The Strong L&D Impact of Employee Bilingualism: A Case Study with Erin Janklow, CEO Entrada


“Learning and Development (L&D)” is HR speak for “ongoing education” – i.e., building or refining one’s skill set to enhance personal job security and broader marketability. These initiatives take many forms, such as traditional classroom or seminar presentations; personal coaching or mentoring; structured job-shadowing and cross-training; and “on demand” technology-driven methods like the eCornell platform, LinkedIn learning tutorials or Khan Academy videos. Naturally, companies should select the specific solutions or platforms that are best for them based on the competencies or domain knowledge to be cultivated, the learning styles of the intended audience, and the available financial or time resources to invest in solutions.

The ROI of L&D

The right L&D offerings benefit both employees and employers. First, it’s long been recognized that employees regard L&D opportunities as positive incentives and retention drivers. However, it’s perhaps less known that companies investing in L&D resources have seen a 24% increase in productivity and performance due to learning, according to reports from the research and advisory organization TowardsMaturity. Further statistics drive home the business case:

  • Companies that offer comprehensive training programs have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalized training;
  • Research shows that a full 40% of employees who don’t receive the necessary job training to become effective will leave their positions within the first year;
  • Top companies are three times more likely than the average to report achieving benefits related to growth in competitive climates. They are almost 3x as likely to report that learning innovation has resulted in an impact on business innovation (39% vs 14% average) and 2x as likely to report improvement with staff motivation (55% vs 23%).

Wherever situated on the organizational chart, arguably the highest-impact way individuals can increase their current and future marketability is by gaining the ability to speak and understand two languages (“bilingualism”), or even more (“multilingualism”). This is particularly pertinent for line-level workers in the service-hospitality industry, where customer interactions can make or break brand promises and hence affect business profitability. One company – Entrada – has recently made a strong entrance to the industry with the mission to make learning and development “real time”, applied, and directly related to more positive guest outcomes. Aethos™ has been aware of Entrada for some time – their CEO Erin Janklow is a familiar face at key HR, research and technology conferences. Her passion for their product and service is apparent, and it offers a strong business case for companies to promote learning other languages. To learn more about Entrada’s integrated learning platform, click here.

Erin Janklow, Founder & CEO – Entrada

Q: What “pain point” does the Entrada system address?

Entrada improves retention, drives recruitment, and improves the guest experience through our unique on-the-job ESL training program. Hiring and retaining hourly back of house roles is time consuming and expensive, and once hired, managing a multinational staff provides operational challenges that take conversant employees and supervisors away from their outlined responsibilities.

Our unique TalkBack® Method effectively shifts time, making it possible for your staff to learn English at the same time that they are working. This employee benefit tool improves both the personal and professional lives of your teams.

The war for talent and retention of line level staff are challenges that Entrada is built to solve. Empowering staff with language skills instils morale, boosts your brand image, and creates a cohesive company culture while simultaneously improving the service provided to guests. Adding an empowering language tool like Entrada brings your core values to life in a meaningful way.

Q: How does the system work, and how is it different than other commercially available software like ‘Rosetta Stone’?

Entrada is a tech-enabled company that teaches service industry workers English in 100 days, while they work, using our scientifically-designed TalkBack® Method and wearable hardware.

Many service roles are physically repetitive, which allows staff to work and learn simultaneously. As a housekeeper makes a bed, for example, she also wears, listens, and talks back to our program – without impacting productivity. Instruction is delivered in the native language (currently, Spanish) before teaching learners how to TalkBack® the words and phrases in English.

In addition to audio lessons, we provide learners with engagement tools and critical thinking lessons so that your guest experience improves. Our blended approach remains accessible for a tech averse learner group and provides valuable employee insight to management.

Our delivery method flips the current model: Instead of bilingual supervisors, we create a bilingual workforce. Current language programs require active engagement from learners (think: sitting in front of a screen/requiring dedicated time to learning). Our on the job, on the job training, is uniquely effective.

Patti Pegoraro, Director of People Services at Two Roads Hospitality, reported, “Entrada is an excellent program for the team that has significantly increased our morale! It’s great to see employees’ confidence grow as they develop English skills. Staff that previously shirked away from English conversations now engage with me in the mornings.  I recommend Entrada – not only for English, but for building culture as well!”

