16 August, 2006
UK business people 'Accent Chameleons' as two thirds confess to changing their voice in the workplace
• Two thirds of UK business people (66 per cent) change their accent in business, with young most likely to change
• London and South East accent universally seen as the best accent for finance by those living outside the region, and also for sales and customer service, although support wanes further away from the capital
The UK is a nation of ‘Accent Chameleons’ with two thirds (66 per cent) of us consciously changing our accent when doing business, according to findings of a nationwide study unveiled today from ntl:Telewest Business, the supplier of communications services to the public and private sectors. The London and South East accent was seen by most of the UK business community as the ideal professional accent for financial, sales and customer service careers.
The ‘Accent Factor’ study of 1,300 business professionals across the UK found that younger employees (71 per cent of under 30-year olds) were more inclined to change their accents when engaging in business conversations than older workers (61 per cent of over 50s). The London and South East accent was seen by all regions of the UK as the best accent to have to get ahead in finance (54 per cent). It was also seen as the best overall for sales and customer service (33 per cent) across the country, although further away from the region the accent scored lower.
People from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the strongest accents, the study found. One in five business people (19 per cent) claimed to have a ‘strong’ regional accent across the country, but this level was notably higher in Northern Ireland (42 per cent) and Glasgow (28 per cent) and above average in Edinburgh and Wales (21 per cent each).
Every region, with the exception of the East of England, felt that their own accent was the ’warmest’ and the best for conveying bad news.
Mike Phipps, Creative Director of office power consultancy, Politics at Work, said: “It is perhaps not surprising that people chose to alter their accent in an attempt to understand, be understood and build relationships. In business, as in life, the greatest success is often achieved by those with the best rapport and ability to adjust their body language and language patterns to most closely mirror those of people they speak to and work with. In the case of young people, their readiness to alter their accent is also likely to be connected with the fact that they are still learning the finer nuances of communication and therefore are more consciously aware of what they are doing.”
Other key findings include:
• Liverpool’s accent was voted by other regions as the best for telling jokes in the workplace, although Liverpudlians think that their own accent is the ‘least trustworthy’ for business in the UK with a mark of 6 out of 10
• East Anglia faces an identity crisis as almost half (46 per cent) its residents feel they have ‘lost’ their regional accent or say they don’t have one at all. An above-average number of East Anglians (56 per cent) will consciously change their accent when doing business
• Scots are most likely to modify their voices in the workplace, with two thirds (65 per cent of people from Edinburgh and 62 per cent from Glasgow) admitting to altering their accents in business
• People in the North East of England rated their accents as the ‘friendliest’ for commerce in the UK, with a mark of 8.8 out of 10
John Cunningham, Director of Business Markets for ntl:Telewest Business, said that despite the advent of alternative means of communication, such as email, instant messaging and text messages, accent was important to business. “There is no replacement for voice communication, either face-to-face, on the phone or over a videoconference, so speaking clearly and concisely will always be important in business,” he said. “What the research does demonstrate is that UK organisations want to do business with companies that understand the rich diversity found in the UK and can provide a quality local service. ntl:Telewest Business prides itself on its local service with a national capability.”
About the Accent Factor study
ntl:Telewest Business surveyed 1,300 business professionals across the UK in June 2006.
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Notes to Editors:
ntl:Telewest Business, part of the UK’s second largest fixed-line telecommunications company, is a leading communications provider to businesses, public sector organisations and service providers in the UK. It delivers a complete portfolio of voice, data and internet solutions nation-wide.
ntl:Telewest Business sales and support teams are located across the UK, in close proximity to our customers, as part of a commitment to deliver superior customer service.
ntl:Telewest Business delivers services over the Group’s £13bn investment in its state-of-the-art infrastructure giving business customers access to the largest alternative network in the UK.
ntl:Telewest Business is trusted to provide critical communications to high profile customers including: Heathrow's Terminal 5, Birmingham City Council, Cambridge County Council and Next.
For further information go to www.business.ntl.com or www.telewest.co.uk/business
ntl:Telewest Business press contacts:
Sara Doggett, PR Executive
Tel: 01256 753101
Chris Lee, Press Office
Tel: 020 7494 6578
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