10 Tips for Effective HR & Training Translations

  1. Translate communications for international employees even when it isn’t legally required.

    Most countries do not mandate the translation of HR policies and codes of conduct however many have de facto laws that render untranslated employee communications as legally invalid. Violations can be difficult to enforce, even when the employee speaks English. Translating HR policies, codes of conduct and other communications helps you avoid unnecessary legal costs.

  2. Have local staff review existing HR documents to eliminate US-centric references that have no relevance for international employees.

    Many concepts such as “cultural diversity” or “affirmative action” or “vacation accrual” that are included in corporate policies and codes of conduct will have no relevance outside the United States and may even conflict with local mores, customs and laws. Have in-country HR personnel review these documents, you will not only be legally compliant, you will also demonstrate respect for your international colleagues

  3. Include in-country HR staff in the development of key employee communications.

    Solicit input from your in-country HR teams when developing important employee messages from headquarters. Their buy-in and local knowledge will be invaluable in effectively communicating all-hands emails, policy updates and important company announcements so they are easily understood and accepted.

  4. Prioritize and consider translating documents for international employees, even when your “official company language” is English.

    Distributing untranslated HR documents to non-English-speaking employees does not make good business sense and can be hazardous. Although many managers may speak English, it is unlikely that rank and file employees do, especially in markets such as South America and Asia where English is not prevalent. You can’t translate everything, but translating key communications is good business practice, since it conveys important information more clearly.

  5. Provide contextual explanations for certain HR-related concepts rather than literal translations for expatriates and immigrants working in US facilities.

    Literal translations of concepts such as “employment at will” or “exempt versus non-exempt” or “vacation accrual” could be confusing to recent immigrants or non-native English speakers, since they are unlikely to exist in the employee’s home country. Providing contextual explanations will help avoid misunderstandings, unintended policy violations and improve compliance.

  6. Use interpreters to help train your staff when opening facilities in a new country.

    Opening a new facility means hiring a large number of new employees, all of whom require company and job training. Specialized training may need to be conducted by employees from headquarters who do not speak the local language. Local LAS interpreters can bridge this gap, ensuring the right knowledge is transferred to local employees.

  7. Consider less obvious translation requirements when training employees in a new international facility.

    Creating different modules for courses that contain locally influenced issues such as soft skills, legal and regulatory compliance and policies and procedures will enable you to retain important corporate messages while enabling localization for modules that need it. You can then simply drop in localized modules, repackage and distribute course materials more quickly.

  8. Take a modular approach to designing corporate training and eLearning courses.

    Creating different modules for courses that contain“ high context” or locally influenced issues such as soft skills, legal and regulatory compliance and policies and procedures will enable you to retain your general corporate messages while enabling localization where you need it. You will be able to simply drop in localized modules, repackage and distribute course materials more quickly.

  9. Choose eLearning tools that automate functions important to localization

    The best rapid- and e-Learning software tools will automate many functions and help you avoid costly and accident-prone manual processes. Look for tools that:
    • automatically allow text to expand to accommodate other languages
    • separate content from presentation to ensure all text is translated the first time
    • have automated import/export functions for easy transfer of files and localized versions

  10. Select images, graphics and colors for training and eLearning materials with international employees in mind.

    Choosing the right images is just as important as writing appropriate copy. Don’t assume that images will work in every market. Your in-country HR staff can provide guidance, as can LAS, in choosing culturally sensitive images.