicultural world and it is not unknown for organisations to have staff members from many different countries.
The world is getting smaller and people can move around and work wherever they want. As a result, we often find people in our offices from many non-English speaking countries.
We could meet an Indian engineer as we make morning coffee or a Chinese accountant in the elevator at lunchtime. Russian IT guys, African nurses, Japanese quality control supervisors.
Like one big global village.
All these people have the necessary skills to do their jobs — they are good at what they do.
But they also need continuous learning in English.
Many organisations may ask: Why should I provide this?
They already do their jobs; we hired them because they had passed an English efficiency test (maybe IELTS or something similar). Why do we need to continue with English training?
The answer is competition.
Your organisation might have the edge in pricing or quality. It may provide a top-notch service, unparalleled by any other.
Having all your staff able to communicate in English well gives you extra leverage. A guest enters your showroom or office reception area and they are met by someone who can speak to them in smooth, fluent English.
It leaves an impression.
They leave your premises with a good impression of the person they spoke to. And of your organisation too.
Also by providing English training, you can keep your staff for longer terms of service. Staff turnover is a nightmare for HR departments.
If you provide English training for your staff members, they will return the favour in kind. They understand they work for an organisation that cares about them, a place where they have a future.
You will see an increase in staff loyalty and company morale.
So you decide to have English training. But how to find the right English trainer for your organisation?
Below are the guidelines you need to follow to find the right qualities for an English Trainer for your company.
What kind of English training do you want?
Before you place the recruitment ad online, you have to know what kind of English training the trainer needs to provide.
Now is not the time to be vague.
For example, if you are a hotel and you want your front of house staff to pick up relevant English skills that is what you need to outline in your recruitment ad.
Make sure any candidates know exactly what kind of training position they are applying for.
If you just say English Trainer Required don’t be surprised when you get a huge amount of applications from all kinds of English trainers.
The more you know about what kind of English training your organisation requires the easier the recruitment process.
I have received calls from companies and organisations who tell me they require an English teacher to help their staff with their English skills. And when I ask questions about what kind of classes they need they have nothing to tell me.
Is the English training for your food and beverage staff? For the sales team to pick up presentation skills in English? For the marketing department and email writing? For customer services and their English telephone technique?
Narrow it down until you have a clearer idea of what English training your wants.
The Candidates Resume
You can immediately discard many English Trainers after they send their resumes or portfolios.
Before you even meet him, you need to know he can walk the walk. Does he have the right experience for your organisation?
He may have done a lot of English Training in many companies. Is this a mixed bag of different industries or has he concentrated on one specific kind of company?
This may not be a priority for you, but if for example, you are a hotel you will want your English Trainer to have relevant experience in teaching F&B staff, reception and hotel security staff.
He should have a strong working knowledge of the hotel industry.
If not — he is not a good fit for you.
Or maybe your organisation is a bank.
The ideal English Trainer has references to show he has taught previous students working for banking companies or financial firms.
His resume may show he has worked in the industry before. This experience may be essential for you and your needs.
He must have the relevant experience to help you and to train your staff.
And most importantly his resume and cover letter should be written in perfect English.
If you spot ONE spelling error take that as a red flag.
His writing should leave a great impression on you as this is one skill with which he is trying to get hired.
Is he qualified?
It is not always necessary for the English Trainer to hold a degree or have certificates in English training, such as Tefl or Celta.
But it certainly helps.
If your company employs many managers, people who do business with other companies as part of their daily work, you may require your English Trainer to have a degree in business too.
Having a degree in a business-related subject or in human resources is definitely a plus but not essential. There are many English Trainers who have not been to university but are still great teachers.
But if he says he has a college degree or a certificate in Tefl or Celta, you need to see it.
He should include copies of these certificates with his application.
Any other letters after his name must be verified.
So you have separated the wheat from the chaff and you now have a smaller list of potential English Trainers. Now we move on to the interview stage.
What should you look out for? What telltale signs give him away as a great English Trainer? Or a poor one?
Will you just have an interview? Or will there be an interview and a demo class?
