“It’s a Small World (After All)” was written by the Sherman Brothers to launch Walt Disney World’s famous ride “It’s a Small World” at New York’s 1964 World’s Fair. Today, the ride operates at Disney parks across the globe from Tokyo to Hong Kong to Paris to Orlando to Anaheim. Also, the song has been translated into different languages world wide.
Globalization has indeed made the world a smaller place. Companies are going global, meaning they have a presence in many different countries. With globalization comes the challenge to communicate across different languages and cultures.
Imagine you’re a US-based company who acquires a consumer products manufacturer. That manufacturer has plants in Italy, China, and Brazil. How do you communicate effectively with employees in each location? Upper management and C-level executives may speak and understand English proficiently, but operational workers may not.
What approach do you take?
One option is to choose one language to conduct business and require all of your employees to understand it. Numbers show that approximately 330 – 360 people speak English as their first language, and it is taught in schools as a foreign language across the world. However, you have to think about what this might mean to your global employees. It shows them that diversity and inclusion is not an important part of your company culture.
We have been working with HanesBrands, Inc. since 2007. Hanes has over 65,000 employees in over 40 countries. They have instituted a Global Diversity and Inclusion program. As HanesBrands expands their global reach, so has the number of languages we’ve translated (from 8 in 2007 to 24 in 2018). Each year, we work with HanesBrands to help translate their Code of Conduct materials. In addition, we’ve translated their Diversity and Inclusion training. To read more about our relationship with HanesBrands, jump over to our case study.
Some questions that you need to ask when creating a corporate language policy include:
- What is legally required? This especially pertains to safety policies and procedures. We touch on this in a previous blog post.
- What languages do we translate? Look at where you’re located and see what native languages your employees speak there.
- What do we translate? This is more loaded question. A corporate language policy should lay out what needs to be translated and for what purpose.
- How do we ensure the translations speak our companies language along with our employees native language? Work with a language translation partner that uses in-country native speakers. They will have knowledge of the language and culture of your employees. Also, they should want to work with your in-country teams on client review to incorporate company-specific language that your employees will best understand.
Communication is important at all levels. A corporate language policy will help improve internal communication between employees. Your company’s corporate goals and objectives will be better understood by all, no matter what language they speak.