How Translating Internal Communications Creates an Accessible, Inclusive Workplace

In recent years, the rise of globalization along with a growing preference for remote working has changed the way organizations approach internal communications. And now, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for organizations to build solid internal communications strategies so that employees can work seamlessly with colleagues across the world—or across the street.

This renewed focus on internal communications presents opportunities to create more accessible, inclusive workplaces. As organizations explore new ways to improve collaboration, communication, and engagement over digital platforms, many are taking steps to ensure that new communication strategies are accessible to all employees across languages.

the importance of effective internal communications

Effective, authentic communications help create employees who are engaged, connected, focused, and productive. Strong channels for interaction enable staff to exchange ideas, ask questions, and connect with team members. Organizations run more effectively when people have the information they need to make strategic decisions that align with the company’s mission, values, and goals.

the impact of COVID-19 on internal communications

In March 2020, COVID forced many companies to embrace full-time work from home or adopt hybrid solutions. While many people had already become comfortable with remote work and remote working technologies, the transition was new and abrupt for others. Since the start of the pandemic, internal communications have become even more critical in helping employees navigate through the crisis and understand how they should work together as a team to maintain business operations during difficult and unprecedented times.

While this sudden move to remote work has highlighted many inefficiencies in communication practices, it also presents opportunities for enhancement. The pandemic has served as a catalyst for many organizations, prompting the reevaluation of existing internal communication practices and expanding those solutions to better position the company to operate during the pandemic and beyond.

With these initiatives comes the opportunity to implement positive change that promotes a culture of company-wide inclusion.

communicating across languages

Strong, effective communication can be difficult even when everyone speaks English. Around the globe, many people speak English as a second language, but competency varies greatly. When a workforce includes individuals who speak English as a second language, it can increase communication challenges. High-level terminology may be misunderstood or linguistic nuances missed. Points can be misconstrued and the intent of messaging may be lost. Misunderstandings can lead to underperformance, accidents, and even legal issues when staff members are unaware of company policies and procedures or safety regulations.

Translating internal materials helps produce a more efficient, effective flow of information and creates employees who are engaged, informed, and empowered to thrive and grow.

A few of the items we regularly translate for our clients include:

  • e-newsletters and intranet articles
  • intranets and internal portals
  • employee handbooks
  • surveys
  • codes of conduct and related training
  • online training materials and learning management systems

When internal communications are translated into employees’ native language, the result is greater comprehension and engagement with the content and its messaging. In-language policies and ethical guidelines help ensure all employees thoroughly understand and adhere to company protocols and standards for professional conduct.

COVID-related communications

The pandemic has introduced the need for new directives and policies that require rapid dissemination along with new types of communications to keep employees healthy, informed, and motivated.

Since the onset of COVID, we have been helping our clients translate:

  • new return-to-work protocols and logistics
  • new office procedures to keep employees safe
  • work-from-home policies
  • changes in business strategies

town hall meetings

One format that has been a particular challenge for many organizations since the start of the pandemic is the state-of-the-company meeting. Companies have long used a face-to-face setting for their all-hands meetings, to create an interactive format in which to share company achievements, results, and goals. Often held annually or quarterly, these motivating, interactive meetings provide a valuable forum that allows everyone in the company to meet with leadership and receive the same information at the same time.

Since the start of the pandemic, organizations have sought ways to keep this forum interactive, interesting, and informative for a hybrid or remote workforce. Some organizations have created blended formats by allowing minimal in-person attendees while enabling others to join remotely. Many others have committed to fully online models for the foreseeable future.

No matter the format, there are ways to make this meaningful forum accessible in employees’ preferred languages. We regularly help clients with simultaneous remote interpreting during their live events, followed by transcription and subtitling so that the recordings can be disseminated to all employees.

guidelines for internal communication during the pandemic

We are in challenging, unprecedented times, which require a more thoughtful approach to internal communications. Below we have listed a few best practices to help create authentic internal communications with employees’ needs in mind.

Empathy. People everywhere are faced with different challenges. Be sensitive to employees’ concerns and maintain an increased focus on their wellbeing. Many companies are sending out more frequent “pulse surveys” to better understand how employees are coping, and are offering programs, activities, and other resources to support their staff.

Specificity. We are all inundated with more information than we can consume. Consider segmenting your internal messaging to be sure you’re targeting the people for whom it is relevant. Give the right people the right information at the right time. Communicate big-picture goals and values along with specific, targeted information to the people who need it.

Clarity. In crafting your message, consider how it will be communicated in different languages. Be clear, and avoid jargon and vague language wherever possible, so the intent of your message is not misconstrued. Present information in a way that is simple, direct, and gets to the key point.

empower your team across languages

While the upheavals of today create significant challenges, they also present opportunities for organizations to implement positive change. As companies reevaluate internal communication practices, they have the chance to create a more accessible workplace culture and informed, knowledgeable workers. Language differences shouldn’t create barriers. By translating internal communication materials, companies can better engage those individuals who are not native English speakers, and send the message that everyone’s voice matters.

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