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Interview with Hannelore Kolb

Interview with Hannelore Kolb

Hannelore Kolb, Head of Talent Development in Germany & France, talks about the new language learning programme Speexx and why now lack of time is no longer an excuse for not speaking.

Mrs. Kolb, with Speexx, Hager Group offers its employees a completely new way of learning English. So why does a Hager Group employee need foreign language skills in the first place?

There may be some professional activities and tasks within the company where you may not need to have foreign language skills; however, when working with teams from other sectors and countries, you won’t get far without speaking good English. Indeed, a solid knowledge of English is essential nowadays for your personal career-development: if you want to reach a certain career level and move in an international setting, you simply have an advantage if you have excellent English. With Speexx, we now offer a tried, tested and flexible method.

Why weren’t German or French chosen as ‘Common Language’? A lot of Hager Group employees are natives of these languages, after all.

That’s true, however we’re becoming an increasingly international company, and English is, after all, the world’s most common language. Also, with transversal projects such as HPLP, English is already the language of choice. The participants of our Speexx pilot scheme are from the Engineering and Quality departments, where English is very much in demand.

Please tell us more about this pilot scheme.

Since March 2017, with 384 colleagues from eight different countries, we have been testing Speexx, its acceptance and the potential for improvement. something we discovered was that there are significant cultural differences in attitudes towards Speexx, between for example our Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese and German colleagues. The experience with digital learning and the willingness to use it really are different; indeed, not everyone is equally comfortable in a virtual classroom, that’s why we’re currently thinking about how to make digital learning easier and better communicate its advantages.

What exactly is Speexx? And why has Hager Group decided on exactly this method?

Speexx is a Blended Learning method. That means it can be used in a variety of ways. Every participant can personally decide on when, where, for how long and at which speed they study. In addition to this they can chose the support they use - a tablet, a personal computer or a smartphone, and if they want to learn with others in a virtual classroom or prefer to study online by themselves.

Everyone has a personal assistant for homework or suggestions. Questions are answered around the clock by the instant coach. By the way, I’m using Speexx myself at the moment and I can assure you, there’s no better way for flexible, individual and interactive language acquisition.

But in the end, language acquisition takes time. And nowadays, when professional demands are very much increasing, not everyone may be able to take this time.

Each and every one of us is individually responsible for our own professional development. Just as with every other new skill, we have to take the time to learn a language. With Speexx, you’re able to maximise your individual time management: be it once a week for 2 hours or 20 minutes every day, early in the mornings or in the evenings – the choice is yours.

Can employees study during working hours as well?

I don’t see why not. In accordance with their managers, everyone is in the position to integrate learning into their working days.

The trial period for Speexx will conclude in October. What happens next?

We’re currently looking into this, that is to say when Speexx will be globally employed and how many employees will be able to take advantage of the programme. In any case, the trial period will continue to run beyond October until the participants have achieved their objectives. There is also the question of our budget. One thing is clear however: we definitely want to start as soon as possible and inspire as many employees as possible to join in.

How can interested employees participate in Speexx?

They can simply contact their managers, for example during their mid-year career development consultation and ask for English training via our training management system. At start 2018, we will be offering the programme beyond the pilot project. In October, as soon as Speexx is offered beyond the pilot scheme, you’ll be able to find the course in our training management system. And then, what can I say – just go for it! Learning English really is a lot of fun this way, and best of all, you can apply what you’ve learned immediately.

Feedback from colleagues about Speexx

Flexible and intense

I joined the Speexx programme as I needed to improve my English skills yet in a flexible way. In the past, I twice participated in fixed schedule traditional classroom lessons with a teacher and other pupils; the lesson time was often in conflict with my priorities at work. Speexx however is flexible therefore much more compatible with my job…

Sometimes I took a break over one or two weeks and at other times I did two or three lessons a week. In addition to private study, I had face-to-face online-sessions with my teacher every now and then; this practical training was very intensive… It really was a pleasure to work online.

Ralf Koch, Industrialisation Interface Process Manager at Berker (Schalksmühle, Germany)

Happy to join in

I really do recommend Speexx to any colleague wishing to improve their language skills. Compared to other English learning programmes in China, Speexx boosts your communication abilities by asking you to pay more attention to where your problems with the written language are. I think the virtual classroom sessions were the best for me as there was direct feedback from the trainers, who really have a positive attitude towards trainees.

Shiny Sun, Dimensional and Material Metrology Supervisor at Hager (Huizhou, China)

Learn the way you like

One of the good aspects of Speexx is that you can organise your time as you want between virtual classes, lessons and vocabulary sessions. I also appreciate that in virtual classes the teacher corrects you by writing comments instead of interrupting; this allows us to speak more easily and fluently without being interrupted, which is what happens in face to face-sessions in the classroom. Finally, I think that having virtual classes with different people from other countries yet with the same kind of level is a really good thing. It makes you realise that even though we are non-native speakers, we can understand each other pretty well despite our level and accents.

Clotilde Raingué, Material and dimensional lab manager at Hager (Obernai France)

Mastering English gives a lot of satisfaction

I have never been very talented or had a great memory, so when it came to learning something new it always meant spending lots of time and energy, so, to be honest, I wouldn’t do it unless there was a really good reason to do so. From the very first assignment with Speexx I really enjoyed the videos and dialogues. Sometimes it was challenging trying to understand some of the words, yet afterwards, the feeling of making progress was also rewarding. What I appreciated most were the grammar rules; they were well explained and contextual to the exercises. My better understanding encouraged me to focus by correcting my mistakes and then practicing.

Fabrizio Guidetti, Designer at Hager-ABPlast (Mazzano, Italy)


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