When foreign or regional accents or communication styles interfere with an employee's performance, Human Resources (HR) Professionals may seek out support services to address these issues. They are often unsure how to describe the process or approach the employee. "Communication Skills Training" is a broad term that is neutral and non-threatening.
Communication skills training may include:
- Accent modification
- Public speaking
- Pronunciation training
- Vocabulary development
- Conversational and networking skills
- Listening skills
- Telephone communication
Is this speech therapy?
Although 'communication skills training' is often offered by Speech and Language Pathologists, it should not be labeled speech therapy. Why? Individuals seeking training for the above skills sets do not typically have a speech disorder or a remedial problem. "Training" would be a more appropriate and accepted term.
What is accent modification?
The primary goal of training is helping the employee identify challenging aspects of his/her communication style and developing 'communication repair' strategies.
Everyone has some type of accent, be it a foreign accent or regional dialect (New York, Boston, Southern). We don't need to eliminate accents; it is often a mark of our cultural identity. However, when our speech patterns interfere with effective communication, particularly on the job, then it becomes a priority to modify it. This is often a personal decision; some individuals want to "erase" any remnants of their background while others want to embrace it. All that matters is that we can communicate.
Training helps to modify the speech patterns so the individual can improve his/her ability to be understood without having to repeat. You may hear the terms "accent modification" or "accent reduction." The goal of accent modification is not to eliminate an accent.
Training may involve:
- Improving rate of speech
- Using effective pausing
- Stressing correct syllables and words within a sentence
- Pronouncing consonants and vowel sounds, especially when they are not in the repertoire of the individual's native language
- Developing a core vocabulary list of work-related terms to help the individual confidently produce frequently used terminology at work
As you broach the topic with your employees, explaining it as "training to develop effective communication skills" should be more readily accepted and have a positive spin. The manner and vocabulary in which we introduce this training has a significant impact on the employee's willingness to engage in the process.