By Salvador Ordorica. CEO of The Spanish Group LLC, a first-class international translation service that translates over 90 languages.
Even as the day-to-day workflow of business is changing to meet evolutions in technology, the backbone of a successful company remains an appropriately trained and engaged workforce. At the same time, we are seeing our employees become more diverse, often located in entirely different countries. While these diverse individuals bring numerous intangible and tangible benefits that companies have come to cherish, they also come with a new set of compliance challenges.
Today’s companies struggle to keep current with constantly changing laws and emergent social concerns within their training; with added layers of complexity due to linguistic barriers, many businesses are hesitant to bring on board the best employees for the job, concerned that they will be unable to provide adequate training and meet compliance regs.
Practical multilingual compliance training helps employees from diverse backgrounds stand on equal footing in both the hiring and onboarding processes.
When you have effective multilingual training solutions for workplace health and safety, OSHA, HIPAA, etc., you can more comfortably bring on more skilled employees with more unique backgrounds. The following are some tips I have picked up helping companies diversify their workforce and training systems.
Typically speaking, you should aim to have all relevant training and compliance materials available in the major languages that your employees speak. But even this basic rule is not as simple as it may seem. The following steps can give you a basic outline for creating a more effective multilingual training strategy.
1. Correctly identify the languages being spoken.
The very first thing, of course, is to figure out which languages you need your materials translated into. You want to ensure you have your materials translated into the official languages of the countries in question, but you also want to take the time to make sure you have training and essential lessons available in the languages your employees speak at home and are most comfortable with.
Don’t make assumptions based on region or ethnic background. In many cases, your employees may be speaking a particular dialect that differs from the one you expect. For example, suppose you have several native Thai employees. In that case, there is a chance that they will only speak one of the regional Thai dialects like Isan and may have difficulty understanding your materials even though you have translated them into a more standard form of Thai.
The closer you can get to the languages your employees are most comfortable speaking, the more you can encourage interaction while learning, and the more your employees will be able to understand and retain quickly.
2. Have a system for conducting and following up on training.
Figure out if you can have instructors to help facilitate your training in various languages or if you need to opt for some form of interpreting service to help you. What the training looks like can heavily dictate what needs to be translated and how it should be translated. Simply put, have some form of plan in place before you commit to creating your materials. It is not rare for companies to translate materials into three different mediums before deciding on their final approach.
3. Translate materials with the audience in mind.
A word-for-word translation of something often fails to properly convey the intended meaning and nuances involved. The term “transcreation” refers to the process translators often have to go through to recreate the intention of statements. We will often use metaphors or cultural phrases that simply do not make sense or do not convey the same meaning in another language or culture. Transcreation takes the intended meaning and reconveys it into the new language with the proper cultural and linguistic considerations. Often translators will need to create a whole new sentence to get the intended meaning across. This is a complex skill set and one that needs to be employed in full when it comes to training materials.
You need to understand your employees’ education, culture and linguistic backgrounds and have your translator create messaging that speaks directly to them. Aim for clarity and simplicity, but localize the materials as closely as possible to the real-world experiences of your workforce.
You may also want to take the time to go through your parent documents and do your best to remove any Western cultural phrases or idioms and ensure all phrasing is culturally sensitive. This can help speed up the process for future translations and will require you to rely less on the abilities of various translators (as it makes for a more straightforward and standardized process).
4. Edit, review, test and track.
While most companies think about editing and reviewing training materials, they rarely think to put them to the test before finalizing them. This ties in with the first tip of having a proper plan in place. A good strategy is one that you have tested and that you know works. Pay careful attention to any software you may be using to underpin your training efforts and how people in other cultures can adapt to it.
It is a challenge, but you should also have a system for staying abreast of relevant laws and ensuring that you keep materials like employee guidebooks and standard operating procedures constantly updated in all necessary languages. Companies can often reduce fines for things like FCPA violations by showing that they provided all the proper training in the correct languages.
Lastly, track your effectiveness. We have a million data points at our fingertips these days. Figure out how to measure the quality of your training through these initiatives and over time. This can be especially helpful if you are testing different approaches.
If you follow these tips, you will likely find that you can more easily bring on, train and work with employees from a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.