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EDF Energy, part of EDF Group, has become a familiar name in the competitive UK utilities market. Created in 2003 and employing around 13,000 staff the company provides power to a quarter of the UK's population via its electricity distribution networks in London, the South East and the East of England and supplies gas and electricity to over 5 million customers. With its head office in London, it also has large teams based in the North East, South West and South East of England.
French is the official corporate language of EDF Group, although many senior company executives regularly use English for networking and international meetings. On the operational and technical level however, knowledge of the French language is valuable as many key employees in France, especially beyond Paris, do not speak English. All executive PAs also need to be bilingual, and those involved with international projects find a working knowledge of the French language very helpful.
With these needs in mind, the learning and development team at EDF Energy looked to develop a UK wide approach to their language training offer to employees, in order that staff could receive a consistent standard of training that was above all fit for purpose. In 2004 they appointed Babel Language and Cultural Consultants to plan and undertake their foreign language training.
There were requirements that we needed to keep in mind while developing the programme. EDF Energy needed to align learner achievement with their own language proficiency standards so that abilities could be assessed company-wide. They also needed a system which would enable them to prioritise the needs of the learner as well as decide on the tuition type (one-to-one, classroom-based or self-study). Local line managers are responsible for identifying training needs according to the business case and organising the individual’s attendance.
In each case, the training includes a business focus so they can immediately relate what they have learned to the job they are doing. Training can be offered in a range of languages, reflecting the company’s links with other parts of the EDF Group in Europe and beyond, though in practice the vast majority of training is in French.
Collaboration with Babel has been an overwhelming success. Since our appointment, we have trained over 100 EDF Energy staff. Learning and development project manager Kelly Gilmartin was directly involved in developing the programme and firmly believes in the value of language learning, in terms of working for EDF Energy and beyond;
“I’ve benefitted immensely by having the discipline and structure of a weekly class to focus my learning and the opportunity to speak in French for 90mins/week at a level that is appropriate for my ability. I certainly feel that I have made positive progress and the lessons are worthwhile and valuable to me in my day to day work for EDF Energy.”
“What a great career advantage it is to have another language as well as English. Knowledge of French really helps not only in daily transactions, but in understanding EDF’s company culture.”
EDF Energy’s Director of Organisational Development sums up;
“We’re exceptionally happy with the service we’re getting from the BLIS Professionals provider, Babel. Their customer service is second to none and 95% of staff have said that the training they received met their needs.”