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Stepping up to the plate

In all fairness, do you really want to read anything else about pandemics, the global inability to respond, and that this particular tunnel has yet to reveal the light at its end? Chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and the holy grail of the future ‘new normal’, what on earth is going on in the language services industry, how are we impacted, what can we do about it?

 

Well, frankly, probably not much. All the businesses I know are pushing on as best they can, working on the assumption that normality, in whatever shape that is, will be resumed in due course and we will all be here to see it.

 

But in the meantime, what’s going on? According to the internal team survey we conducted in my company, to which we invite our team to respond every two weeks, we’re pretty rudderless. I mean, it’s difficult to have a vision for your business when you don’t even know what today will bring, let alone tomorrow, three months’ from now, next year.

 

Yet as business owners and leaders, that’s exactly what we’re being called on to do right now. Step up to the plate, keep our teams motivated and focused, look after our families and probably put ourselves in the background so we can support both our immediate as well as our extended networks.

 

Working from home is not a new thing for the language services industry. Indeed, a large number of us – freelance translators – already do just that, and the interpreting world is learning very quickly that it has to move to an online environment of some sort. Normality for working with our clients, likewise, is largely a remote affair.

 

So, where does that leave us, language service company owners and managers with teams who traditionally commute into an office space Monday to Friday, or at least part thereof? Many of us will be set up technologically with cloud software to give us the flexibility to work from anywhere, but how many of us had actually tested that theory? How many of us were genuinely ready to shift, almost overnight, from the office to our individual homes, and keep going with ‘business as usual’ (even if that’s what we were busy telling all our clients!)?

 

And even if we were in the fortunate position of instant transition from office to home, could we have imagined the impact on our teams? The ATC’s Association Partner GALA are running a series of panel webinars looking specifically at these challenges, the latest one of which “GALA Special Session: The Leadership Edition” is well-worth the listen. 

 

I myself was invited onto a panel for Women in Localization early April as a platform for us to share, in part, the challenges and opportunities that the current crisis has opened up for the industry, and it is clear that, whether or not working from home in relative isolation is the old as well as the new norm for you, the impact of having to do so is not to be underestimated.

 

We have taken some steps in my company which we consider critical in supporting our team through this. Yes, we have furloughed staff because of childcare issues. But what else have we done?

 

Well, we do a daily vlog (honestly!) for some real human engagement time with a smile, sharing a thought for the day or something silly which happened out dog-walking or with the Zoom fake background. 

 

We’ve also set up a pulse survey which replaces those water cooler moments in the office and genuinely allows us to gauge how our now-remote staff members are coping. The impact of home working is largely dependent on individual circumstances, and adding a pulse survey to our daily face-to-face “how are you’s” has been a valuable way for us to ensure that we know what’s really going on.(See https://www.morale-solutions.co.uk/WFH_Survey as an extremely reasonably priced option including data analysis by genuine employee engagement experts.)

 

We’ve created an intranet with all sorts of health and well-being resources and support suggestions for our whole team (furloughed or not) and, having missed our spring team event, we splashed out on some work-from-home treats for each team member.

 

Motivation and purpose are keystones of survival for remote working teams right now, whatever the industry. And possibly even more so in the language services industry, where the value of our input for our clients is so hidden and so unspoken. Setting up a strong working rhythm and clear contact schedule is critical in maintaining drive, and creating deeper connections through video is a must. There are more great suggestions in this article: https://hbr.org/2020/04/how-to-keep-your-team-motivated-remotely and plenty else out there too.

 

Global pandemic, closed borders, no end in sight or not, it would be good to be confident in coming out the other side.

 

I believe our teams, as they were before pre-crisis, remain integral to our business success. It’s our job to look after them, to encourage, support and motivate them to elevate themselves and our businesses to meet head-on the challenges of this new, temporary normality. We need to be ready, agile and willing to springboard us into a post-pandemic world where we can adapt to what we find there quickly, easily and with a smile on our faces.

 

Let’s step up to the plate and take care of our teams.

 

Ruth Partington

CEO, EMPOWER Translate

Chair, Association of Translation Companies

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