Localized HR Documentation: How to Engage a Global Workforce

Last Updated February 2, 2021

Are you unintentionally excluding parts of your workforce because all your internal communications are in only one language? Here’s how to engage every employee, regardless of language and location.

A global company may hold online meetings in a commonly understood language, such as English, but that doesn’t mean each regional office will carry out its day-to-day business in that language.

Employees in regional offices will speak their own language and work according to their local culture and traditions. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a centralized, mono-cultural approach to internal communications will have only limited reach and impact.

Imagine a US-based business with subsidiaries around the world whose HR department distributes everything from the ‘employee of the month’ announcement to the company’s Annual Report to its entire global workforce in English.

Meanwhile, in their Belgian office, all the content produced by the US-based HR staff goes unseen, apart from by perhaps a few managers—because Belgian labor law states that communications with line-level employees must be in the local language.

Effectively localized internal communications have the potential to not only engage employees, but to increase productivity across the organization by ensuring everyone feels part of the same team.

Achieving these aims is more challenging when the workforce is dispersed around the world, but it’s worth it. As a McKinsey report highlights, productivity can increase by 20 to 25% in companies where employees are more socially connected—whatever their language or location.

So, what can businesses do to seize this opportunity?

Which HR Documents Need Localizing?

1. News

Internal news and important announcements, whether distributed via a newsletter, intranet, or other medium, is a vital part of a company’s shared experience. Communication like this can also be a valuable tool for generating feedback from employees.

For the delivery of news and any resulting feedback to be worthwhile for a company, it must be understood by and have relevance to the entire organization, not just part of it. No one should be excluded from the discussion simply because of language, location, or culture.

2. Policies

Most companies provide new employees with an employee handbook to bring them up to speed with the rules and regulations, practices and procedures followed within the organization. Then there are core policies, such as Health and Safety, that ensure all activities carried out within the business meet company wide as well as local legal requirements.

It’s essential that such fundamental information is disseminated with equal importance to every employee in the organization. Localizing all HR policies that are designed to help workers be productive and safe at work not only makes good business sense, it also prevents the company from inadvertently violating local regulations.

3. Software

Many day-to-day HR tasks are carried out through company-wide computer systems. For example, employees may submit timesheets, request vacations, and complete performance reviews from their own desk, wherever that may be.

However, if any of the system’s instructions, interface, or input methods are not tailored to suit the requirements of local users, those employees will be unfairly disadvantaged.

For example, assessments involving multiple choice questions would create confusion in some cultures where they are not common practice.

Companies that provide e-learning courses will be impeding the progress of some international employees if the training is not translated correctly into their native language and presented in a format they are familiar with.

There are also different sets of regulations for companies to contend with regarding how and where employee data is stored in each different country.

4. Corporate

From financial forecasts to legal documentation and stock market reports, official corporate records can be highly technical and full of long, complex sentences that make little sense other than to specialists in that particular field.

While the translation of such intricate language is a challenge in itself—with the slightest divergence from the intended phrasing having potentially serious consequences—there are also different units and ways of communicating money, dates and measurements; expressions and idioms that differ from country to country; and, of course, different laws and regulations that need to be obeyed.

Localize HR to Maximize Employee Engagement and Retention

For a company’s HR function to succeed globally, it needs to succeed locally.

However, for the reasons outlined above, this can be a daunting challenge—which is why partnering with an experienced localization team can provide an effective solution. Specialists in this field can provide employees and other interested parties with content in their own language that has been recreated to suit each cultural and regional context.

Effective localization of internal communications in this way demonstrates that every employee matters. It also instills company values throughout the organization and ensures the entire workforce strives towards the same goals.

Business localization experts Summa Linguae Technologies (SLT) help global companies formulate HR content that meets the needs of employees in many locations around the world. For Thomas Boettger, SLT Project Manager, localization brings benefits to every part of the business:

“HR localization ensures your internal communications are having the intended impact throughout the entire company. This has positive consequences for company cohesion, job satisfaction, and staff retention, which strengthens the brand as a whole and can lead to game-changing growth.”

If this article has made you realize that your business’s internal communications and HR documentation are not reaching every part of your global organization as well as they could, contact SLT today to discover how localization can work for you and all your employees.

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