How to Manage Global Translation Teams

How to Manage Global Translation Teams

As global communication improves so the need for a geographically centralised workforce diminishes – and this is especially true in the world of translation. Emails, videoconferencing and intranet technology mean many of us work with colleagues not only in different buildings but different countries.

This can bring huge benefits for morale, cost savings and efficiency, but it also throws up some major pitfalls. If you don’t have your eye on the ball, communications can go astray, factions can form and any sense of team cohesion can be lost.
Taking time to follow a few basic tips can minimise potential conflict and maximise efficiency.

  • Choose self-motivated staff – you may not always be there to walk every member of staff through their assigned roles. Make sure your team members have the ability to get on with things and the drive to finish tasks and meet deadlines.
  • Honesty is the best policy – if you feel like you need to watch someone throughout the day in order to have them complete their workload on time then they probably aren’t the best person to work away from the office. Choose workers you can trust to get the job done without the need of an overseer’s gaze.
  • Communication – any project relies on good communication, but for ones that involve remote working, good communication is essential. The last thing you want is for a whole day’s efforts to be wasted due to a misunderstood instruction.
  • Feedback – don’t let the efforts of your staff become lost in the mass of emails. Stay in contact with all the disparate members of your team and let them know how they’re doing.
  • Divide your time equally – with different teams in different locations there is always the danger that some will feel left out and under-appreciated. Make an effort to spread your time evenly and make any feedback you give as fair as possible. Nothing throws a spanner in the works like a disgruntled team dragging its heels.
  • Team cohesion – Some members of a remote team may never meet. If the opportunity arises for a get-together then do your best to encourage this. Staff perform better together when they have a little background on one another. Use technology to bring team members together. Weekly web chats can help to foster a sense of team spirit, while group emails and intranet postings allow the whole team to contribute in a discussion.

A competent manager and a strong team can make all the difference on a difficult project. Ensuring all elements are in place can increase the speed with which you deliver your project and boost your standing within the industry.
Good management makes for an easy life

So you’ve got a good set of strategies for managing a remote team – one spread across different countries. Now how to manage a specific translation project?

Managing a translation project can be a bit like juggling cats blindfolded; slip up and the end result will be a real mess, hold on too tight and the workload is likely to leave you scratched and bruised.

Managing any project requires a degree of multi-tasking, but the necessity to keep a clear head as problems come in from all angles is vastly increased when multiple languages are involved.

Translation work involves a multitude of elements, from software proficiency to language expertise, and a whole host of things in between, so a strong team with a diverse skill set is essential. And crucial to a strong team is a manager with a deft touch and calming presence.

Inevitably, heads do occasionally need to roll, but a manager who can move on and stay positive will give his team the confidence and support it needs to flourish.

Here are five tips to follow if you want to be a successful global translation project manager:

1) Get used to solving problems – Things need to move quickly in a translation task, hold up one element and the resulting backlog could derail the whole project. Every problem has a solution, so rather than going back to your client with tales of failure, put heads together and battle through. Having a problem-solving framework in place never hurts:

  • Pinpoint the issue
  • Look for the cause
  • Brainstorm a series of possible solutions
  • Pick one and test its effectiveness
  • If all seems well, implement a plan
  • Check to see if the problem has been solved

2) Communication, communication, communication – The ability to understanding a client and effectively relay their requirements to the different parts of your team is a crucial skill in translation work. One mis-communication to tech support or your hard-pressed linguists, and disastrous consequences can ensue. Poor communication can also demoralise, leading to unnecessary stress and bad feeling among teams. Make every communication count.

3) Bend like a reed in the wind – With so many different elements working in conjunction, unexpected issues are bound to arise. What might seem like plain sailing to a client might feel like the ninth circle of hell to your staff. Don’t be afraid to shift your time and attention to where it’s needed most. And expect issues to arise night and day; international translation cares not for time zones, and sometimes problems arise at the most inopportune moments.

4) Organise your organisation – Avoid frustrated clients and raised blood pressure levels in the office by keeping well organised. Managing deadlines, budgets, translation accuracy, and the proper IT support means a lot of balls in the air. Being well organised is the best safety net you can have.

5) Negotiate to survive – At some point during a complex translation job there is bound to be some disharmony. Whether it’s a difficult client or an exasperated team that has run out of ideas, negotiating a compromise could end up being key to the survival of the project. Being an effective listener can be an invaluable tool to management as it not only allows you to take full measure of a situation, but also shows that you are sympathetic to the problems experienced by either side.

Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

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