With business today being truly international, the mantra ‘sell global, deliver local’ resonates heavily within many industries. Yet this philosophy can only work if everyone is speaking a common language and fully understands the organisational strategy, business objectives, and team or individual preferences.
Most Westernised economies ‘trade’ in English, and throughout the O& G industry, English is certainly the mother tongue. At a glance, this all seems relatively simple landscape, yet a peep below the surface reveals that the world of ELL within the industry is fraught with challenges, and often slows down large scale project deployment immensely, which adds large indirect costs to the bottom line.
Colleagues within O & G, and C, organisations undertake some of the most dangerous work possible, where even small mistakes may lead to catastrophic and fatal outcomes on human lives and local environments. The widely reported 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is testament to the consequences of devastating environmental impact, unwavering global media attention, political involvement and eventual legal measures. It is therefore unsurprising that the O & G and construction industries are hugely focused on training and competence, safety, and safety compliance on all front line activities.
It is obvious that any front line activity, from live drilling or project management meetings, require colleagues to communicate effectively and verbally understand one anothers instructions, intent, and informal remarks. Yet it is remarkable that many employers within O & G lack a formal or strategic approach to language learning.
So why is this the case?
There are several challenges present within the industries that not only need to be met, but overcome successfully. These appear to be blocking strategic ELL awareness, thinking, and planning within O & G organisations.
Challenge no. 1: Risk, Risk, Risk:
Many developing countries that O & G organisations ‘visit’ to deliver work have poor educational infrastructures. Projects are totally dependent on front line activities engaging well with ancillary services – for example, drivers or caterers. Meeting educational issues within different geographies requires extensive political support, and is a much wider societal challenge, not something easily ‘solved’ within a few business meetings!
Challenge no. 2: Paradoxical Cultural Values:
Western economies, and their business organisations, expect to speak English wherever they travel and cherish profitable global contracts, yet they don’t encourage or prioritise language learning within their training strategy and budgets. This challenges leaves those on the ground with limited language capacity in what can be critical situations.
Challenge no. 3: Technical Challenges:
Delivering effective ELL on a large scale requires shared technical facilities, both within, and between organisations, within the O & G industry. Whilst technical advances are being continually progressed and developed, it will be sometime before there is one technical platform on which everyone can work from.
Challenge no. 4: Inactive Disengagement:
Even in organisations where language learning is available, many individuals struggle to learn and become fluent. Urgent day to day tasks can easily overrule and language learners can quickly become inactive, and quickly disengaged. In the long term, it is challenging for employers to keep language learning inspiring and keep individual colleagues motivated.
Overcoming these challenges will take focussed ongoing work and a ‘joined-up’ approach from employers, governments, and other educational stakeholders, and we are unlikely to see full change within the next decade.
In the meantime, the O & G and C industries will soldier on supplying us with buildings and energy to power our working and personal lives.
So… lets keep working together and aiming to speak the same language.