Education Never Ends
“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” 1
— Eric Hoffer
The world of work is changing. As such, when it comes to the workforce of the future, eLearning (as well as eLearning localization) is poised to play a critical role. Companies must continue to train their employees in order to remain agile and meet the demands of an uncertain world. In fact, according to Linkedin Learning’s extensive 2021 Workplace Learning Report, 64% of Learning & Development (L&D) professionals agree that the pandemic represented a paradigm shift for eLearning programs, from “nice to have” to “need to have.”2
Data Source: LinkedIn
But this training must be accessible to all employees, regardless of language or cultural background. As the global labor market is poised to reach an estimated 3.5 billion people by 2030, a multilingual and multicultural workforce is quickly becoming the new normal. This trend will impact not only multinational corporations (MNCs) but also smaller firms looking to outsource vital functions. In fact, fascinating research from the University of Chicago indicates that the “native-ness” of language contributes to the “vividness of mental imagery”3 and, therefore, strengthens the ability to retain knowledge.
Although in work and in life, we are always learning, it is important to remember that we all learn differently, especially those of us who come from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. If you are planning to translate your eLearning content for your diverse workforce, you might consider going one step beyond translation. Localization is the process of adapting content to a particular cultural or national context, ensuring that information is presented in a way that is linguistically and culturally relevant to the learner.
Empower Your Employees
eLearning localization humanizes remote work by focusing on the people behind the screens, ensuring that your employees feel more valued, and therefore, more engaged and productive. However, in order for your employees to feel valued, their culture must be included in the design of eLearning programs, not forced in as an afterthought. Culture is a “complex construct encapsulating shared values, group behavioral patterns, mental models, and communication styles” that allows “people in a society to communicate, think, solve problems, and create knowledge.”4 Culture defines our environment and determines how our brains process information. It is so ubiquitous that we hardly ever think about it until we are confronted by cultural differences. In the eLearning process, we must recognize that language barriers — as well as cultural differences in learning styles or culture-specific references — can create friction for the learner.
These differences can take many forms that might be overlooked in a simple translation from tone and regional dialect, to units of measurement and common hand gestures. Even the smallest amount of friction can lead to disengagement, distraction, and decreased knowledge retention. That is why cultural awareness is so critical when designing eLearning programs for a multicultural team. In fact, a recent study demonstrated the importance of culturally relevant training, revealing that “Latin American women preferred health communications illustrated in a fotonovela, a specific form of illustration in which a story is told through a series of photos with dramatic captions similar to those they normally see in Spanish soap operas.”5 Using this technique, researchers “effectively promoted safe lifting behaviors among Latina workers in fruit warehouse shops.”6
Improve Your Bottom Line
The importance of eLearning localization is about more than just employee preferences, however. There are hard data to back up the assertion that investing in eLearning localization leads to significant and quantifiable outcomes, including increased productivity, lower turnover, fewer accidents, and more capable employees. Upskilling and reskilling through eLearning programs is a crucial component to ensuring that your company benefits from internal mobility, which, according to Linkedin Learning, “has an ROI that is easy to quantify: higher engagement and retention.”7 The data from their 2021 Workplace Learning Report show that “employees at companies with high internal mobility stay almost two times longer than those who don’t. That’s extraordinary considering the impact of losing an employee in terms of both productivity and expense.”8 Additionally, learners who have been promoted internally are three and a half times more likely to be engaged, leading to a “virtuous circle: 82% of L&D pros report that engaged learners are also more likely to participate in internal mobility programs.”9
Perhaps even more critical than training your employees for the skills of the future is ensuring they have access to quality health and safety training. In order to protect your employees while remaining compliant with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, it is imperative to invest in localization services. To put this into better perspective, OSHA estimates that language barriers contribute to 25% of job-related accidents.
Case Studies Supporting Localized Learning for Vietnamese-speaking Workers
The commercial fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico is made up of more than 50% Vietnamese fisherman. It is also one of the most dangerous industries in the United States with a yearly rate of 112 deaths per 100,000 workers. After the 2010 Gulf oil spill, emergency training was provided in a haphazard way without taking language and culture into account. The Vietnamese workers who received safety training in their non-native language rated the training as “less effective, often citing difficulties with poor translation and a lack of culturally relevant examples…These same workers later reported fewer safety behaviors than individuals who received training in their native language, along with lower levels of engagement in practices to reduce risks, less frequent safe removal of personal protective equipment, and less frequent use of reference materials regarding employee rights and safety.”10 A separate study found that fisherman who were provided with “culturally appropriate, language-specific (Vietnamese) safety training and images reported increased ‘intent to action’ and had higher attitude scores.”11
Case Studies Supporting Localized Learning for Spanish-speaking Workers
The management at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport were growing increasingly more concerned with regard to miscommunication in the workplace. They decided, therefore, to take action by offering employee safety training localized into Spanish. As a result, not only did time lost due to injury drop to 83% below the Texas state-wide average but the Airport Authority “enjoyed a period of 5 years with no fatalities.”12
When a large U.S. food manufacturer was having difficulties training its non-English speaking workforce, they turned to localization to find the solution. They localized and administered food safety and food handling training in Spanish to 1,265 adult learners. The outcome? Both food safety knowledge and food handling behavior improved dramatically, with Spanish-speakers post-training scores averaging 96.6% on post-training scores — “clearly [demonstrating] the impact and ROI of localization initiatives.”13
Prepare for the Future
The current pandemic has increased the number of people working from home — a trend that is here for the long haul. Even outside of this trend however, many companies strive to communicate effectively with their diverse, oftentimes international workforce. But it is important to recognize and appreciate that many employees have a different culture, a different language, and a unique way of understanding new information. Companies that focus on eLearning localization will satisfy their employees’ needs and improve performance. Fortunately for you, Ingenuiti is here to help.
Diversity is key to who we are at Ingenuiti and we see it as one of our critical strengths. Our multicultural team of experienced, native-speaking linguists understands the nuances of eLearning localization. We are well-versed not only in the specifics of language and culture, but also in the technical aspects of eLearning localization, including multilingual subtitling and voiceover, synchronization, language expansion, and Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) conformance. But most importantly, we understand that your employees are your biggest resource. By investing in your people today, you’lll be prepared for whatever challenges may come tomorrow.
Reach out to Ingenuiti today and let’s start localizing your eLearning programs.
1 Hoffer, Eric. “Reflections on the Human Condition.” 1973.
2, 7, 8, 9 Van Nuys, Amanda. “2021 Workplace Learning Report: Skill Building in the New World of Work.” Linkedin Learning, 2021. https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report
3 Hayakawa, Sakuri & Keysar, Boaz. “Using Foreign Languages Reduces Mental Imagery.” University of Chicago, Department of Psychology, 2018. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001002771730330X
4 Kinasevych, Orest. “The Effect of Culture on Online Learning.” 2010 https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED529665
5, 6, 10, 11 American Public Health Association. “Ensuring Language Justice in Occupational Safety and Health Training.” Nov 07, 2017. https://www.apha.org/Policies-and-Advocacy/Public-Health-Policy-Statements/Policy-Database/2018/01/18/Ensuring-Language-Justice
12, 13 Schulties, Gary. “The Importance Of ELearning Localization For The Success Of Your Global Training Program.” ELearning Industry, 6 Dec. 2019, elearningindustry.com/importance-of-elearning-localization-global-training.
In addition to: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/employment-and-growth/the-world-at-work