So you’ve just found out that your company is going to be inspected by an international audit team and are wondering how you can solve the communications challenges.
Here are our five top tips for making sure things go smoothly from a language point of view.
- Gather as Much Information as Possible
It may be stating the obvious but as soon as possible, find out exactly what the language requirements are. What language does the auditor speak? Is there a particular dialect, for example, do they need South American Spanish rather than European? How many people are needing language support? Are they bringing their own interpreter or expecting you to provide this service?
Don’t leave this as an afterthought, no matter how ground breaking your product is or how efficient your work processes are, if you auditors can’t fully understand, it will be harder for them to make their assessment.
- Think About What You Need Them to Do
If you plan and work in partnership with your chosen interpreters, they will be an invaluable part of the team during the audit process.
Think carefully in advance, what do you need them to do while they are with you? Without doubt, they will be conveying information between your staff and their auditors and helping you understand and answer questions. However, do you need them to do more: will they need to read and site translate written materials such as test results or patient notes?
Remember to mention this when initially discussing your choice of interpreter so that you can make sure you have someone who is experienced and flexible enough to cope with these multiple demands. You need to ensure that they have the relevant language skills but can also demonstrate knowledge of your industry and a track record in auditing assignments.
- Set a Realistic Budget
How much value do you place on passing this audit? An excellent interpreter is not cheap but they will make your company appear professional and help fulfil your audit process – this undoubtedly represents value for money.
Make sure you budget for all costs including interpreting, overtime for any work needed outside normal business hours and also travel, accommodation and subsistence. If your auditors are going to split meetings or different sites, you need to ensure you cover any concurrent projects so may need one than one interpreter to do this.
Normally teams are quite small but if you have more than three people needing language assistance and the environment is particularly noisy, such as a factory floor or testing site, you may want to consider a portable kit with headphones. An interpreter can only work efficiently if they can clearly see and hear all the discussions taking place.
And remember by following tip one and planning well ahead of time you can make your budget go further by making saving on early bookings for travel and accommodation. It also means that you have a better choice of interpreters closer to home rather than having to source interpreters from further afield.
- Think About the Practicalities
Planning and briefing are the key words here; again, you will reap the benefits of thinking ahead. It is likely that you are dealing with a highly technical subject and no doubt, you have your own specialist terms and acronyms. Help your interpreter prepare by providing as much background information as possible and at least the documents for discussion.
You may also want to consider a short briefing by telephone before the actual start date as well as building in time on the first morning to go over the key points and aims of the visit.
If you have a site where safety equipment is required, check in advance whether the interpreter has safety shoes and clothing or whether you need to make these available.
Interpreting is an incredibly demanding job so remember to look after your investment, in this case your interpreter! Make sure they have regular breaks throughout the day, a decent place to stay and time on at least some of the evenings to take a break from the project. A well-rested and properly prepared interpreter will offer better quality, more consistent interpreting.
- Consult an Expert
In some cases, it can save time and money to consult an expert. Just as you are dealing with your own product on a daily basis, we are helping companies with audits and visits around the world so please feel free to tap into this knowledge. Having seen many projects in practice, we know what works well, the questions to ask and the pitfalls to avoid.
We work regularly with specialist interpreters across Europe, Russia, the US and Asia on manufacturing visits, chemical and pharmaceutical audits and have an extensive resource network.
A recent project saw us assist with a series of source data verification audits across 19 sites in Russia and Eastern Europe. After initial discussions with the client, we took on the whole of the selection process and the planning and operations for the extensive team of interpreters involved.
The auditors travelled from the US, UK and European and over a three-month period, we facilitated communication between them and the on-site staff whose native languages included Bosnian/Serbian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Russian and Ukrainian. Their main task was to assist with the review of written trial results and making sure the auditors could ask questions to get information to validate the study.
In each small team, everyone was working long hours to meet exacting deadlines. A large part of the project’s success was down to getting the details right in advance. As above, interpreters were selected on language ability, subject knowledge and previous experience. This allowed them to pre-empt requirements and work in conjunction with the auditor to create a time efficient processes. We also took on as many operational tasks as possible including budgeting, making travel arrangements and briefing the interpreting teams.
In a slightly different context, the celebrated paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey is quoted as saying, “I never felt interpretation was my job” – I beg to differ in an audit situation where helping others communicate is the key to success, “I always feel interpretation is our job”.