Gate Gourmet: Working toward linguistic mentoring
Language training in multinational companies is often not limited to executive positions. In some companies, like Gate Gourmet – food and beverage supplier for major international airlines – languages are necessary for everyone, without distinguishing between rank or level of responsibility.
For this company, which currently employs over 1,100 people in Spain, and more than 27,000 worldwide, language training has been an important element in its corporate culture from the start. As a result of its multinational and multicultural nature, English has become the working language, which explains their efforts to search for solutions to meet their linguistic needs.
When Sergio Lopez joined the company as Human Resources Manager, Gate Gourmet started working with Training Express. “When I started, in 2012, I found very low attendance levels, and practically no follow-up of final results,” he remembers.
“They are much more motivated, and feel that the company takes an interest in them, training them and providing them with the necessary skills to do their job better”
The new HR Manager, aware of the importance of a practical language learning system, detected an acute lack of innovation and diversity in the solutions and channels they were being offered at the time. “That was one of the reasons why we decided to choose Training Express,” he says. The choice of a new language training partner was somewhat limited by the fact that Gate Gourmet was “located in the airport security zone, not accessible on foot or by public transport. Teachers had to use their own car to get there. And that, like it or not, was a limitation; Training Express found ways to overcome it.”
Thanks to their innovative methodology, Training Express has transformed language training at Gate Gourmet, offering all its employees the necessary resources to allow them to consolidate their language skills. “They are much more motivated, and feel that the company takes an interest in them, training them and providing them with the necessary skills to do their job better,” says Sergio.
Available for all employees
The range of employees improving their language skills is wide and varied; language training isn’t limited, as often happens in other companies, to managerial positions. At Gate Gourmet, hierarchy is not an issue when it comes to learning languages. “We have employees from all levels, who are learning English for operational reasons, or simply because they need it for their job,” explains Sergio Lopez. This would be the case of some of the drivers, or of a trade union representative, who in turn is a member of the European trade union, and needs to convey his ideas fluently in the language of Shakespeare at international meetings.
Even though most employees request English training, some of them are also learning Spanish, like the Asian chef who works at the Barcelona offices. “This is a very special case, because Singapore Airlines – as part of our contractual agreement – required that we hire a chef who specialized in Asian cuisine and was not a European resident, to prevent him or her from being influenced by European cuisine. He’s receiving Spanish lessons to help us integrate him in our team.”
“It’s important to overcome your fears and understand that, like in any other learning process, you have to make an effort”
“It’s important to overcome your fears and understand that, like in any other learning process, you have to make an effort,” says the Human Resources Manager. He’s “been through the mill himself,” knowing that he had to work hard to bring his English up to speed if he wanted to do his job well. “It’s not the same to be at a casual get-together as in a business meeting, where you have to discuss the three-year strategic plan or reconcile the interests of different countries while defending your position. This requires a degree of mental speed which is very difficult to attain in a language different from your own, unless you’re well prepared.”
This is why Lopez considers that language training should be personalized. It’s not so much a question of adapting to a learning system as of working with the means at hand to cover each individual student’s needs. And this is the example he gives: “There are cases, when you reach a certain level of English, where learning more is not as important as specializing in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, etc. In the future, it would be ideal to be able to diagnose students’ needs, to see how the program can adapt to them to foster constant evolution. A linguistic mentoring of sorts.“