Translation Automation with a Human Touch

by | Feb 21, 2019

Automation is omnipresent in our daily life, from our thermostats that help us keep indoor temperature comfortable, to programmable coffee makers so that we can wake up to the delicious smell of coffee; from mobile apps to create shopping lists, order pizzas and remember birthdays to voice assistants replying to our commands and to chatbots manning helpdesks.

Automation is advancing quickly in the translation industry, too. Translation management systems are becoming comprehensive service platforms with numerous functionalities to help your company reach the highest level of efficiency possible. But although there are almost always brilliant technological solutions available for every single problem or action, a human touch can sometimes make the difference.

Why? Because we are all people, and when we are treated with respect, we often go above and beyond what is expected of us. Besides the fact that it’s good and decent to be people to each other, it would not surprise any modern psychologists or sociologists to find that your quality improves when your vendors feel appreciated.

Adding a Human Touch in Your Translation Workflow

The Wordbee team knows a few things about this topic. Apart from the team core working from the headquarters in Luxembourg, there are team members spread over four continents. So, here are our suggestions on how to stay human in this automation era without compromising your company’s efficiency. Please note: although the suggestions we give here are best suited for long-time collaborations, some might work well also for short-term projects.

Vendor Management with a Human Touch

Vendor managers need to keep it human because not only are they on the business frontline, but they also have to keep in touch with your company’s most precious asset: human resources.

Updating the vendor database is a great opportunity to contact freelancers in a more personal way, for example by scheduling a short Skype or FaceTime call and ask about new language pairs, new specializations or tools, or simply for feedback. And, why not, just to ask how things are going, how they are doing, etc.. Create a connection and eventually collect more information than with a simple email.

Consider also planning some training, whether online or onsite, during the year, and maybe spread the news in advance among vendors. It will give you the chance to talk directly with your vendors and get to know them better. And how about starting your company’s own academy? Training events provide a great chance for networking, exchanging information as well as increasing your vendors’ loyalty.

Translation Project Management with a Human Touch

For long-term projects, translation project managers could plan kickoff meetings. This will give project stakeholders the chance to get to know each other, ask questions and share best practices, as well as give you a chance for team building. There are many tools available for this, starting with the more common ones, for example Skype, Gotomeeting, Zoom, etc…

Think also about creating chat rooms by theme, group or project. A tool like Slack is ideal for this. Team or project members can keep each other up to date on the progress made and exchange information and suggestions. Participants can also search for or pipe in information in a specific channel.

We’ve all heard of hygge, the Danish word for coziness. But have you heard of Fika? It’s a Swedish word for taking a break from work, a short time for a cup of coffee and a chat with your colleagues. When running long-term projects, it might be useful to plan a few Fika moments during the week/month, to check on the project status and whether they have any questions of remarks. A relaxing Fika moment could help either your freelancers or your in-house feel less intimidated about giving feedback or suggestions.

At the end of the project, project managers could invite team members  to a post-mortem meeting, where everybody can give feedback on any challenges faced and the final result that was achieved. This works best with small groups, but I have been told of a post-mortem of a big IT project that went on for two days and was held in a luxury hotel to accommodate all participants coming from many places around the country.

If you’re dealing with a numerous group, and don’t want to set up a venue, you could write a personalized email asking for your vendors’ feedback.

Whatever you do, try and avoid mass emails at any time, the “Dear Vendor” kind or - even worse - the ones with lots of names in Ccn. Take five minutes to write a more ad hoc message. Your vendors will appreciate it.

In general, feedback is important for all kinds of translation projects, but especially for post-editing projects. Your linguists can provide you with valuable information to tweak your engine or your post-editing workflow.

Finally, depending on where your vendors live in the world, think about finding a way to show appreciation for their work and commitment, sometimes a (electronic) birthday card or gift voucher could suffice.

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