Here’s Why You Need to Localize Internal HR Documents
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Here’s Why You Need to Localize Internal HR Documents

The performance of people in your international offices is dependent on just how well they understand your organizational objectives and use their local knowledge to succeed in their own territory.

English might be the lingua franca of business, but if you want your employees to act on the information you’re sending them in a timely and effective manner, it needs to be in their mother tongue. Without translations, it will be challenging for people from different countries to interpret your messages in the same way, at the same time, with the same results. As any HR department will recognize, this is hard enough to achieve even when everyone’s first language is the same.

From policies and procedures to training and conflict resolution, the translation of internal corporate communications is an important step towards making your global workforce compliant, effective and efficient and to ensure everyone is treated equally. It is also a vital tool to help avoid potential HR conflicts in the first place, as communication and understanding of local cultures can preempt issues before they arise.

To help you on your way, here are nine key HR documents you should consider for translation.

1. Employee handbook

It is usually one of the first documents provided to a new employee. It contains a valuable introduction to your most important rules, regulations and procedures. A properly localized employee handbook is the key to a well-oriented, well-focused global workforce.

2. Health and safety content

It goes without saying that the safety of your employees is paramount. Not only is clear understanding critical, but as a global organization, you also need to make sure your health and safety information meets local legal requirements.

3. Policies and procedures

The same considerations need to be made when it comes to local employment laws and other legislation. Properly localized HR policies and procedures don’t just keep your workers safe and more productive; they also protect the organization from running afoul of local regulations.

4. Intranet and internal newsletters

Internal news is a key channel for reinforcing global company culture, helping employees feel a part of your global organization, recognizing good performance and keeping employees updated about developments within the business. Newsletters are also a valuable local feedback tool, and by translating them into your workforce’s native languages, you also significantly increase the likelihood that your audience will respond.

5. Financial documentation

From business plans to stock market analyses, getting the numbers right is only half the battle in a global organization. When it comes to financial translations, different countries will use different terms, units, accounting standards and regulations. When the placement of a decimal point can make a big difference in a document, it’s important that everyone inside your company is on the same page.

6. Staff training and development

To ensure knowledge retention, it’s a given that your international employees should be able to learn and receive training in their own language. However, for many cultures, effective training is also about the format that they’re most accustomed to. Some may prefer to learn in-person in the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ manner, while others may find online courses that they can take at their own pace to be more effective. These nuances can be the difference between training that makes an impact and training that barely leaves a mark.

7. Code of Conduct

Like the employee handbook, your code of conduct is usually one of the first documents your new employees see. It is also a common reference in disciplinary procedures, meaning it must be accurately localized to conform with the legal requirements in each local territory.

8. Legal contracts and Terms and Conditions

Legalese is a language all its own. Each legal document needs to be properly translated not just into a new language, but into a new set of references to the target country’s laws. The long, complex wording of each sentence means that even the smallest deviation can result in the document not making sense—or worse, not what you meant. The only person to trust with this type of work is a specialist legal translator with a comprehensive understanding of both countries’ legal systems plus experience in your industry.

9. European Works Council (EWC) documents

An EWC offers European managers and employees of global companies the chance to exchange views on major business plans and decisions. Of course, the only way to get a properly nuanced understanding of the feedback from your EWC is by making sure that proposals and responses are translated by experts.

Why does it matter?

Apart from the potential legal ramifications of not localizing your HR policies, you are more likely able to instill your company values, culture and objectives at a global level if you speak to international teams on their own terms. The way information is conveyed can make all the difference in ensuring everyone is striving towards the same goals.

But just as importantly, offering your employees content in their own language helps build good will, foster unity and a sense of belonging and reinforce equality. Translations demonstrate that each employee matters. This alone would make the investment worthwhile.

For more information on why and how to localize internal documents, reach out and we’ll be glad to help.