Managing international relationships in new territories

Alan White of The Translation People discusses managing overseas workplace relationships with colleagues in emerging markets

Data shows that UK-based companies are considering different territories when it comes to growing their business overseas.

We recently undertook research which shows that in the last three years – since the UK began new international trade talks following the Brexit referendum –business translations into Macedonian (+3,500%), Afrikaans (+2,400%), Zulu (+2,300%) and Serbian (+2,000%) have increased most significantly in the last three years.

Analysis of this market shows that African and South-Eastern European countries are logical bases for physical supply chain partnerships. They have cheaper labour costs compared to the EU, and many have shorter transport routes than locations in the Far East. These locations also offer educated and skilled workforces for more traditional industries, such as manufacturing, automotive and professional services, while time difference allow for better communication than, for example, India and China.

This shift in approach is leaving HR teams based in the UK looking at how they can work most effectively with overseas teams and implement best-practice. As a result, many are using translation services to recruit the best people, keep individuals engaged and create a positive working environment – even if it’s spread across the globe.

Workplace wellbeing

The pandemic has posed a real threat to the mental health of millions of people, but wellbeing in the workplace was a priority before this. Many businesses have launched virtual wellbeing programmes, issued motivational internal comms materials and employee forums to ensure employees are happy, healthy and motivated.

We worked with UDG Healthcare after they created WellSpace, a place for employees to visit virtually when they need some downtime or a little pick-me-up. As well as yoga classes, garden craft ideas and cooking recipes, it features advice on working from home, maintaining mental health, managing a remote team, effective digital meetings, managing stress and taking annual leave during Covid-19.

We translated the WellSpace content into seven different languages, to make the support available for its employees far and wide, which led to 5,000 visits to the website from around the world, in its first week alone. The dedicated employee forum has also achieved high levels of employee engagement and interaction from colleagues across the world and is proving to be another successful piece in the company’s ‘engaging employees’ jigsaw.

Accessible learning for all

The global online education market was experiencing huge growth before the pandemic, with statistics suggesting it could be worth $132.98 billion by 2023[1]. With social distancing putting a stop to trade events, conferences and group workshops – all vital to bring together international teams – businesses have had to find an alternative to bring teams together online even when they feel very much apart.

Applying foreign language voiceovers and subtitles to video training content will help make the material accessible to all, and is proven to improve performance. For example, research shows that users retain between 25 and 60 per cent[2] more material when learning online compared to offline, because it requires 40-60 per cent less time to learn[3].

Offering digital training and tutorials to teams around the world also shows the value you place on professional development, but translating these materials to make them relevant for international audiences demonstrates how important you find it to ensure audiences around the world are able to engage with what’s on offer.

Take the offline, online

The pandemic has forced us all to think differently about traditional businesses processes. From job interviews and accounting, to appraisals and procurement, we are now inherently reliant on tools like Skype and Zoom to keep in touch with people all over the world.

But for businesses which usually host company conferences, drawing large numbers of attendees and speakers from around the world, additional support is needed in order to create multilingual environments for international workforces and supply chains.

We recently invested in a multilingual, remote conferencing and interpreting platform which facilitates an unlimited number of virtual interpreting booths, that are accessed remotely by organisers and participants around the world; each is allocated one of our qualified linguists who translates live, in real time, in a user’s preferred language choice. It delivers a seamless, multi-way conference-style scenario, conducted entirely online, with interpreters able to work from anywhere in the world.

It’s proven to be a valuable piece of technology for global companies who need to communicate with their overseas teams when international travel restrictions are stricter than ever, but when business needs to be enabled to continue seamlessly.

Technology and translation work in perfect partnership to support HR teams who wish to nurture their overseas workforces and supply chains, and are even more beneficial for those dealing with different time zones and cultures. Investing in these areas will help build stronger relationships, no matter where businesses look next to expand their footprint and invest to grow their international presence.


[1] https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/online-education-market-2019-by-industry-size-estimation-

industry-share-future-demand-dynamics-drivers-research-methodology-by-2023-2019-04-29

[2] https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/301248/15-facts-and-stats-that-reveal-the-power-of-elearning

[3] https://techjury.net/stats-about/elearning/#gref

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