The substantial and shifting demands confronting LSPs have been subject of much debate and discussion within the translation & localization industry.
As we confront the challenges of our rapidly evolving industry, do translation companies have the necessary skills needed to not only manage demand now but be prepared for what may lay further down the line?
To try and understand, capture and contextualize the key concerns of LSPs and translation companies, our in-house reporter, Jess, went out and did some digging.
Changing Client Demands are Redefining the Skills LSPs Need in Translators and in-House Staff
Within the localization & translation industry, the skills needed by project management and sales staff have changed dramatically.
In addition to the core skills which complement translation work, it seems, LSPs and agencies are now in far greater need of both specific technical and soft skills in the people they employ – skills which it seems are not readily available in the available staff pool.
Let’s turn our attention first to technical skills. Dawn Wall, client services provider at Prestige Network, explains: “One area we look at is technical expertise including competency in using translation memory tools, Microsoft Office and machine translation.”
It’s not just CAT tools and office software that’s important. As the industries of the translation industry client base become equally and progressively more reliant on the latest tech, they increasingly depend on their suppliers to be able to accommodate their technical tools.
For those working to translate websites and code, this knowledge is particularly pressing.
Head of global production at Translate Media, Mercedes Vanilla explains:
“These days, translation agencies, especially those like us focusing on ecommerce, are dealing with exports from websites so most times you will have XML, HTML and multilingual XLIFS files to work with. It is important for translators to know how these files are processed and how to deal with different aspects, such as inline HTML tags.”
The skills shortage in this area is outlined clearly by Vanilla, who adds: “One of the main services that we offer today is editing machine translation. It is hard to find translators with the experience required to do it properly. This is quickly changing but still a service difficult to source, especially with non-European languages.”
Passion and Dedication
While not necessarily a skill, passion for the job at hand is particularly important due to the highly demanding nature of the translation industry.
Scar de Courcier, Director of Bohemiacademia, manages a team of freelance translators and believes passion for the job is essential.
“I’m looking for people who really care about doing a good job. So beyond being able to speak and write a language, I want someone who will bother to check over their work for mistakes and typos. Essentially someone who’s a bit of a perfectionist and wants to be sure they’ve done a great job.”
“It’s important people are interested in something. I don’t really care what, but if people have a passion they can somehow link in to their work, it tends to make them better at freelancing.”
Annette Lawlor, founder of L10N People Global, a recruitment agency specializing in localization, also believes this is an important trait.
“If someone has passion for language and travel then they’ll find their place in the industry.”
Adaptable staff are better placed to take on any changes in the industry, or work with new clients.
Adaptability can often be a good replacement for other skills because these employees are likely to embrace change and work hard to skill-up when necessary.
Jacob Stempniewicz of Andovar needs his staff to adapt quickly but, like others, he places considerable importance on technical skills:
The translation industry is evolving rapidly. The main trends are automation, machine learning, machine translation and standardization across languages and locales. Andovar – and other LSPs I’m sure – are looking for staff who can help us be part of these trends and not be left behind. On one hand, we are looking for candidates with relevant experience but on the other, candidates with an interest and ability to learn quickly.
Because of the ever-changing roles within the industry, staff are being asked to take on a lot more than perhaps they once were.
Lawlor adds: “There are lots of different hats that have to be worn so people have to be very well rounded in terms of their skills; they need to have the ability to negotiate internally with different departments, as well as externally with clients, and also have a strong focus on digital. It’s very fast-paced compared to when we started 12 years ago, so you have to be able to work at that pace.”
Emotional Intelligence and Creativity
Emotionally intelligent, creative people tend to be very good at responding to new situations, while managing client expectations.
These kinds of people are usually great at communication and take others’ needs into consideration within their work.
Although these competencies can be assessed during the face to face interview of back office staff, the global spread of translators, coupled with the need for remote interviews in most cases, makes these skills harder for translation companies to find, as the interview process is often only done over the phone.
De Courcier understands this problem within her business: “A lot of these things are difficult to work out beforehand, especially if you’re hiring internationally so can’t do face-to-face interviews. The way I do it is to send new freelancers one or two smaller pieces of work to begin with and if those go well, I’ll send them more projects. Generally, that works quite well, but it is hard to find people who have exactly the qualities you require; it was much easier when I was managing a department of a large company and interviewing ‘normally’.”
One might assume that soft skills are abundant alongside the industry and technical skills required to take on a role with an LSP but that’s not the case, as Stempniewicz explains:
“Soft skills such as people skills, emotional intelligence and creativity are very important as they are applicable to a range of job roles, so employees with these qualities can adapt quickly and learn new skills as required by the changing circumstances. However, they tend to be in short supply.”
Andovar, Bohemiacademia, L10N People Global, Prestige Network and Translate Media are in no way alone in the recruitment challenges they face.
In fact, their contributions to this piece, epitomize the way in which translation companies need to transform their approach to recruitment.
What may have worked previously, won’t cut the mustard in today’s environment.
Companies that flourish will do so on the back of innovative recruitment procedures, a readiness to understand industry change within the context of the recruitment pool and the enthusiasm to fundamentally change the way they think and do things.
A huge thank you to all those who helped us understand some of the different viewpoints in the industry. Your contribution is highly valued and appreciated.