It is common for English trainers to give a short demo class. This is usually around 20 minutes. In this demo, you can see the candidate showing off his skills as a teacher.
If you have a demo class, how will it be held? With yourself and a select few of your trusted colleagues? Or in a real setting with some randomly selected staff?
You should have the demo class in a proper training room with a computer and overhead projector/screen set-up.
Dress to Impress
At any interview, the applicant should be booted and suited. Suit and tie or formal office wear. Combed, groomed and clean-shaven.
It would be foolish for any applicant to turn up looking anything less than professional.
But different industries have different dress codes. And there are some English Trainers who fail to follow this basic courtesy.
If your organisation is in the finance sector, you would expect any interviewee to show up looking sharp. You should expect the same of your English Trainer.
If he turns up at the interview in an open shirt and jeans take this as a red flag.
Sloppy in dress code will be sloppy in his work ethic.
Some companies have a more relaxed dress code. Maybe your full-time staff come to work in jeans. But your English Trainer should meet you in formal attire.
No jeans, no shorts, no flip-flops.
Talk the Talk
First impressions over.
Now you find out about the English Trainer.
His job is about teaching people the skills required to communicate in the English language. He should have expressed this in his resume and cover letter.
His writing should be outstanding. No spelling errors or punctuation mistakes.
But in the interview, he is using his voice. He should be able to speak with great clarity and full, complete sentences.
No umming and ahhing or long pauses. No reaching up with his hand to cover his mouth.
This is part of his job. To stand — or sit — in front of people and communicate with clarity and persuasion. To tell you exactly what is in his mind in a clear tone.
You are looking for someone who can speak while maintaining eye contact and can speak in terms so you understand his exact meaning.
Anything jumbled up or any unintelligible sentences and you should take note of this.
At this stage, this is where you can check his experience.
You should be able to fire off a dozen questions related to your industry — the service your company provides or the product you sell — and he should be able to answer all of these questions with ease.
If his resume shows he has experience in the training staff in the construction industry, he needs to be able to talk about this.
You know what questions to ask. It is your line of work. Ask the trainer and expect the right answers.
Is he interesting to talk to?
Equally a part of his job is that he must be an interesting person to talk to.
If he has a bland monotone voice, or he has no facial expressions, this will show in his classes.
There has to be a spark.
Look for tonalities in his voice. Different facial expressions. As he talks about something, there should be an element of storytelling.
Remember — he will teach your staff. And they will often have to attend classes after work.
You want them to do eight hours at work then attend a two-hour class with Mr Dull and Boring?
There needs to be a strong element in his personality that makes him immediately likeable. You need to find him to be an interesting person.
If you don’t like him, neither will your students. And that could spell disaster.
The prospective English Trainer should talk with great passion about what he does. He should speak eloquently about his work — he is a teacher of English, and should be able to express himself.
At the interview stage, he should be able to talk about your company and your industry with ease. It should all be second nature to him. If he has little understanding of your line of industry why is he there? He should have done ample research on your company so he understands what you do and how he can help you in your English training.
Can you trust him?
There has to be trust between you, your company and the English Trainer.
If he has trained many other organisations in your industry that could mean he has trained staff in one of your competitors.
You have to trust this guy 100%.
It should show in his body language and the way he talks to you.
Any references can and must be verified.
At this stage, it might be pertinent to talk about a contract. If you agree to take the English Trainer on there should be no issue in him signing a non-disclosure agreement.
He will talk with your staff for the next few weeks — or even a full year. It will be easy for him to find out all kinds of things about your company and the service or product it supplies.
It may be worth putting this all in writing.
Many companies don’t have their English Trainer sign such a contract. It is often enough to take someone on face value. We meet them at the interview and we have a gut feeling if the person is trustworthy or not.
But if your company deals with something of a sensitive nature it is worth considering.
Let’s have a demo class!
English Trainers are used to this request. So do not be afraid of asking him to do a demonstration class for you.
This may be included as part of the interview or arranged at a later date. But it is a worthwhile thing to do.
You can observe the English Trainer doing exactly what he says he can do in a live situation.