Q: Who can benefit from this system?

Entrada is designed to benefit everyone in the hotel ecosystem. Yep: We mean it, and we deliver.

  • GM: Provide a superior guest experience by having a more consistent and more engaged staff, evangelize brand values, and be recognized for providing outstanding service in the region. Provide 5-star service by creating confident staff to engage in authentic guest interactions.
  • HR: Spend less time and resources on recruitment, creating time to focus on benefits and processes that entice all staff to stay. The cost savings resulting from increased retention allows time to explore future initiatives.
  • Directors of Housekeeping, Operations: Spend less time solving operational challenges and/or translating for ad-hoc guest needs. Increase appreciation of managers through use of Entrada, which results in a highly engaged back of house crew.
  • Front of House and Millennials: Including a mission-driven initiative instills pride in the work place, improved service instills pride in the service that all staff can provide.
  • Back of House: Build confidence and skills to succeed both in and out of the workplace.
  • Customers: Engage in authentic connections and interactions with all employees!

Learners report an improved ability to interact with guests. Entrada graduate Maria noted, “I’m most surprised that I’m interacting with guests more! Before, if they asked for directions I would either point, or shrug and walk away. Now, I have the words to say, “it’s down the hall, to the right, etc”.

Q: What success metrics have you documented with your system?

Entrada’s tools have been designed specifically for service industry employees. We see an average engagement and completion rate of 70% from our learners – meaning that at least 70% of your staff will continue using the program in its 100-day entirety. The industry average completion rate for ESL courses is merely 15%.

We see a 107% average increase in conversational skills, with the largest advances coming from pronunciation, comprehension, the ability to ask and respond to questions, and confidence.

Ana, a housekeeper at the Embassy Suites Chicago North Shore/Deerfield, reported,

“The delivery man brought a shipment of soap to the hotel. He almost left the heavy package outside, which would have been very difficult for me to move to its proper location. As the man turned to walk away I found myself saying, ‘Can you put the box inside, please?”” Surprised at how easily the delivery man understood her, she walked away with increased confidence in her English ability and reduced the required workload for herself and her colleagues.

Q: How do you anticipate that Entrada will innovate the hospitality industry?  

The service industry is ripe for innovation: we have grown to accept “band aid solutions” to language instead of addressing the core root of the challenges their staff faces. There is a latent assumption that bilingual supervisors will manage, that learning a language as an adult is “just too hard”, and that poor customer service stemming from miscommunication simply “comes with the job”. Simply, that could not be further from the truth.

A confident and communicative workforce improves operations and increases retention, and simultaneously enables staff to enter their communities equipped and empowered to succeed.

When implemented successfully, Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives can lead to a 20% potential increase in future sales revenue. Within three months of program use, a guest reported in the post-stay survey, “Great job at this hotel with the housekeeping staff and their English skills.”

We would love to see the day when all staff members can serve guests efficiently and confidently. People travel for cultural exchange and for business, and enhanced communication only adds to this experience. With time, we will expand into additional languages and provide training for supervisors and managers to provide lifelong learning opportunities to everyone.

Final Take-Aways

We emphasize that promoting bilingualism aligns to the values of wellness and social-consciousness that are increasingly extolled by the hospitality industry, wherein people and service quality are critical differentiators. In short, bilingualism builds better human beings.

For instance, two-thirds of global company executives reported in a large-scale survey in The Economist that the multicultural nature of their teams increases organizational innovation. Further statistics underscore this:

  • Exports in the UK comprise approximately 30% of UK GDP. It is estimated that the UK was losing around £50 billion per annum because of language or cultural ignorance;
  • 39.5% of the UK’s international businesses lost business due to lack of cultural understanding among employees;
  • In the US, one in six businesses (where 33% of mid- and large-size companies had global operations or serve multilingual/multicultural clientele) had lost business due to a lack of personnel with language skills and multicultural experience.

You can now understand Aethos’ enthusiasm and respect for the Entrada system. Simply put, it stands out as a rare example of a single techno-initiative or program that successfully meshes profitable business practices and people practices for the greater good and ROI of all.