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Best Practices for Communicating with Your Multilingual Workforce

best practices for multilingual communication with employees

Last updated on August 27th, 2021 at 05:52 pm

multilingual communication best practices

Multilingual Workforces and Communication

Our globalized world has created an incredibly diverse workforce. Where once our colleagues were limited to those located in similar geographic areas, advances in technology over the last 20 years mean that now we can work with anyone, anywhere, anytime. It also gives businesses an unparalleled opportunity for expansion into other countries with diverse staff members.  

Whether you are working with people from around the world in one office or with offices located around the world, creating a communication plan is key to success when working with a multilingual workforce.

While language barriers can present a challenge for creating a cohesive company culture, using a professional translation company and a few best practices will set your company, your HR team, and your employees around the world up for success.

8 Best Practices for Communication with A Multilingual Workforce

language translation

1) Speak Your Employee’s Language

Offering translated versions of all company materials is the quickest and easiest way to increase employee retention and is often legally required. Sending out information in your employee’s language is a quick way to build respect and trust and at the same time, ensure compliance with all policies.

Having communications in multiple languages requires more than just an understanding of the language, it also requires an understanding of the culture and customs that surround each language and its audience. A professional translation services company like JR Language can help you navigate the appropriateness of the content, images, and colors for different cultures.

Even companies based in one country will benefit from having the appropriate set of document translations to support employee’s level of information and retention.

Companies based in the USA, with employees that are native Spanish speaker and limit English proficiency, would help communication with their employees with Spanish HR translations. Over 13% of the US workforce is made up of Hispanic workers, with that number rising each year. Providing Spanish translations of HR documents and other company information benefits your company by increasing employee understanding and compliance, as well as showing respect for employees of all nationalities.

Companies based in Canada must provide French document translations, as the country has two national languages. Every internal and external communication must be available in French as well as English, including training materials, websites, employee manuals, phone menus, and more.

However, you need to speak your employee’s language well, ensuring accuracy and clarity in your translated content. Making emphasis in keeping the documents updated in all the language versions and in synchrony with the source English documents. It is also a good idea to use the language code for the language version of the document as the examples below:

Employee-Handbook_EN ——–> For English source

Employee-Handbook_ES———> For Spanish Translations

Employee-Handbook_FR-Ca—–>For Canadian French Translations

translation audience

2) Respect Your Audience

Cultures, traditions, and customs change across countries and languages. While translating documents it is important to be mindful of the audience and its culture to facilitate the communication, ensure clarity and avoid misunderstandings.

While working to ease language barriers, you need to treat every culture with respect. Work with a translation services company that knows the culture and will provide the adequate team to support your multilingual communication in any language needed.

Also, take the time to learn about the local customs and preferred style of communications for employees in certain areas. Understanding what is expected and what is offensive is a small step you can easily take to show respect, improve communications, and establish a strong sense of trust. Understanding and respecting other cultures is cornerstone for building positive relationships with employees and colleagues.

translation best practice

3) Keep your content short and precise

In a company with a multilingual workforce, each communication will be translated into several languages and possibly changed along the way to account for cultural and grammatical differences. Aim for content short and precise, while preparing it, be mindful that the content will be translated and localize to other languages.

For example: Use version control. Plan for expansion or contraction of text. Save last version of a script if you are producing a multilingual video. Edit the English video with enough time between transitions to support translation of videos into other languages.

Use shorter and simple sentences that are easier to translate. Aim for messages that are short, memorable, and easy to repeat.

translation glossaries and style guides

4) Develop Multilingual Glossaries and a Style guide for the company

It is a good idea to create and have a style guide in place to maintain the same voice and personality for your company and brand thru all the languages. That will also help maintain consistency in the other languages and will aid the translators to understand the way your company communicates. A style guide sets the rules for writing, formatting, and design of documents. It includes for example the level of reading, usage of formal or informal tone, what colors, and type of images to follow. It explains how the brand writes and established its audience.

Create glossaries with terms to use in the communication, its meaning, acronyms, and examples of use. It also provides the preferred translation for each language or if the terms need to stay in English.

Style guides, bilingual and multilingual glossaries improve the way your company communicate with the public in languages other than English. Have your glossaries and style guides ready so they can be used in the translation of documents.

avoid

5) Avoid Colloquialisms

Slang, colloquialisms and jargon are highly culturally specific, and will not translate well across languages. Analogies can also be culturally specific and should be avoided when working with content that will need translation services.

What is a common saying in one language (like “hitting a home run”) may not make sense to someone in another language and culture – what if they’ve never seen a baseball game? Keep your wording precise to avoid unnecessary confusion and alienation. Similarly, examples can be culturally specific and should be kept generic to be understood across linguistic lines or be changed to adapt to the new audience.

avoid religion politics humor

6) Avoid Religion, Politics, and Humor

Working with a globalized team means working with a diverse group of people, with varying upbringings, religious beliefs, cultures, customs, and political views. Avoid any reference to a certain religious affiliation or political leaning over another. These subjects can be contentious and cause emotions to run high on teams if someone feels offended and left out. Additionally, use humor sparingly. Humor doesn’t translate well. What is humorous in one culture can be offensive in another, and you never want to alienate a portion of your employees or team.

This point can be included in your style guide, but we thought it should be included as best practice too due to its relevance.

show your face

7) Show Your Face

Even leaders based halfway across the world from their employees can get in face time, with video chatting and recording meetings. Face to face communication provides up to 93% more effective conversations, due to the importance of nonverbal cures. Even when you can’t get someone in an office for a meeting, you can use video chat over a phone call.

With simultaneous interpreting options from video hosting platforms like Zoom, you can lead a meeting and talk with people from around the world, in their language, in real time. Any leader can show face to employees using simultaneous Zoom interpreting and be a present and visible leader.

human resources translation services

8) Empower Your HR Team

The human resources team is the backbone of any company, and providing up-to-date, translated materials is the best way to ensure employee compliance across time zones and language barriers. Translated HR content empowers your team to send the information they need, in a language that is best known to your employee.

Cohesion is key for multinational corporations or businesses with multinational employees. But a blended workforce creates additional responsibilities and keeping everyone on the same page is easier said than done. Reliable human resource translation services ensure that everyone receives the same information in a language they understand. Translated HR materials includes training and onboarding information, all employee communications, employee handbooks, an intranet, and policies and procedures.

Creating an effective communication plan for a multilingual workforce can be overwhelming but having a trusted partner with you makes it a lot easier. Working with a professional translation company like JR Language is the best way to ensure that in every communication your team is understood by everyone on your company, no matter their nationality or language.

Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela. Jackie has a BS in computer engineering; As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.