Translation Tips for HR Professionals

Keeping employees informed through clear HR-related communication is vital for any organization. However, language barriers can cause issues for companies that operate in multiple countries or that have multinational employees. It is the role of Human Resources to make sure that key messages are communicated accurately, and oftentimes translation plays a big part in that.

Translation for multinational companies

When businesses expand globally, or when corporations have established operations in various countries, a lot of value is usually placed on cohesion. It is often the role of HR to assist in communicating company policies and procedures, and making sure everyone is on the same page, but that is often easier said than done. From company policies to employee training videos, human resources translation is significant in setting the tone for maintaining company culture. Here are some translation tips for HR when it comes to expanding a company internationally.

  1. Translate communications for employees even if it is not legally required. Translating human resources policies isn’t necessarily required by law in each country, but the benefits to the company are great.
  2. Have local staff review HR documents to remove US-centric references that are irrelevant to international employees. Concepts like cultural diversity, vacation accrual, and affirmative action that are included in policies and codes of conduct within the US have no relevance for international employees, and could even conflict with local morals, customs, or laws. It is important to have in-country HR staff review these documents in order to be respectful towards international colleagues.
  3. Include in-country HR staff when developing employee communications. Solicit input from in-country HR staff when developing universal employee messages. Their local knowledge will be helpful in trying to effectively communicate emails, policy updates, and announcements so that they are easily understood and accepted.
  4. Include contextual explanations for concepts rather than literal translations. Literal translations of concepts like employment at will or exempt vs. non-exempt could be confusing to recent immigrants or non-native English speakers. Providing contextual explanations will help avoid misunderstandings.
  5. Use interpreters to help train staff when opening up facilities in a new country. Opening a new facility means hiring a large number of 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 interpreters can help bridge this gap.

Translation for a blended workforce

Besides having international operations, most companies experience diversity within a single office. A blended workforce has many benefits, but also adds responsibilities to HR professionals. Human resources translation helps ensure that all employees – regardless of nationality – receive the same information in a language they understand.

It is estimated that 17% of the U.S. workforce is made up of immigrants, most of which are Hispanic workers. That percentage is expected to increase, which makes Spanish translation a significant factor in HR. Providing human resources documents in Spanish and English benefits many companies by maintaining clear communication, and also showing the value a company places on diversity in the workplace.

When it comes to human resources translation, here are some of the most important types of documents to make sure are translated.

  1. Employee manuals and training information – When new employees begin a new job, it is important for them to have a good understanding of their role in the company. Manuals for specific positions need to be translated into the native language of employees who don’t speak English as their first language so that they can perform their job as well as other team members. Similarly, training information needs to be translated even though it tends to be a little more general. Documents that fall in this category should be translated first.
  2. Safety information – As part of an onboarding process, employees need to learn about and understand relevant safety information. This information is often job-specific rather than company-wide, but all employees need to know how to perform their job safely and how to keep others safe as well. Knowing and understanding this information will prevent issues. Having this information available in the native language of each employee can be critical.
  3. Health insurance information – It is very important to make sure that health insurance information is translated into the native languages of all employees. HR departments need to have this material translated to make sure that all employees know and understand the insurance options available to them.

Telephonic interpretation and HR

Telephonic interpretation (TI) is a resource that can be very beneficial for HR departments. TI services can be very helpful for a variety of HR functions. From recruitment to workplace safety and compliance, here are some examples of when interpretation services are needed.

  1. Training sessions. As mentioned above, it is the role of HR to help facilitate proper training. Sometimes it makes sense to have training material translated, and other times it makes sense for interpretation or TI.
  2. TI is especially helpful when it comes to recruitment and interviewing. Having interpretation services at the ready can help HR recruit the best candidate for the various positions they are tasked with filling.
  3. Disciplinary meetings. It is important for all employees to understand the company rules, and to the same token, any disciplinary action. Oftentimes this takes place in meetings and face-to-face conversations, making TI a good option to ensure proper communication.
  4. Employee termination meetings. When an employee is terminated, an HR representative is always on hand to communicate information and answer questions. TI services are especially important to make sure the employee fully understands the process and has their questions answered.
  5. Exit interviews. When an employee chooses to leave their company, HR is typically responsible for conducting exit interviews. The information gathered from this interview is useful for the company to improve, and sometimes TI services are necessary when interviewing a non-native employee.

At Argo, we have flexible translation and interpretation solutions to help out any HR department. Contact us today – we’d love to help with your translation needs.

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