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Why translate your HR documents?

By Neil Gauld, 

If your organisation has a global workforce, translating and localising HR content is vital. In fact,  in many cases it’s a legal requirement.

For the most part, HR policies and documentation contain legal phrasing and jargon that can be tricky to decipher for even the most well versed multilingual employees. A professional translation agency – who are experts on the subject matter – can provide you with the best service in this field. But what exactly are the benefits of translating your HR documentation? Let’s take a look.

Ensure company policies are understood

You probably don’t need us to tell you how important it is for all employees to fully understand company policies and procedures. Whether you have multilingual staff working in the UK, or teams working in offices overseas, catering to the native language of your employees is important. Without a thorough understanding of the policies, can you really expect employees to follow them?

Even employees who speak exceptional English might be stumped by an unfamiliar term in a piece of HR documentation. HR translation ensures that policies are understood, reinforced and upheld by all employees – no matter their native language or level of English.

Encourage staff development and training

By providing staff with training and development opportunities in their native language, employees are far more likely to become engaged with the business. Think of it like watching a film with subtitles. Yes, you can still enjoy watching a film with subtitles – and you even forget they’re there after a while – but wouldn’t you have much preferred to watch the film in your native language? The same principle applies here.

Giving employees the opportunity to receive training in their native language will also encourage professional development and increase employee retention, which will undoubtedly benefit the business. After all, it’s far better to have a team of employees who understand the business and have developed over time than to keep retraining new employees.

Legal requirements

Diversity is a huge benefit to an organisation, but it does come with additional HR responsibilities. For example, we’ve already mentioned that you are legally required to translate some of your HR content if you are a global organisation. Failing to do so could result in an uncomfortable conversation with the local legislation and employment law forces – a conversation we’re sure you’d rather avoid… It’s also worth noting that different countries might have different laws around HR document translation, so this is something to bear in mind.

If you’re unsure about what you should or shouldn’t be translating, talk to a professional translation agency like Brightlines for more information.

Cater to equality and diversity in the workplace

By neglecting the native language of some of your employees, you are essentially requiring members of the company to conform to one language – not great for team morale! Translating your HR documentation is a great way to improve team morale and promote inclusivity within your global teams.

Not only will it make HR documentation more accessible, but it’ll also illustrate the company’s dedication to ensuring all employees are awarded equal opportunities. Failure to translate your HR documentation could also dissuade people from applying to work at the company. An organisation that is known for being caring and considerate towards its employees is far more likely to attract the best talent around!

What HR documents require the highest quality translation?

It goes without saying that certain HR documents and communications will require a higher level of precise translation, and even localisation, to ensure the content is fully understood. Although sending a poorly translated newsletter isn’t likely to have a massive impact on the company’s bottom line it could have a negative effect on team morale and the employees’ perception of the organisation. But on the other hand, incorrect translations of legal documents, policies and company announcements can be detrimental to the business.

This became apparent in a post published by i-Sight relating to a supervisor at a Colorado potato plant who was accused of sexual harassment. The company claimed it had done everything in its power to prevent the behaviour. Yet, the HR policy which outlines the steps an employee must take to report abuse and keep themselves safe was dismissed by a judge; it was written in English – the victim only spoke Spanish. The business was required to pay a $255,000 settlement as a result.

So what documents require top quality translation?

  • HR policies and procedures: based on the above incident, it’s clear that translating HR policies is absolutely vital. Miscommunication in your policies and procedures could result in a less than pleasant conversation with local law enforcement. In our opinion, the pros of investing in top quality translation far outweigh the cons.
  • Training and e-learning materials: ongoing training of employees is incredibly  important in all companies, but global corporations need to carry out training programs in multiple languages to make sure all employees are the best they can be, and only professional translation will make sure they are all on the same page.
  • Employee communications: newsletters and email communications are extremely important to convey the company ethos and make sure all employees are fully engaged. Having these translated professionally shows the employees they are valued, raising morale and productivity among all staff – no matter what language they speak.

Talk to Brightlines

As a multilingual employer, we fully understand the need for clear and comprehensive HR communication. If you have any questions about HR document translation, or have a project you’re currently working on in this field, contact us today. We’d be more than happy to help.

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