← IC Matters · Best Practice

How to Translate Internal Content for International Employees

Rae SteinbachRae Steinbach·

These days, it’s easier than ever to hire a remote workforce. 

Rather than employing the most-qualified candidate who also happens to live in the area or is willing to relocate, managers can now obtain the most-qualified candidate from virtually anywhere in the world.

This has made it easier for businesses across many industries to reach international clients. That said, some obvious difficulties arise when your employees aren’t all from the same country.

For example, in many cases, it’s not uncommon for employees to speak languages other than English. This makes it hard to create internal communications documents that engage and inform all employees.

Of course, translating these documents into a worker’s native language is essential, but simply running them through a translation program is rarely enough to ensure the documents communicate their intended message to every employee, regardless of their native language.

These programs are still prone to errors. More importantly, they can’t address the subtle cultural differences that might impact the overall message a document communicates.

That’s why working with human translators is essential. Translation software can help speed up the process, but it can’t replace expertise when it comes to transcreation services.

When coordinating with specialists on internal documents, make sure you’re getting your message across clearly by keeping the following essential points in mind:

Emphasize Goals

First and foremost, you want to make sure all content in these documents is accurately translated. However, your primary focus should be on any language or information that communicates the company’s goals.

Making sure all employees thoroughly understand the organization’s aims and values is crucial to your success. You can’t build a thriving business unless everyone is on the same page.

Establish Quality Control Processes

Make sure there are processes in place to confirm all translated material is accurate.

This is another way you can benefit from partnering with a translation firm. They’ll handle the task reliably, so you don’t have to waste resources or time internally.

You don’t need your own employees to be constantly checking translation projects when they should be focusing on other tasks.

Define Critical Terms

Don’t assume that every culture has an exact equivalent for a critical term or phrase.  Even something as simple as the phrase “our company’s growth” may not translate accurately if you simply substitute the English words with their equivalent in another language.

Coordinating with a team of professional translators will help you understand when selecting a slightly different term to get your message across is preferable.

Offer Choices

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know which language your employees would like to receive a document in. 

Give them options first. Not only does this help you avoid wasting time on translations that your employees may not even need or want, but it will also prevent you from potentially making them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Communicate

It’s easy to forget that all employees, regardless of their language, may have questions, comments, or suggestions upon receiving an internal document.

Experts often point out that communication and feedback are key to employee engagement. This is true for all workers, but it’s especially important for boosting engagement among international employees.

You can be fairly confident that workers who speak your native language will understand the message you’re trying to communicate in an internal document. With international employees, you can’t always be certain.

By establishing processes for team members to communicate with their managers after distributing a document, you’ll be able to confirm that everyone involved understands the content.

You’ll also give all your employees the chance to share their own thoughts and feedback.

Ask Questions

As referred to earlier, it’s important to ask employees who don’t speak your language to occasionally summarize the main message of an internal document or communication in their own words.

Make it clear that you don’t want them to simply repeat what they read. Ask them questions like, “How would you explain the message of this document to another employee?” or, “What is your understanding of our goals?”

It’s a simple way to confirm you’ve achieved your goal and that everyone is on the same page.

Hire Effectively

According to a recent survey of over 200 business executives working throughout the globe, 36% of major companies have fewer than one in 10 multilingual employees.

Again, when translating important documents, it’s best to seek outside help.  The process will run much more efficiently and smoothly when you coordinate with experts who specialize in this type of work.

That said, there is definite value to be gained by having team members who speak multiple languages.  They can help address minor translation issues that need fast attention.

When translating internal documents, especially those relating to hiring practices, encourage managers to seek out candidates who can fill in this gap.

Of course, you still need to make sure they’re qualified for the position, but having employees who speak multiple languages can be very useful. They’ll help facilitate communication between various departments where language barriers might otherwise create problems.

For larger translation projects, however, work with professionals. Your international employees are extremely valuable and can help you branch out and reach customers in other markets.

Keep them engaged by making sure they feel comfortable with all internal communications by using reliable translation experts.


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