Although past research has shown some differences between junior and senior employees’ use of English for workplace communication, no studies have yet provided a long-term and holistic view of how professionals’ use of English changes as they gain seniority, what language difficulties they encounter at different stages of their careers and how they overcome these difficulties. The present paper addresses this gap by exploring the changing language and communication needs of three senior Hong Kong business professionals as they rose from junior positions to their present rank. It seeks not only to understand the workplace English needs of senior executives per se but also to shed light on university graduates’ long-term workplace communication needs. The informants’ stories about their careers, spanning over 20 years, illuminate their changing roles vis-à-vis technical financial genres since graduation. The stories also illustrate the difficulties met by the informants when tackling non-technical genres, which call not only for advanced English proficiency but also for tact and diplomacy. Overall, the present paper shows that a long-term view of the workplace communication needs of business professionals can provide insights for ESP research and practice, as well as for higher education institutions that aim to nurture tomorrow’s leaders.
- Business communication
- Higher education
- Needs analysis
- Learning of professional/workplace genres
- Technical and non-technical genres
- L2 professional writing