How can we put in place the right training for employees if we do not know their initial skill level? At Castorama, it is obvious that assessment is the answer to this question. For language training, they use the easySPEAKing video-based language assessment to make it more effective.
Since 2001, Castorama has been part of the British multinational retailer, Kingfisher, the largest home improvement retailer in Europe. It should be no surprise then the importance of Castorama’s employees’ ability to communicate in English and the language training programs in place designed to upskill those who need it.
Castorama works with several language training providers specializing in different types of training: face-to-face, telephone, blended, e-learning. However, putting together the right English language training program for each employee requires assessing his/her English and for this, Castorama chose easySPEAKing in 2016 for the ease of use and employee experience.
Interview with Silvie Bourlon, L&D Manager for Castorama France
EASYRECRUE: What made you choose easySPEAKing?
Sylvie Bourlon: English language training is an integral part of the professional development opportunities that we offer in Castorama, both for employees at headquarters and in our stores. Assessing the employee’s language level at the beginning is essential so that we can orient them toward what-we-call our internal clients, our language training providers. Traditionally when an employee requested language training from their HR Manager, their initial level was assessed by the language training provider and this cost €80 per test, plus the employee needed to go offsite to do it. We wanted a more responsive, efficient and flexible process and easySPEAKing gives us this.
EASYRECRUE: How has easySPEAKing made the process more responsive, efficient and flexible?
Sylvie Bourlon: In terms of responsiveness, when the HR Manager requests language training for an employee – 99% of the time it’s English – we send the easySPEAKing assessment to him or her in a few clicks. The employee can then do the assessment in 20 or 30 minutes from their home or office and we receive the result within 48 hours, allowing us to be more efficient and responsive to the employee. As an L&D Manager, I find the assessment report to be especially helpful in identifying the employee’s strengths and weaknesses whether in speaking proficiency, writing proficiency or overall comprehension.
Example of the assessment report
EASYRECRUE: How do you determine the right type of training based on the assessment results?
Sylvie Bourlon: We work with three language training providers. Some offer classroom-based training and others phone-based training or e-learning. Knowing the employee’s current level allows us to choose between them. For example, we implement phone-based training and e-learning for employees with at least a B1 (intermediate level) and save the classroom-based format for beginners – A1 or A2.
EASYRECRUE: How do employees react to this assessment at the beginning?
Sylvie Bourlon: The feedback has been positive, particularly because we share an employee’s results both with his HR Manager and the employee himself. The report is easy to read and accurate and we usually attach a description of the CEFR levels so the employee can see where he is and where he needs to go. He can even add the level to his CV, as a CEFR level will be more precise than the usual “fluent” or “intermediate.”
There has been some reluctance from employees who have been with the company for a while, sometimes as much as 30 years, and whose language level is rather low. This push toward communicating more with Kingfisher and its other entities in English is new for them and it is becoming increasingly common. Doing a language test is not easy but they know it is in the goal of improving their skills.
An increasing level of maturity: Today the HR Managers no longer make their request in terms of, “We need to train so-and-so in English”. Instead they begin with, “We need to assess so-and-so’s English proficiency so we can train him.” This shows the utility of the assessment as a decisionmaking tool and the degree to which easySPEAKing has become part of the professional development process in Castorama.
Brico Depot, also part of Kingfisher, has also recently integrated the easySPEAKing assessment into its HR processes, demonstrating a strong dynamic in Kingfisher of best practice-sharing and helping to standardize processes among entities.
easySPEAKing is a 360º language assessment certifying the four main language skills, including speaking, for recruitment, mobility and training. The assessments are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and available in 13 languages.