Ideally, a demo class is around 20 minutes. Just enough time to do one exercise or activity so you can see him in the class.
You must attend the demo class. Take one or two close colleagues so you can get a second opinion.
There are few lines of work where a skilled worker can show what they do. But in English training, it is perfectly acceptable.
The English Trainer should be well accustomed to doing this so do not be afraid to ask.
What to look for?
Watch him as he turns on the charm. He should shift easily from the person he is every day into the English Trainer.
His voice raised somewhat and commanding attention at the front of the class.
In the demo, he may break the fourth wall and describe to you what is happening in the lesson. He is just letting you know what should happen and what he expects from the students.
But everything else should run smoothly.
He should introduce the exercise or activity, explain what will happen so everyone understands what is expected from them.
At the end, he might explain to you what the students should have learned in the activity. He should ask one student to show signs of this.
After the demo class discuss with your colleagues what you thought about it.
It should be clear to everyone the English Trainer can deliver a full class or not by observing him in a short demo class.
This is his time to shine.
If not, he is failing to deliver.
If his demo looks unprepared dismiss him as a candidate.
The Next Stage
The English Trainer has attended the interview. He has come to meet you looking sharp. His resume is outstanding and has all the right experience. His demo class was perfect.
You think this guy could be the right English Trainer for your organisation.
But you must make sure you both share the same goals for the training.
Between both parties — you, your organisation and the English trainer — you need to establish what the goals are for the English training.
For example, you want your sales staff to improve their English skills on the phone. This goal should be firmly established at this stage.
Once this is confirmed the trainer must send some preliminary lesson plans to you. It is customary to ask him to supply you with the first two or three lesson plans for the entire course.
You cannot expect him to provide all the lesson plans for the entire duration of all the English training. But the first two or three lessons is a perfectly acceptable request.
And your English trainer needs to do a student assessment. He must test what their English level is.
One or two students may have a much higher English level than the rest of the class. Or much lower. If this is the case, you may need to consider putting them in another class.
Your English Trainer should make a plan to meet your staff and find out something about their English level.
There should be a time when he meets each of the students individually and has a conversation with them.
Usually, this involves questions about their own lives — where they are from, their interests, something about their family.
The English Trainer has the right experience to find out what level each student should be in.
If you are running two or three different classes, you don’t want all the students mixed up into different levels. It is a waste of everyone’s time by putting people into classes by department — sales staff in one class, engineers in another.
It is better to have them separated by their English level. They can learn more effectively if split into the correct level.
If they reach a stage of improved ability, you could consider having classes for your sales team or customer service.
The English trainer should assess all the students’ levels and present this information to you before the first class.
What is the purpose of the English Training? What do you want the English Trainer to do exactly?
It is common for companies to have no real idea what they want from English training. They may get an email from the gods above saying Our people all need to speak proper English.
This is not helpful, and it leaves us trying to find out what we need to do.
If you are fortunate enough to have a clear goal or purpose to the training your English Trainer needs to know what it is too.
It could be something simple.
Improve the email writing skills of our customer service staff. They send emails that are too direct or sound rude. Raise their writing skills so they stop upsetting our customers.
Or the sales staff need help with their presentation skills. Or the general telephone technique when staff answer the phone.
English Trainers love these kinds of contracts. They are told exactly what to do and they can get on with it.
But often he is given one request — improve their English.
If this is the case he should present a clear goal to you.
If the overall English level of your staff is low, the classes could be to reach a certain stage in General English.
That could include speaking, reading and writing skills. An improvement in listening comprehension. We cannot expect any great advances with lower level students.
But the English Trainer might isolate a more fixed goal. After talking to you and all the students he may define a clearer aim.
Whatever the goal is, it needs to be agreed upon by you and the English Trainer.
You both need to be on the same bus. The students too.
By talking to all the students he should find out what they want to learn in English. But more importantly, what they need.
The two things may not be the same.
But there needs to be a goal. One objective for the class.
The Big Plan
You are all agreed on what will take place in the lessons. What clear goal you all share.
Now comes the planning stage.
