Transcreation for HR Materials: A Case Study

Transcreation for HR Materials: A Case Study

two hands putting together puzzle pieces

For global companies with multilingual staff members, corporate communications present unique linguistic challenges–particularly when translating materials related to workplace culture and personnel matters. The thorough, collaborative process of transcreation ensures consistency, clarity and proper cultural assimilation of corporate messaging.

One of our recent projects demonstrates the efficiency and efficacy of our unique transcreation method when dealing with such corporate materials.

Office Culture in a Multicultural Office

A global aerospace and defense company with a broad portfolio of products and multiple global departments recently produced company ethics materials encouraging employees to report workplace actions they deem questionable.

The materials were not HR policy documents, but rather creative posters, pamphlets and other collateral intended to convey the company’s message in engaging ways and promote a healthy office culture. The creative copy included catch phrases and English colloquialisms such as “Say what?” “Don’t be that person,” and the acronym “NSFW” (not safe for work), among others. Through the process of transcreation we ensured that our client’s creative materials retained the intended tone, tenor and takeaway even as they were translated into 10 languages.

Transcreation is the process of translating a message not just into another language, but another culture, ensuring maximum impact and effectiveness. It takes a team of linguists with specific and extensive cultural expertise and a dedicated project management team to facilitate communication among them.

So how does it work?

The Power of Polling

Bringing in a carefully vetted, highly qualified linguistic team at the onset of a project is a critical first step to effective transcreation. The best team members are experts in market research, culture, creative writing and translation who work together with the client’s creative team to develop materials that best convey the intended message to global, multilingual audiences. For this ethics collateral project, we mobilized three in-country linguists per language – thirty linguists total – each of them with relevant cultural and linguistic expertise.

With the client’s source copy in hand, we produced a working file in which we identified key terminology and expressions and provided guidance as to the intended meaning, usage and cultural significance based on the creative brief provided by the client. Our linguists used these notes, combined with their own knowledge and creativity, to develop translations that most accurately relayed the desired message with the desired tone.

For much of the key terminology, the best translations were not literal or word-for-word. Our linguists needed to think creatively, using the notes provided and taking into account the nuance, tone, accompanying visual elements and intention behind each phrase or term. Where needed, in the working file the linguists provided additional notes, options, and explanations of their translation decisions, and those additions served as reference for the rest of the team members as well as the client.

For example, the corporate messaging included the English phrase, “it all adds up.” Our team provided the following note for the linguists:

This directly follows the phrase ‘Small things can have BIG effects.’ It further emphasizes that what may seem like a small isolated and trivial issue can have a domino effect and become a “BIG” (i.e. much more serious) issue.

In providing his translation, our Czech linguist included the following note:

Translated as “Every piece matters,” which is consistent with the domino visual and overall idea. The proposed translation is very idiomatic and reflects the English meaning very well (one small thing affects another small thing etc. and the resulting effect is big). Alternative: “Každý detail se poč ítá.” meaning “every detail counts”, which is more literal in relation to “adds up”. Another option would be “Všechno tvoř í jeden celek” meaning “all things form one whole”, but this phrase is not so catchy and its meaning is more general.

Demonstrating similar consideration and creativity, our French Canadian linguist provided the following note:

Recommended translation conveys that everything is linked which works well with the domino idea and visual. “Tout s’accumule” is another option, as it opens the subject of small things (problems, etc.) becoming bigger, but the proposed option goes much better with the domino idea and link between peoples’ behavior.

And we drew similar feedback from linguists in eight other languages, from Arabic to Hindi.

Once we received the notes, options and suggested translations from each linguist, we compiled them and submitted the polling report to the client, giving them the chance to review and ask any questions before we launched the translation process. Then, with the client’s approval, we sent the final polling report to our team of linguists for reference and guidance moving forward. With the polling results as a guide, each linguist working on the project saw the choices made across the board, along with all visuals and creative design materials, and used that information to translate and edit the copy, place it into the design layout, and submit it for final review.

Polling is an integral element of our unique transcreation approach, replicating the type of creative collaboration common among marketing and advertising professionals. It fosters alliance and information sharing that gives our linguists holistic knowledge of a given project, and ultimately produces a superior end result. In this case, by employing multiple linguistic and marketing/creative professionals we were able to deliver dynamic, engaging ethics collateral that conveyed the company’s important message to all of its employees–a feat not achieved through the standard translation process. The deliverables have been widely distributed, hung, and shared among offices and individuals worldwide.


For more information on MultiLingual Solutions’ transcreation services, contact Shane Reppert at Shane is the vice president of MultiLingual Solutions and head of the firm’s business solutions division.

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