Every month, OCBC Bank employees have the option of taking a tough three-hour test that involves crafting an e-mail and letter based on real-life scenarios.

Only when they pass are they allowed to vet e-mails and letters sent out to customers. Although as many as 116 test scripts were marked last year, OCBC Bank has certified only 38 staff since the programme was introduced in 2010.

The stringent test is just one of many other programmes OCBC has included to improve the language skills of its employees. Other schemes include making available an online collection of writing tips, and providing a two-day in-housecourse called "Clear Writing".

"Poor grammar or writing that is vague, poorly structured, or lacking in empathy can greatly impair a customer's experience," said the bank's head of group corporate communications Koh Ching Ching on the emphasis on good language.

But OCBC is just one of a growing number of organisations which are recognising the importance of higher English language standards among staff.

Sing Swee Bee Enterprise, which supplies industrial cryogenic equipment and services, believes better English will help it expand globally, a spokesman said.

It has engaged Language Works to conduct a five-month English course at its Attap Valley Road premises near Woodlands from this month.

The Ministry of Defence has also engaged Language Works, a partner of the Government's Speak Good English Movement, to teach high-level officers.

It has also piloted a project with the Speak Good English Movement which involves publishing a series of weekly language tips on the staff intranet.

The Speak Good English Movement, which was launched in 2000, is this year looking to improve language skills among working adults aged 20 to 39.

The movement has partnered organisations such as Ascend: The English Professionals, the British Council and the National Library Board Academy to run free workshops at museums and libraries dealing with English at the workplace.

It hopes to help working adults remain proficient in English, in order to keep Singapore competitive in the global economy.