Translations improve your company’s productivity

Why translations will improve your productivity

Does this sound like a familiar scene? You are sitting around the boardroom table at your Monday morning “prayer meeting”. The MD has asked the head of each department – Production, Quality, Health & Safety, Sales and Finance for your updates on the monthly productivity figures. 

More specifically, he has asked exactly how you intend on improving them, because they aren’t good enough if the company is going to meet this year’s budget.

It’s time to have a radical rethink about why you might need some outside help to achieve and even exceed your goals. The key might lie in language and communication. In particular, communicating with your workers in their own languages, through translations.

A multinational workforce means multiple languages

The chances are quite high that you are working with a multinational staff on the shop floor. (In 2017, official statistics show that foreign-born people counted for at least 18% of the UK workforce, although the true number is expected to be higher. Of that number, a significant proportion were employed in the process, plant and machine operatives occupations).

This being the case, it raises the question of how much you are expecting your workers to function productively and safely in their second, or maybe even third languages. If you were to translate some key documentation, how much could it improve their productivity, and provide you with some positive figures for your Monday meeting?

Lack of understanding means low productivity

Consider the following scenario: Production levels are currently keeping up with the sales department’s demand, but motivation is low and there is a lot of temp staff turnover and people pulling sickies. A few of the new machine operators have made mistakes, meaning material has had to be scrapped and raw material re-ordered and you suspect it is because they’re not following their induction training properly. Plus having to constantly train new people is taking some of the team off other important tasks. You’ve had to put a couple of extra shifts on to make up for the shortfall, and the finance department is questioning the expense. A few corners were cut to meet demand on time, and although the basic quality standards for the product are still being met, the quality manager is not happy that the percentages are down on the added-value items. His own goal for the year is to increase them and thereby raise the brand’s reputation.

Now let’s return to the start of that scenario, and look at it through the lens of having a multinational staff:

Morale is low, staff turnover is high, and some workers are making mistakes… If your multinational staff are having to concentrate hard to understand instructions in a different language to their native tongue, they are more likely to miss vital information. Tiredness, background noise, and plain misunderstandings can all affect how they read and listen to instructions. Perhaps this is why your new staff made those costly mistakes.

Sometimes even seemingly basic, obvious information can be confusing if its not in your native language. In Spanish for example, the decimal places and commas in numbers are written the opposite way to the English style (2,100 in English becomes 2.100 in Spanish). Misinterpreting the operating parameters for a machine due to such a language issue could mean lost production hours and re-runs, or could cause a serious accident.

Improve morale and productivity by providing translations

If you had the machine operating instructions translated into your workers’ native languages, for example, you could make sure they understood their roles fully, and were safe and productive while performing them.

What’s more, by providing your multinational staff with translations, you show them that they are valued and an important long term asset to the company. You are acknowledging their language and their culture and showing that you want them to fit in successfully and productively. This will positively affect their motivation levels, and you should therefore see higher production, less sickies and higher retention rates in the staff. They are even likely to recommend the company as a good employer.

So, in preparation for next Monday’s meeting when your MD asks how you’re going to tackle the staff no-show problem, or increase productivity on the shop floor, perhaps it’s time to review whether having some of your documentation translated could help.

Download our infographic:

5 ways language can positively affect H&S

The way we use language and communication in the workplace can greatly affect our level of engagement with Health & Safety. Our downloadable infographic looks at 5 ways we can identify and address this issue.


We’ll keep you updated on our latest blog posts, exclusive content and sector specific language updates 

Leave a comment