Why You Need to Localize L&D Content
Companies are increasingly turning to eLearning to address skill gaps in the workplace and ensure that employees share the same goals. But in order to get the most out of their eLearning program, companies need to localize L&D content for employees around the world.
When companies offer localized eLearning opportunities to team members for whom English is not a native language, they give them the skills they need to perform better in their jobs and to connect better with their teammates in other offices.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits that companies have derived from eLearning localization.
When You Localize L&D, You Increase Its Efficiency
Think of the trickiest, most technical training you have ever received in the workplace. Now imagine trying to follow along in your second language—or even your third. Not easy, right?
Even when employees are multilingual, receiving training in their native language is generally more efficient.
When they are required to complete training in another language, they may need to rewatch or reread content several times to fully understand it. They may pause frequently to look up words. Or, if they are pressed for time, they may prioritize completion over understanding.
Likewise, if the training content relies on examples or cultural references that have not been adequately localized, they may miss the point altogether. For example, English-speaking companies commonly use sports metaphors to explain concepts. But football expressions like “Monday-morning quarterback” will not make sense to learners in China or Mexico who are unfamiliar with the sport.
eLearning localization involves experts from the target culture who will carefully review material and suggest adaptations that will make it easier for the learner to understand.
The end goal when you localize L&D is for the learner to be able to focus on the content itself. That way, they are not mentally translating each sentence or stressing about mishearing a word.
Localize L&D to Help with Employee Retention
It costs companies much more to hire and train a new employee than it does to retain an existing employee. Yet many companies make the mistake of failing to invest in the talent that they already have in their office. The result? Employees feel as if their career trajectory has stalled and begin looking for another job elsewhere.
When employees are offered opportunities to improve their skills, it makes them feel as if they are valued members of their team.
The same is true of employees who speak other languages. eLearning localization ensures that they feel their company is prioritizing their professional growth.
eLearning localization is also a way to meet foreign employees “halfway.” They are already putting significant effort into learning a new business culture—not to mention the time they spend listening, speaking, and writing in another language. By offering localized L&D, companies can show that they recognize the value those employees bring to the workplace and the effort they put in each day.
Localized Training Allows for Consistency Around the World
Anecdotally, when training and documentation are only provided in the “global” language of a company (typically English), that material may be ignored or overlooked in local markets.
Not making it available in the local language inadvertently sends a signal about its importance. If you don’t localize L&D content for monolingual employees, it may as well not exist.
Similarly, if key material is not translated, local offices and work sites may ask a bilingual employee to provide an informal translation for the “important parts.” This creates several potential issues:
- Not everyone who is bilingual can produce a coherent translation.
- Only some elements of the material may be translated based on employees’ ad-hoc judgments about what they feel is important.
- Different facilities within the same country or region may end up using different languages to refer to the same concepts, increasing the potential for miscommunication.
In a survey conducted by Rosetta Stone and Forbes, executives at global companies were asked to identify the biggest problem caused by language barriers. Their answer was that “miscommunications contribute to inefficiency”.
When you localize L&D content on a larger scale, you ensure that all necessary content receives a professional translation with proper QA procedures in place. You also ensure that there is consistency between countries, regions, and languages so that everyone has equal access to information.
Additionally, offering your eLearning content in multiple languages ensures that skills gaps do not exist between different groups of employees. Working with team members in different time zones and from a variety of cultural backgrounds already presents communication challenges. Teamwork is easier when skill gaps do not cause further problems.
Localized L&D Content Increases Employee Engagement
Employee engagement refers to an employee’s emotional connection to their job, their team, and the outcomes they achieve. Many companies have been considering their employees’ engagement levels more closely, especially since extended work-from-home policies have left some employees feeling disconnected from their team and their goals.
When employees no longer feel engaged with their job, it has a cascading effect, leading to:
- Increased turnover
- Lowered productivity
- Decreased focus on safety and quality
On the other hand, statistics have proven that engaged employees become more productive and deliver higher-quality work. A study by Gallup found that highly engaged teams were 21% more profitable, and they saw a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a significant decrease in turnover.
Good communication is the key to employee engagement, and eLearning often represents a significant part of that communication.
It can be difficult for employees in a satellite office far away from headquarters to feel engaged with their jobs. That can be doubly true in offices where employees speak a different language from headquarters.
However, eLearning localization is a key component of helping these employees stay engaged and feel valued within the company. As we discussed above, when you localize L&D content, employees are able to focus on the content as they complete training.
Workplace Safety Improves When You Localize L&D
Accurate training is vital when it comes to improving workplace safety, and language barriers have been shown to have a detrimental effect on safety.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that language barriers contribute to 25% of workplace accidents in the United States. Research shows that language barriers are a leading cause of workplace injuries among immigrants to Canada as well.
Localized L&D content related to safety and operations can decrease accidents—and in the long term, it also ends up improving other metrics, such as productivity and engagement.
Case Study: Safety Benefits When Companies Localize L&D
A bread-baking company in the U.S. recognized that language barriers were contributing to workplace accidents. While much of their workforce used Spanish as a primary language, all Spanish-language information was delivered informally.
They launched an initiative to formally translate all written documentation into Spanish. As part of the process, Spanish-language documentation was adapted to accommodate the fact that Spanish speakers used different dialects and had a range of education levels. In addition, the company ensured that all presentations and meetings were delivered in both languages.
As a result of the concerted efforts to localize L&D and make safety information available in Spanish, the company experienced a significant decrease in workplace accidents. They now record a rate of injury and illness, approximately half that of other companies in their industry. They also saw an increase in employee engagement, leading to better overall performance.
eLearning Localization Can Save Money in the Long-Term
Before COVID-19, in-person training was much more common. Individual employees from a satellite office might have been sent to headquarters for training. Alternatively, a trainer might have been flown out to the satellite offices to deliver training.
Either way costs related to in-person training quickly add up: flights, hotels, meals, and more. If the trainer does not speak the language of on-site employees, an interpreter might need to be hired each time. Plus, time spent travelling means that an employee’s tasks must be reassigned while out of the office.
Even when training is complete, employers face the challenge of what to do once a new employee joins the team. If training is held in person, they may have to wait weeks or months to acquire important skills.
For these reasons, many companies have begun using eLearning instead of in-person training. Those numbers have only increased with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made travel and in-person meetings more difficult.
Additionally, when you localize L&D and eLearning courses, it allows employees to go back and review content to refresh their memory whenever needed. When a new employee is brought on to a team, the information they need is already available to them. eLearning localization ensures that they will be able to follow the same onboarding processes as team members elsewhere.
As a bonus, reducing travel is beneficial from a sustainability perspective. Nowadays, employees and consumers pay careful attention to a company’s environmental efforts when deciding where to shop or work. A reduction in travel translates to a reduction in carbon emissions.
Art One Translations has the team and processes needed to localize L&D content in a variety of industries and languages. Our eLearning localization experts are familiar with the challenges that come with translating your eLearning program, from cultural nuances to character sets. Contact us to learn more about our eLearning translation services and testing process.
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