The English Trainer should make a general plan for the classes. Maybe it is a short period of a few weeks. Maybe an entire year. But there needs to be a rough outline of what will happen.
You must see a plan.
Ideally, he should have the first two or three lesson plans ready and available for you before the first class begins.
These lesson plans should be tailor-made for you and your organisation only. If you see he has just printed a lesson off the internet, take it as a bad sign.
There are hundreds of websites where you can print off worksheets and short lesson plans for English classes. But your trainer should not use these in your English training.
Tailor-made every time.
He must design every lesson and every activity with your company in mind. Sure, he may use an activity he has used a thousand times before with other companies but it should be modified for your organisation. Or placed in a context where it serves a direct purpose for your members of staff.
The English Trainer must not under any circumstances present a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter plan to you.
Ideally what you are looking for is a customised course that has been created only for your organisation. It is far too easy to take a course that has been designed for use for all companies and try to change it for your own organisation – this is what many trainers and training companies do.
In fact, it never works.
There must be evidence the trainer has developed a course specifically for your staff, the service you provide or the products you sell. He should have a track record of doing classes for the service or products you provide and knowledge of the service/product too.
Even if your company has the kind of needs that could be seen as generic you want to know your trainer is producing training content specifically designed for you. Not a dozen other similar organisations.
If he comes to work with an English book and just tells the students to go to page 27, you should be concerned. He may, by all means, use a textbook for reference, he may take an exercise from a book and use it in the class. But the lesson plans and course plans should be unique to your company.
You should ask for lesson plans before the first class begins and he should be able to present these to you in advance. He may not have the entire course written out, but at least have the first two or three lesson plans.
Make sure you go over these. You need to see he has created unique content for your company—and that the classes are going in the agreed direction.
The Classes Begin
Everything is set. Now the classes begin.
If possible, it would be to your advantage to attend the English Trainer’s first class. See first-hand what he is doing in the class and how it plays out. To check he is doing what he has promised to do.
Again, this is a job where you can literally look over someone’s shoulder and watch what they are doing.
Maybe a little difficult with the IT guy or the new staff member in marketing. But with the English Trainer, you could sit in every time he is working and watch him in action.
No English Trainer likes to have observation classes. They feel a little stressed, as anyone would, but you should observe his work from time to time.
If you cannot attend the first class find someone reliable in the class who can provide feedback for you.
A good English Trainer will spend the first class — usually all two hours of it — finding out who the students are and just getting them to introduce themselves.
Non-native speakers of English are shy of opening their mouths. They feel awkward and embarrassed in case they make any errors in front of their peers. Losing face is common in Asian, Middle-Eastern and African cultures.
If your English Trainer spends the first class just chatting with the students and finding out who they are and where they are from, he is doing his job well.
He is giving them the opportunity to talk about simple things in the class and giving them a much-needed boost in confidence.
If he doesn’t spend time doing this the rest of the course could fail to meet the goals required. The students may not engage as much as they may lack the confidence to open up.
Most first classes in an English course are introductions. It is valuable and necessary.
Fun, Fun, Fun
When you meet the English Trainer, he should have a spark, something in his personality that is engaging and interesting to be around. He should be the exact opposite of boring.
In class, his lessons should have an air of good times about them. This does not mean he is clowning around or juggling coffee cups to be a crowd pleaser.
No, of course, he should be serious about the training.
But think about this. Your staff will often have English training after working hours. They have just finished an eight-hour shift, there are emails to answer, some project work to catch up on. The last thing they want to do is sit in a two-hour class while some boring guy up front drones on and on about the difference between past simple and past progressive.
Ideally, your English Trainer should be able to implement exercises and activities that help the students’ progress in their English learning while also maintaining their interest.
There is much debate over this. Many people disagree with the idea of the Entertrainer or of the concept of Edutainment.
But understand this. Kids learn rapidly when they are playing games. It holds their interest and keeps them focused on the activity and they learn more.
Adults are no different.
If there is a general atmosphere in the class of fun, you should translate that as engagement. The students are interested; they are involved and they are learning.
