09 October 2023

Q&A with Talent Management Partner at TOWA International

towa international

As part of our Bridging the Communication Skills Gap in the Hybrid Workplace campaign, we wanted to discuss the importance of this with one of our client experts. After all, what best way to illustrate the takeaways of bridging the communication skills gap in a hybrid workplace, than hearing first-hand from those championing it?

So today, we’re joined by Alfons Jorquera, HR and Talent Management Partner at what was previously the Generic Division of a Spanish Pharmaceutical company, now, TOWA International, to explain their obstacles and learnings from becoming a truly international business, as well as a truly remote organization over the last couple of years.

TOWA Learning Program

Courses

Language Skills (Spanish)

Locations

Spain (primarily), Portugal, Italy

Start of program

2022, with pilot   program using
Learnlight Academy

Format

Digital live, Coach, Academy, Level Tests (for students and for  people applying to jobs)

How did you identify the need to offer communication skills training?

Alfons Jorquera: TOWA is an international company. We research, develop, manufacture and market generic and value-added medicines (VAM) that contribute to improving people’s health. Originally a Spanish company with international reach, in 2020 we were bought by a Japanese pharmaceutical company. From there on, we became a stand-alone entity, operating independently with our own corporate services and holding the responsibility of expanding into more international markets. This required levelling up the English language skills of our staff.

We were looking for a partner that could help us develop these skills by adjusting to various needs and abilities. We had some great references in the market around Learnlight. The quality of the platform and the ability to provide virtual training was key, given that we had shifted to remote working practices post-pandemic.

Why is English so important to learn at TOWA International?

Alfons Jorquera: Externally we needed to be able to communicate with clients and partners in various countries. English is the most spoken language. There is also a lot of technical, legal, and regulatory jargon to consider when looking to expand internationally and English is a must-have to stay on top of it and be able to negotiate.

Internally, there is a lot of collaboration going on between employees in our various countries. We’ve made Spanish and English our official languages at TOWA for this precise reason. As we continue growing, cross-functional collaboration efforts will continue expanding and we’ll need to get more sophisticated in our ability to use English for day-to-day business practices so that we all understand each other and can collaborate better.

How do you determine who needs training in your business?

Alfons Jorquera: We don’t do it by level, we do it according to our needs. To capture this, we survey the organization through all our directors, to understand in which functions English is necessary, and what is required to cover the gaps. We offer the following solutions to employees, according to the identified need:

TWO Program (For employees who need the language to work and have a large skills gap): This program equates to Learnlight’s coaching sessions. They’re 1:1 to be able to improve the employee’s English abilities quickly.

MY TOOL Program (For employees who need the language to work and have a small skills gap, or the need to prevent it from arising): This program equates to Learnlight’s Academy sessions, learning with employees from our organization and others outside of it, with the same level of English.

MY TIME Program (For all employees on-demand, for self-development): These are Learnlight’s digital, self-paced learning programs. We allow employees to request them to improve their language skills, even if they don´t necessarily require them for their job. We are grateful to get some subsidies from the Spanish Government.

What is your organization’s favorite part of Learnlight?

Alfons Jorquera: We love Learnlight Academy. It is extremely valued in our organization because employees get to learn with other employees in other international businesses. These all come from different nationalities and have different accents. It’s such an enriching experience and a much more realistic one than just learning with Spanish people. Sessions are also highly flexible – lots of time slots to pick from and options to reschedule. This aligns with our super busy lifestyle at TOWA International.

I see that the level of English has risen significantly, have you noticed?

Progress from 2022 to 2023 in levels:

Alfons Jorquera: I can see an overall improvement in expression and collaboration of employees throughout TOWA, especially in what are trickier virtual environments. Improving their levels of English has clearly impacted their confidence and quality of collaboration internationally too.

Are you thinking of expanding the Learnlight program? Where and why?

Alfons Jorquera: We are exploring the idea of enriching our language offerings for employees beyond English. Our primary project will be Spanish for our American and European affiliates, so that we all level up in TOWA’s official languages. The second project we are looking to explore is offering training in Japanese, because of our ongoing and increasing interactions with this country. The Management Team has also received intercultural skills training, as they´re heavily interacting with Japanese nationals, so it´s important they are aware of the Japanese culture and customs.

We’d also like to explore other languages like Italian and Portuguese in the future, so that we all learn each other’s languages across our network.

How important do you consider communication skills at work?

Alfons Jorquera: We value communication skills highly. Not just language skills but also interpersonal and intercultural skills. We hope to expand our selection of communication skills through Learnlight and other partners in the coming years. We’re already starting to do this with leadership and relationships skills training. Achieving communication mastery is extremely important to our organization. It’s not just part of who we are, but of who we want to be.

For more information on how to develop the communication skills of your workforce in hybrid and remote workplaces, visit our website to download our latest eBook, here.

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