‘Recruiters seek geographically flexible managers: global citizens who have an ability to adapt to new environments and who are able to build cross-cultural competence’
Recently, I had a meeting with a recruiter from a global firm about her company’s future hiring needs and how we, as a school of management, might sharpen our efforts to train students in particular areas. We covered all the usual topics. We talked about sectors, business units, and specialized skills. Interestingly, though, one of her greatest employment concerns had nothing to do with functions or industries; rather it involved geographic mobility, cultural awareness, and language skills.
She told me how her firm is rapidly opening offices around the globe, and how it’s looking for people who have experience in different regions, or who are willing and eager to relocate. “Most of the business will be conducted in English,” she told me, “but in order for someone to be successful and fulfilled they’ll need proficiency in the local language.”
In an increasingly global world, the ability to speak more than one language has clear practical advantages. More and more, though, fluency in another language is becoming a vital skill for the next generation of business leaders. At a time when American-based companies realize that their greatest potential markets are outside of the U.S., they are seeking geographically and culturally flexible managers. Those with an ability to adapt to new environments quickly and are able to build cross-cultural bridges will become the future leaders.
Language skills are paramount. As Matt Symonds, chief editor of MBA50.com, a website dedicated to the world’s outstanding business schools, wrote recently in Bloomberg Businessweek: “In a global business environment, [language] skills…make the difference between a good performance and a truly great one.”