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National Restaurant Association - 9 tips to determine what documents to translate

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9 tips to determine what documents to translate

The cost of translating documents can add up, especially for smaller restaurant companies on limited budgets. So it’s important to be strategic about which to translate, says Doug Gammon, vice president, human resources and training, Black Angus Steakhouse, Los Altos, Calif.

Check with your attorney about which documents to translate, says Johanna Rivera, human resources director for Anaheim, Calif.-based Polly’s Pies. Rivera, who is bilingual and has a minor in Spanish, translates many documents in-house. But she relies on a translation service for specific legal documents, such as the arbitration agreement. She also outsources the employee handbook and policies on sexual harassment, meal and rest periods, and meal waivers.

Pay attention to new laws and regulations that affect your employees, such as the Affordable Care Act, says Patricia Clay of Morningside Translations in San Francisco. Depending on the law or regulation, you’ll be required to communicate certain information to employees in a language they understand, she says.  

Use in-house translators to summarize legalese. Rivera creates short letters to explain legal documents in simple terms and attaches them to translated materials, such as the arbitration agreement and sexual harassment policy. Legal jargon is hard enough to understand for native speakers, Clay says.

Likewise, she highlighted key changes about health care benefits in a memo during open enrollment. “We communicate these changes to our general managers, but sometimes the information doesn’t trickle down.” She attached the memo to paychecks so employees knew to call her with any questions.

Protect yourself. Add a disclaimer to legal documents that states they have been translated. The disclaimer should note that the English version is the official document for legal purposes, says Susan Schultz says, founder of Strictly Spanish, a translation company based in Murrells Inlet, S.C.

Consider translating employee-satisfaction surveys into other languages. It’s just as important to get input from all employees, not just fluent English speakers, Susana Schultz says. That’s how you can find out why employees choose to stay or why they would leave. And it helps employees recognize that employers appreciate them: “Satisfied employees work harder and better,” Schultz says. Similarly, many companies create Spanish versions on their employee newsletters to show they value them, says Strictly Spanish co-founder Lon Schultz.

Start small. For companies with limited resources, Lon Schultz suggests starting with employee evaluations and job descriptions. Spell out the expectations of the job so you and the employee have a mutual understanding of what the job entails.

Don’t overlook free resources. Many health care providers offer translations on their websites, Gammon says. For example, employees simply click on the word “Espanol” on the Anthem Blue Cross site to read about Black Angus health care benefits in Spanish. Many government forms also come in several languages, Susana Schultz points out.

Check with your suppliers. “Many of your vendors have stuff that’s translated, and they’re happy to share,” Gammon says. “And it doesn’t cost you a nickel.” For example, the company that supplies soap for Black Angus dish machines has chemical sheets in Spanish as well as English.

Consult ServSafe.com to determine which languages are available for your food safety, responsible alcohol and allergen training materials.

Common documents restaurant companies translate:

  • Notices about company events, especially employee-appreciation events
  • 401K plan/form
  • Build charts (for sandwiches, burgers, etc.)
  • Employee benefits enrollment forms
  • Employee handbook
  • Employee satisfaction surveys
  • Explanation of drug-testing policy and procedure
  • E-learning materials
  • Food safety training
  • Franchise training material
  • Menu boards
  • Newsletters
  • Performance review forms (and explanation of procedures)
  • Procedural manuals
  • Recipes
  • Safety training
  • Sexual harassment training and policy
  • Sick-leave policy

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