The International HIV/AIDS Alliance (The Alliance) is a global partnership of organisations reaching out to communities most vulnerable to, or most affected by, HIV. These organisations include national NGOs and country offices in more than 30 countries, a secretariat in the UK and representative offices in the USA and Belgium. The size of the organisation and the number of regions it covers means that its language training requirements are far-reaching yet specific at the same time.
The ability for its employees to communicate in a variety of languages is a crucial element of The Alliance’s work, enabling it to carry out business with local communities effectively and speed development. The Alliance teamed up with Cactus in 2002 to provide additional corporate language training to a quarter of its workforce, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Arabic lessons. Cactus was chosen due to the bespoke nature of the programmes and their expertise in teachnical language– enabling The Alliance to focus on the specific language goals of each group or individual in a variety of different settings.
John Rotherham, Head of HR at The Alliance, comments: “We always try to recruit people with language skills if possible because it’s such an integral part of what we do. When this isn’t an option we need additional training to ensure that our staff can communicate effectively with our country offices, development workers and local people.”
Cactus was tasked with providing flexible language training programmes to meet The Alliance’s changing needs. Alongside group lessons in Spanish and French, Cactus also developed one-to-one sessions tailored to the specific linguistic requirements of individual employees.
The tailor-made language approach assesses the aims, skill areas and particular learning styles of individual staff members. Programmes are developed to include reading, writing and verbal communication skills, with testing and reporting systems in place to measure ongoing success.
Cactus designed The Alliance’s curriculum to incorporate the specific vocabulary of international development to prepare staff for communicating effectively on the ground. Emphasis was also placed on language training for reading complex legal documents, such as contracts of employment, which are a daily part of the organisation’s operations.
“Flexibility in training provision is really important as employees are continually travelling and often need to reschedule lessons or learn while on the move”, added John. “Cactus provides the perfect balance between group and individual training, ensuring our people get to grips with a new language quickly.”
Alongside the Cactus training programme, The Alliance has also developed a special allowance for its employees which the majority have to put towards extra language classes. The scheme has proved a popular benefit for those keen to further develop their language skills outside of work. John added: “We’ve noticed that more charity organisations are in need of language skills in eastern European languages, as well as Mandarin. This trend looks set to continue over the coming years and we’re confident that Cactus will continue to provide the best teachers and courses to meet our changing needs. We would recommend them to any organisation which is looking at including language training as part of their staff development plan.”
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