Do the students like him?
Remember back in the interview when you first met the English Trainer?
What was it you liked about him?
Was he likeable?
Of course, the students should like the English Trainer too.
If one or two students have grievances about him, there may be nothing to worry about. One or two people is no big deal.
But if most of them say they don’t like him it is time to pay attention.
The English Trainer should be — in fact, must be — a likeable person. This doesn’t mean he is running around trying to build up a fan club. But he needs to have the kind of personality the students can warm to.
It comes back to the earlier point of having the right personality in the class.
Think back to your school days. Which teachers did all the students like? And why?
Often we have fond memories of the teachers who were warm and friendly and had a pleasant word to say about people. The teachers we regarded as bad were the ones who were overly strict or mean.
People respond well to kindness and a pleasant personality.
In the classroom, this goes a long way. So if your students like the English Trainer he is doing something right.
Is he efficient?
Being well-liked and being Mr Popularity is fine but he must also show efficiency in his work.
He should make an attendance list and keep a clear register of who is coming to class and who is absent. This list should also show late arrivals.
Your trainer should email this to you weekly. You need to know who is going to class and who is playing hooky. You need to know which student is repeatedly arriving late for class.
In terms of discipline, it may be unfair to lay this all on the trainer. He is dealing with adults, professional working people, so he cannot berate them in front of others for being five minutes late for class. He may mention something to them, a casual reminder of what time class begins, but that is all.
But he should definitely inform you of late arrivals or non-attendees to his training. Your company is paying for it and you will need to see results at the end of the course so it bodes well for both you and the English Trainer.
Is there an ongoing evaluation process?
The English Trainer must have assessment skills.
Ideally, this should take place before the first class begins. The trainer should have one or two preliminary classes where he tests the students and which level of class they are in.
This should then be part of an ongoing assessment throughout the course.
Your trainer should send you a weekly report of what is happening in the classes and how the students are progressing.
In the early classes, he may just have a general overview of all the students. But he should quickly get to know the students well and their strengths and weaknesses will become known to him. He should report back to you so you have a clear idea of each and every student’s progress.
He can assess the students by observation in the class but also via tests — whether speaking or written tests — and by other coursework such as any homework assignments or other group work he gives to them.
Another way he can assess their development is by giving them presentation tasks. This works especially well for sales staff as they have to make sales presentations in the line of their work.
Whatever method of assessment the English Trainer uses there must be evidence of it and he should ensure that you receive this assessment every week.
You need to see the course is having the right effect on your staff members. That the change you wish to see taking place is happening.
Assessment is a vital part of the training and it is the trainer’s responsibility to map this out for you.
Are the students learning?
Have the students learned what they should have learned?
Can they apply the English skills they have learned in the class into immediate action in the workplace?
Towards the end of the English training, your staff need to show evidence they have learned the skills and can apply them to their daily work.
At the beginning of the course, a goal was decided upon by you and the English Trainer. Now you want to see that this goal has been realised.
Are the staff able to undertake the skills you wanted them to learn at the beginning?
For example, maybe you are in charge of a call centre team. Can the students show they can answer the phone and conduct a conversation in English with one of your customers? Can they answer any of the customer’s questions? Deal with any queries or complaints?
If they can demonstrate these skills effectively the English Trainer has done his job. If they are looking confused and scratching their heads something has gone wrong in the English training.
Once all the classes are finished and the staff have some improved English skills in their daily work, you may need to develop more English training.
Has the English Trainer isolated any further needs in the staff after completing the first course?
English training can and should be an ongoing activity for your staff members whose English is their second language.
If they use English more fluently, both in speaking and writing, this gives your company a sharper, more competitive edge.
No company training should be taken lightly, and that includes English training.
With the right preparation and attitude, the English training you provide for your staff can not only be effective but encourage great loyalty.
This is something you need in today’s market. A competitive edge from your organisation and your staff.
It is unfair to expect your non-native English-speaking staff to improve their English skills by themselves. It can be extremely costly for the individual.
But for a professional organisation, the costs can be equalled by a huge improvement in service and communication.