Seven Corporate Culture Lessons Learned from BELA 2018

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Andrew Jones BELA, Localization, Awards...

Adaptive Globalization recently announced the winners of the 2018 Best Employers in Localization Awards.

What did the selection process reveal about building a successful corporate culture in language services?

Last week Adaptive was delighted to reveal the winning Language Service Providers across a range of employment categories in the 2018 BELA awards:

  • Best for Employee Benefits
  • Best for Employee Retention
  • Best for Training & Personal Development
  • Best for Employee Wellbeing
  • Best for Career Progression
  • Best for Recruitment & Onboarding

Throughout the selection process, Adaptive’s panelists dug deep into the structures, processes and philosophies each participating LSP has adopted to build their corporate cultures and create positive work environments for their teams.

By studying this year’s winners, we were able to identify some clear trends visible throughout the leading language agencies – factors which thriving corporate cultures have in common.

Understanding how outstanding culture is built not only has value for owners and managers of LSPs but can be extremely useful for candidates looking to benchmark their current workplace and evaluate career options.

From our work evaluating entrants and winners in this year’s awards, here are 7 lessons we learned about creating a successful culture.

  • Having a voice matters

Regardless of where an employee sits in the corporate hierarchy, successful cultures have channels in place to ensure that the business is receiving feedback from all angles. If team members have no structured opportunity to provide thoughts and ideas to management – be it via surveys, meetings, reviews or workshops – they’re given a passive role in overall company development and often fail to invest themselves fully in their work.

Additionally, employees who are delivering services and building products (plus dealing with customers on a daily basis) often have vital insights to share to improve business performance, and failure to create pathways for this feedback to flow can stifle innovation and agility.

  • Teams thrive when they see the bigger picture

In a people-drive business like language services, talented and motivated teams are core of any successful agency. Attempting to unify effort and energy for complex teams without a shared vision of success can be exceptionally difficult, if not altogether impossible.

There are natural and much-needed limitations in business concerning how transparent a leadership team can responsibly afford to be with their entire organization, but owners and managers who are excessively opaque about the mid and long-term goals of the company lose a valuable opportunity to bring teams closer together and drive performance.

If large sections of the team don’t know where the company’s heading or what it’s aiming to achieve, how can they drive towards that goal?

  • A clear financial path is a must

Every business has ups and downs, and it’s not always possible for a company to guarantee fixed raise amounts or annual percentage increases to everyone in the organization (as much as a leadership team may wish to do so).

Despite this, leading agencies work to ensure that staff – as a minimum – have a guaranteed opportunity to discuss earnings and to develop a path to advance their careers financially, even if that means being patient, learning new skills or helping the company reach performance goals.  

Employees in a role with no idea what it takes to get to the next level, what compensation will be if they get there or how long it will take can’t reasonably be expected to show the same patience and commitment as those operating within a more structured framework.

It’s natural for even the most loyal team members to wish to progress in their earnings as their tenure and careers evolve, and working pro-actively to create formal dialogue on the topic can offer a vital platform for communication.

  • Flexibility is key

There’s a wide range of working arrangements across the language sector, with some agencies almost entirely made up of remote workers, some offering a hybrid in-office / home office structure and some firmly based around an office location.

Regardless of the model, flexibility is on the rise as a major candidate driver when choosing new career homes.

With so much investment by employers in recruitment, career development and staff benefits, it’s a major hole in the net for companies to lose well-trained and motivated team members to competitors simply because they make it easier for a candidate to do something as simple as supporting a spouse with a school run or keeping in touch with family overseas. 

Flexibility can take many forms, but adapting to build win-win relationships between employers and employees builds solid foundations.

  • People notice if extra effort is rewarded

There can be some stressful times in LSP life – from sales teams busting a gut to make big deals happen to PM and engineering teams working around the clock to deliver against impossible client deadlines…

When that extra push goes unremarked, it can be tough for employees to swallow.

Within an agency lifecycle there are times when this dedication and sheer hard work directly adds to (or even rescues) the company bottom line, and if the fruits of that effort aren’t reaching those responsible it soon gets noticed.

Solving this doesn’t mean management splashing out on huge bonuses - nods of appreciation as simple as pizza lunches, half-days of vacation and other basic tokens go a long way to letting people know that their commitment in high-pressure moments is noted and valued.

  • Investment in onboarding pays off

The onboarding experiences for new hires across the translation and localization industry can vary drastically. At the less structured end of the spectrum, in some companies it takes people weeks (or even months) to fully understand who else works in the company and what everybody does.

Particularly important with international companies that have multiple office locations, employees settle in faster and develop a stronger commitment when they feel oriented and integrated from the beginning.

Agencies which take the time to prepare a program to help new arrivals understand who they’re working with, how they can excel in their role and what skills they should be learning to build (in addition to office basics, like where the fridge is!) see a clear reward in engagement, performance and retention.

  • Corporate culture is a priceless investment

Corporate culture impacts performance across agency life in so many ways that it is impossible to quantify its influence.

From the calibre of candidate attracted to join the company (based on reputation), their mindset as they start (first impressions), their performance, resilience, commitment, team spirit, willingness to go the extra mile for colleagues and clients, propensity to innovate (and, of course, longevity), it permeates every area of the business.

Beyond the scope of standard ROI calculations, culture is nonetheless a vital investment which connects all facets of successful business operations.

Adaptive is proud to be supporting so many clients around the globe who place corporate culture at the centre of their organization, and welcome our annual opportunity to celebrate industry leaders and pioneers in this important field.

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Thanks again to everyone who participated in Adaptive Globalization’s 2018 BELA awards – you can read about the results and find a full list of winners here.


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Adaptive Globalization fills jobs in Sales, Account Management and Sales Leadership in the translation and localization industry around the world – browse our full list of vacancies here.