I do not speak Spanish. Ordering one — or more — margaritas and asking where I could find “el baños” while on holiday in Mexico does not count. So, when I saw that the instructions for my need-to-assemble-in-a-hurry dresser were written in Spanish, you can imagine my dismay. Have you ever tried to assemble furniture with instructions in another language? Well, imagine what many learners across the globe feel in English-speaking training programs.

When designing a global sales onboarding program, top of mind topics are usually critical solutions content, high-engagement techniques and asynchronous access. Though these are all important to delivering a high-quality program, for learning to reach new heights, it should be in your learners’ first language.

While you can’t prevent your new hires from missing “assembly instructions,” there are some best practices you can apply to a global sales onboarding to ensure understanding and results.

Tip 1: Put a translation strategy in place.

Providing translations for learning materials can be complicated, and there are several things to consider:

  • What translations are necessary? How many languages?
  • What resources and tools will you translate? How long will it take?
  • What is the shelf life of the content?

These questions are often paired with what your organization’s budget will allow. Translation projects for sales onboarding can be very costly. This is why it is important to prioritize regions and content to translate by expected outcomes and the intended impact. Consider data like the number of sales representatives, strategic importance based on geography and revenue generated in each area. Include communication to key stakeholders, (e.g., sales leadership, product, marketing) and create a project timeline that everyone can access.

Tip 2: Appoint a high-level project owner.

This is a must. There has to be someone to keep the project running smoothly: a person to hold accountable, to make in-the-moment decisions, to balance consistency with a tailored geographical approach and keep stakeholders informed of progress and realistic timelines. The project owner needs to track and manage the entire process, from the initial “ask” to the delivery.  If things fall between the cracks and no “owner” is watching it, you could end up in delays to your rollout. Delays mean lost revenue. Nobody wants that.

Tip 3: Don’t put your eggs in one translating basket.

Much like having a diversified financial portfolio, it is wise to use multiple translation partners and have different translation tools for different applications. This can save you time and money. Virtual learning tools are often great for easy job aids and presentation decks but translation companies can help address volume, complex translations, such as video and subtitles, as well as accuracy.

Note that not all translation companies that are good are also fast. Hiring more than one and dividing the work can help identify the partners to move forward with later. Even if there are two perfectly capable translation companies, dividing the work between them may help you receive the materials much quicker.

Also ask what they do to help increase accuracy, especially if you send them high volumes. This protects you from being affected by vendor bandwidth issues. Determine a clear and communicated process flow. Keep track of the items to be sent to a translator prior to localization. Be sure to include the quoting process, how to validate your invoices with content received and the services you’ve paid for. Set a meeting cadence with your partners to stay on track.

Tip 4: Review translated material for accuracy.

In the selected geographic regions that require translations, it is imperative that you solicit input on how to localize certain content so that the content makes sense and avoids cultural errors. There are several examples through the years of how localization was somehow missed. You may have heard Pepsi’s slogan from the 60’s , “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life.” Did you know that it debuted in China as “Pepsi Brings You Back from the Grave.”  Yikes!

A translation company is typically hired to translate, not to localize — the difference is critical to understand. Therefore, it’s in the organization’s best interest that local stakeholders review and edit all translated material for coherency and to ensure the content is culturally acceptable.

This will require allotted time to review translated material prior to release. Ask your regional teams if there might be resources outside of the learning or sales enablement departments that can help.  Consider these factors when building your strategic plan and creating estimated launch timelines. You will need to adjust as the project moves forward.

Tip 5: Have a contingency plan for international employees without translated material.

Given the resources allocated for your program (i.e., budget, timelines, bandwidth) you may not be able to offer translation support for all groups but will still need to deliver results. Set aside some time to find low or no cost self-service, translation tools you can direct your learners to. Work your resources and local networks to find English speakers — supervisors or managers are good targets — that also are fluent in other languages.  Sometimes they may be able to read and record or meet with the new hires.

You can also create and post easy-to-find asynchronous content (include train-the-trainer materials). While content posted on demand will be in the original language or most commonly selected translated languages, it allows for the best chance that the new hire, their manager or colleagues will know one of the languages and be able to provide support.

Register for the Spring Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) to hear Gabrielle Dewey and Rebecca Moore’s session, “Elevate Your Global Onboarding Program for a Virtual World.”