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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | International Business | 2014
Thesis number: 13804
"Language skills have been a must in my job" - The effect of language training and expatriation on language skills and career path: an employee perspective
Author: Huohvanainen, Tanja
Title: "Language skills have been a must in my job" - The effect of language training and expatriation on language skills and career path: an employee perspective
Year: 2014  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: International Business
Index terms: kansainväliset yhtiöt; international companies; ulkomailla työskentely; working abroad; kielitaito; language proficiency; koulutus; training; työ; work; urakehitys; career development
Pages: 122
Key terms: language competence; language training; expatriation; career path
Companies in Finland are looking more and more for employees with diverse language skills, however Finnish students have been studying languages less over the past few decades. As a consequence, there seems to be an imbalance on the current job market. Thus, the objective of the study was to investigate how companies and individuals may answer to the lack in language skills through in-house language training and expatriation. Hence, the focus of this study was the effect of language training and expatriation on language skills and consequently, the effect of language skills on employee career path.

The study was conducted as a single case study using a mixed-method approach in the context of the case company Wärtsilä Finland Oy. The qualitative data was collected through four interviews with HR and supervisors as well as from open-ended answers from a survey directed to the employees. The qualitative data was complemented with quantitative survey data regarding the effectiveness of language training and expatriation on language skills. There were altogether 115 employees who answered to the survey, out of which 84 have had participated in language training and 37 have had been on expatriation.

According to the results, it appears that language skills are improved thanks to the language training but the participants are still not fully able to communicate effectively in work related situations in a foreign language. However, willingness to communicate does not always correlate with the actual competence. On the other hand, expatriation seems to have mainly a positive effect on employee language skills, although one respondent has stated that her language skills have actually gotten worse due to expatriation. Compared to language training participants, the expatriates were, on average, more confident when communicating in a foreign language in work related situations.

Based on the results, language skills have affected employee career paths in various ways in Wärtsilä Finland Oy. Lack of language skills may have had a negative impact on recruitment, international relations as well as networking opportunities. On the other hand, language skills may have helped the individual to get a desired position and enabled them to work in global teams and abroad. Moreover, language skills may have helped individuals to work more efficiently and facilitate communication and networking with colleagues. On another note, contradicting some earlier studies, ultimately, language skills do not seem to have a significant impact on the salary. Furthermore, the importance of English, the official business language of Wärtsilä, and Swedish language skills (due to the location in a bilingual region) were often highlighted in the answers. Informal communication is mostly in Finnish or Swedish which creates communication barriers.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.