Should you Translate your Policies and Procedures?

Should You Translate Your Policies and Procedures?

Written by ComplianceBridge Policies & Procedures Team on May 2, 2019

In growing companies with multinational locations or companies with a large multilingual workforce, translating internal policy and procedure documents can be an important measure to take. Anyone in management can agree that it’s important for all employees to understand the policies and procedures of their company, but every company tends to approach the issue of translating documents differently. Some companies translate everything, some only translate a few things and some translate nothing. Some companies will even go as far as to make English their official language.

To answer the question, should you translate your internal policies and procedures, there are a number of potential issues to consider: the time and cost of creating translations, the legal and compliance issues that may arise and what benefits translating internal documents has on employees and the company. Below, we will look at each of the areas to help you determine if you should undertake the task of translating internal policy and procedure documents for your employees.

Compliance

If your internal communications are not in a language your employees can understand, this can expose your company to legal and compliance issues down the road. The potential for legal challenges from your employees can cost you millions if you’re found not to be in compliance. Even if you are compliant with regulations in the country your company is headquartered in, foreign workers still have legal rights in their own country.

Translating your internal policy documents will insulate you against legal challenges at home, as well. Even if you are fully in compliance with labor laws, liability still exists if any of your employees are unfamiliar with the language your company’s internal documents use and reasonable accommodations were not made for them.

Moreover, choosing not to translate your policies and procedures for your employees could be potentially negligent, not to mention dangerous. If your workers are not all on the same page regarding proper procedures and protocols, the risk of accident and injury increases. As the employer, it’s your responsibility to provide a safe working environment for your employees – and that includes proper instruction.

During an audit, if it is found that your employees were not following proper procedures and acting within compliance, this can also leave your company liable to fines and penalties from industry regulators. It is also your responsibility to adequately communicate to your employees what is an appropriate and inappropriate way to conduct their duties. In some cases, that may mean translating your internal policy and procedure documents.

Employee & Company Benefits

Taking the time to translate your company documents for all of your employees has many benefits for your employees, and in turn, your business. By ensuring that all internal policy documents are in a language that every employee is comfortable with, they’ll have a much better understanding of what you’re communicating to them.

When everyone has a thorough understanding of your communications, it puts all employees on the same page. Better company cohesion has a number of benefits for the company including improved employee satisfaction, increased job productivity, less employee turnover and more stable business processes. In fact, ComplianceBridge has written an entire article on the importance of good policy to workplace culture. When companies don’t translate their policies and procedures, it can ostracize their employees and cause strife among them. This view of HR departments or management issuing foreign language communications as an outside, antagonistic force can lead to employees ignoring them altogether.

When employees have access to internal policy documents in a form they can understand – especially ones that are very technical or filled with legal jargon – they will feel more secure in their positions, perform their jobs appropriately and help your company maintain compliance and safety standards.

Cost & Time

Translating all or even some of your internal documents will no doubt take more time than just making one version in one language. It is much faster for a company to keep communication in one standard language and distribute a single version rather than multiple translated versions. For companies with employees spanning the globe, the process of writing a new policy, having it approved, having it translated into several languages, having those translations approved and then distributing them becomes very complex and not streamlined at all.

Besides the time taken to translate and distribute multiple versions of your policies and procedures, there is also the issue of cost to consider. Translating documents isn’t cheap. Regardless of if you are finding your translators within or outside your organization, you still need to pay for their time. For the more complex documents with industry-specific jargon and terms, translating can be a tedious process that requires a high level of expertise. To undertake such a complex distribution process will also be costlier than if you just had one document you sent to everyone. You must make sure the translated documents reach the correct areas and people in the company.

There are additional costs to consider, as well. For instance, every time the parent policy is updated, all of the translated versions must be, too. Then, there’s the cost of a bad translation. Merely translating your internal documents isn’t enough – they must be able to hold up against legal scrutiny. If you don’t take the time to do it correctly, your employees may not understand the content as you intended it, leaving you vulnerable to a lawsuit.

Automate the Policy Creation Process

Using policy and procedure creation software such as TotalCompliance by ComplianceBridge gives you the freedom to decide how you want to write your policies and procedures for your employees, saving you time and money in the process. Quickly build and distribute policies in an online organized database. Automated workflows help the process of creating, revising and approving all of your documents run smoothly. Internal policy writers, editors, stakeholders and reviewers collaborate on one central version, and automated approval staging moves your policies and procedures forward as they are approved by each group in the approval process.

Policy distribution also becomes a streamlined process with TotalCompliance. Policies can be disseminated company-wide or to specific departments, roles or distribution lists, ideal for policies distributed in multiple languages. After employees receive each document, you can follow up with comprehension quizzes that test their understanding of the content. Related policies can also be linked together for easier navigation, and old versions of policies can be saved for reference.

There are many factors to consider when choosing how to best communicate your policies and procedures to your employees. If you are considering translating your policies, TotalCompliance provides the tools you need and automates these processes. To learn how you can utilize automation to streamline communication with your employees, request a demo with us today.

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