Few companies expand their overseas workforce with a global HR strategy in place. Usually the process of going international is incremental, driven by overseas acquisitions, opportunities and new partnerships, rather than a strategic human resources plan. Whether or not you have a formal plan, clear communications with your expanding roster of new employees must be a top priority.
In fact, distributing localized versions of onboarding materials and important internal communications is a legal requirement in many countries — and it is also an important indicator that you respect and value your entire international team. (It goes without saying that safety documents must be translated). This is where an effective HR team comes into the picture: by ensuring that your corporate communications and training programs are translated into the local language of all your employees, you can have a profound impact on employee satisfaction, engagement and loyalty. Here’s how you can get started:
Expansion & onboarding
When a company expands into new offices, factories, warehouses or distribution centers abroad, it needs to fill those new locations with qualified employees. HR is usually tasked with finding, signing and onboarding these new people — a task which inevitably involves a barrage of paperwork that must comply with local labor laws. For example, many countries require HR documents to be submitted in the relevant local language/s to government, labor, tax, social security and data protection authorities. In other countries, English-language HR documents are not necessarily prohibited, but they may not be legally enforceable. As such, you should always consider translating employee contracts, handbooks and training documents for non-native English speakers.
Training & eLearning tips
In a global business environment, HR teams are often responsible for creating training programs for different roles and departments. One way to make training more effective is to produce online courses and videos that can be localized for employees who hold the same or similar positions in different countries (and therefore require the same training but in different languages). When you start working on a new training course, follow these three tips to make future translation attempts easier:
- Consider the reading level of your target audience: Are you training a financial analyst with an MBA, a factory manager with a high school diploma or a delivery and assembly team with little or no formal education? Be sure to create content that is at the appropriate comprehension level for each position you’re training.
- Write your course with clear and concise sentence structure. Try using lists to write step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow and digest — and never use the passive voice!
- Avoid culture-specific examples, comedy, slang, metaphors and abbreviations. This will make it much easier later on to convert the course into other languages.
For your company to become a strong, well-integrated global organization, it’s important to communicate with your international employees in their own language. Your message and brand can easily get lost in translation if your internal corporate communications aren’t localized correctly. This can have a direct impact on your team’s creativity, effectiveness and engagement. And remember: In some countries, English-only communications can be a legal problem if national language laws or mandates exist. In France, for example, the national labor code punishes employers with heavy fines if they issue certain HR communications in languages other than French.
Providing accurate translations of HR communications is difficult enough without the additional burden of keeping track of the ever-changing global legal landscape. That’s where an experienced language solutions provider (LSP) can step in to help. An LSP can ensure that you are complying with worldwide language laws, while skillfully localizing global corporate communications to achieve a cohesive and successful international business network.
Your internal business software and operating platforms are only as effective as the people using them. If you want to expand your business into non-Anglophone countries, you need to consider who will be using your internal software and platforms there. If your international employees have difficulty understanding menus, buttons or dialog boxes, they are less likely to accurately use all the internal software features available to them. Localizing your business software for your international sites will result in higher comprehension of the tools available, which should ultimately lead to more efficient use of employee time.
Software localization includes the formatting of numbers & dates, the adjustment of sort orders, and the adaptation of fonts and images to local norms. It’s important to note that software localization can sometimes result in text expansion or contraction within the user interface (UI), in which case it’s important for your LSP to work with your design team to ensure that the final, localized UI is seamlessly presented to the end-user.
Embrace the opportunity
HR localization offers a chance to strengthen employee engagement and company cohesion. Clear, consistent messaging that’s been optimized to resonate with employees around the globe can do wonders for your brand and your bottom line. Ultimately, the successful execution of a global HR localization strategy can position your company for game-changing growth. Consider the possibilities.