by | Nov 19, 2021

Large percentages of employee audiences may not be able to understand the information that communicators think they’re communicating. Translating communications to the local language is key to employee engagement among front line employees.

US-centric companies tend to communicate in English to their global colleagues with the expectation that everyone should be able to do business HQ’s home language. In many companies, translating communications to the local language is an afterthought and only occurs in the most non-English speaking countries.

This is not new news. But in recent conversations with communicators around the globe, we’ve seen several examples of the importance of speaking the local language.

Translations are worth the effort

The reality is that it’s expensive and time-consuming to translate every communication into multiple languages. However, skipping the effort can send quite a few messages to those employees.

First, employees may feel that they matter less to the company than those in US or English-speaking offices. Also, there could be a sense that the company isn’t invested in the local culture and community.

Most importantly, of course, employees may not be able to read or understand the communication. This is especially true for front-line employees or those working on plant floors. By the way, in many companies, these people account for the majority of the employee population. Without translation, this audience is completely dependent on a field or plant manager’s interpretation as messages are cascaded.

Translating corporate speak

Language is just one type of translation. There’s also the need to translate corporate speak.

Employees who are closer to the front line or the production line are generally focused on the things that are right in front of them. What they do day in and day out is incredibly important. But these front-line workers likely impact fewer pillars of a strategic plan. For example, retail employees who are helping a customer find the right smart phone may have very limited impact on the effective allocation of capital expenditures.

Translations for employee audience segments

As with language, it’s important to translate the conversation in a meaningful way for the various segments of your employee audience.

An example we use a lot at Tribe is the quarterly earnings report. A great deal of effort goes into developing these reports and presentations. And they’re packed with great information – even if that information is so shrouded in nuance or corporate language that it’s unintelligible for many employees. We love the idea of translating these reports into a language that various segments of the company can understand. We like to untangle the Wall Street language so that employees can celebrate the wins and learn from the challenges.

It’s all about aligning employee actions with the vision

Regardless of the tactic, translating the language supporting corporate values and strategies so that they’re understandable and relevant for local or front-line employees will help align their day-to-day actions with leadership’s vision.

Interested in strategies for translating corporate speak in your organization? Tribe can help.

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