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  • Writer's pictureYelena McCafferty

Case study: why HR managers turn to independent interpreters

Over my interpreting career of over 20 years in the UK I have happened to interpret at various HR meetings, one involving an unusual task of conversing with an employee who was offered a promotion and whose Russian language skills I had to assess. The rest of the assignments were standard and were to do with disciplinary meetings, grievances or internal company investigations. Most jobs were at the client’s premises, but some were conducted remotely and even involved talking to company employees in various offices globally.

So why was I hired? Presumably, an international company would have Russian-speaking staff to interpret for the managers, I hear you ask.

My clients understood the importance of getting an independent interpreter for several reasons. Firstly, an independent interpreter can ensure that there is accurate and unbiased communication between the HR representative and the foreign employee. This is particularly essential when discussing sensitive topics such as workplace grievances, warnings or contract termination.

One of the benefits of professional interpreters is they can mitigate any potential cultural barriers that may arise during a meeting which in itself can get quite tense. In this instance it is appropriate for the interpreter to clarify any misunderstandings based on cultural differences. In my experience I have had to explain why some Christians, especially of the Orthodox denomination, would refuse to take off their crucifix necklace in the workplace. For Orthodox Christians a crucifix protects them from all sorts of evil, which may include accidents at work.

An independent interpreter can also help to establish trust and confidence. Just imagine the situation if the interpreter were an employee of the company. It’s quite likely that the foreign employee would be hesitant to share sensitive information or express their concerns fully for a fear of gossip or retaliation. Instead, an interpreter – a new person who comes to the premises for the sole purpose of aiding communication – can help to create a safe and neutral space for a meaningful discussion.

Additionally, by engaging an independent interpreter the employer can ensure that the foreign employee definitely understands the rights and responsibilities in the workplace. If the HR manager conducts the meeting in a language the foreign employee does not fully understand, there is a risk of legal or regulatory issues.

Most companies strive to earn the reputation as inclusive employers and even be recognised in excellence awards, so ensuring accurate and unbiased communication, establishing trust and confidence, enforcing worker rights and responsibilities are some of the cornerstones an independent interpreter can help them to achieve.

[Tip: if you require a Russian interpreter for your meetings, please email us or call 0207 0436940 to discuss. We can also recommend interpreters in other languages who you can contact directly.]

HR meetings can get quite tense and an independent interpreter can help to create an atmosphere of impartiality.



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