When your HR Department goes global

When your HR Department goes global

Translation is necessary to the smooth transfer of both information and goods around the world. One of the most fundamental ways it affects the global supply chains starts before there are even any goods in motion – in the Human Resources offices of companies, from manufacturers to airlines.  

A German company opening a plant in Hungary recently requested our help translating hundreds of live interviews with potential employees. Skrivanek selected some of our best interpreters for the months-long process of interviewing Hungarian candidates for numerous positions. Our native Hungarian interpreters translated for them into English or German for the client’s HR representatives who were conducting the interviews.

“Interpreting for recruiting is interesting,” interpreter Noémi Wagner said. “It’s a bit different because the job candidates sometimes speak for five minutes straight. So this isn’t normal consecutive interpreting and it isn’t simultaneous – it’s a mixture of styles. I write down everything they say directly into the target language. When they finish talking I speak to the company interviewer and interpret what they said.”

Accuracy is essential to both parties – without it, the chances decrease of the right people getting the right jobs. The interviews were conducted live, online and that presented a challenge, too. Successful interpreting relies to some extent upon nonverbal communication to sharpen meaning and that element is a little harder to perceive and convey online. Noémi Wagner said that she prepared a great deal for the interviews, but no matter how much you’ve been told about the interpreting event content there’s always a curiosity ahead of time about exactly what the experience is going to be like. Preparation certainly improves the outcome of the actual job, but for interpreting, like so many jobs involving spontaneous choices there is a certain level of comfort and learning that only comes through doing it.

Another native Hungarian interpreting for this job, Monika Bognar, explained that interpreting for someone who is not accustomed to being interpreted can be awkward at first. Monika and Noémi Wagner have each interpreted for over 30 Hungarian candidates for the new plant so far, with several weeks of interviews ahead yet, and many of the interviewees have no experience being interpreted. Each one had to adjust to the timing of being questioned and having their words translated and conveyed by someone else.

To prepare, Monika and Noémi Wagner familiarized themselves with the industry. But also, both women are seasoned interpreters who have methods of coping with moments when the conversation turns toward something they have not learned or clearly understood. One of those is to quickly look up terms online; this is effective because they had already established a foundation of understanding about the field and their well-trained minds quickly coordinate language concepts with the multilingual expression of them.

HR translations

Obviously in-depth, accurate information about an interviewee is important to determining the most qualified candidate for a job. When very specific knowledge and skills are needed for various positions, along with experience and good character, companies of all sizes can be hampered by the lack of certain qualified employees. The interference created by COVID shutdowns and workforce gaps has clearly illustrated how personnel shortages can interrupt supply chain operation as much as any material shortage can.

Highly qualified professionals can be very difficult to attract under the best circumstances. Finding the right person for a position in a foreign country is even more challenging, and the translation of applications, interviews, and all relevant HR documents is essential to the process and to your credibility as an employer. Attention to making the right impression should go both ways – the best candidates will be attracted to a company that is able to connect with them and offer materials in their own language.

Other documents that a Human Resources department should prepare for multilingual staff may require specific subject matter knowledge in addition to language accuracy. For example, good personnel contracts demand legal knowledge based on the laws of the country where the employee will be working –legal accuracy is important as linguistic.

HR documents in addition to personnel contracts that should be developed and translated for every country where you have offices include:

  • Wage and benefits packages
  • Workplace safety documents with texts that align with national requirements
  • Employee manuals delineating rights, resources, and expectations
  • Insurance policy documents
  • Internal communications about company news and opportunities

Equally important to the availability of standard documents is the need to inspire and engage your employees, tap into their talents, and encourage innovation, collaboration, and optimal performance. You want to keep those good employees and ideally you can encourage their personal growth and ownership over their responsibilities. This should be a 2-way interactive process, with the employer laying the groundwork for a vital company culture that employees can get behind and contribute to. Localized multimedia can be very important here: safety training videos, eLearning modules, and localized company websites and portals for every language are all wonderful assets for engaging employees around the globe.

Skrivanek’s experience with HR translation and interpreting needs is extensive. A single contact with us will start your internal development process when you are ready to expand to a new country.




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