In this age of advanced technology, machine learning, neural networks, computerised translation and big data, there are plenty of companies out there touting high tech solutions that supposedly replace the need for surveys. However, the right survey can produce powerful insights into a business, helping it to operate in a way that results in happier employees, more satisfied customers and greater cost efficiency in business processes.
Surveys are valuable. When a company asks the right questions in the right ways – and then maximises its use of the resulting responses – meaningful change can occur. We’re going to look at an example from the translation industry, as we explore how beneficial an insightful employee survey can be.
Surveying a translation agency effectively
Firstly, let’s just clear up some terminology. Employee surveys used to be just that – a process of gaining data and insights from those on the company payroll. In this day and age, the definition of an ‘employee’ can be a flexible concept. Indeed, even before the COVID-19 pandemic kickstarted a homeworking revolution, both freelancing and working from home (and often both at the same time), were already well-established concepts around the world.
The translation sector, for example, has been working with freelance translators for years. Many of these freelancers are based in different countries to the agency and may well never meet those they work for in person. Yet they are just as essential to the company’s continued performance and survival as those whose roles do come with an allocated desk.
Suffice it to say that, in our translation services example, freelance translators are encompassed under the broad label of ‘employees’ for the sake of company surveys!
Translation agency example: Tomedes
The agency we’re using as an example today is Tomedes – an established localization and translation agency that has been operating around the world for the past 13 years. The Tomedes team includes freelance translators from across the globe, many of whom have worked with the company for years.
One of the ways that the company supports the building of long-term relationships with its translators is to provide regular, engaging content that is relevant to the work that its freelancers undertake. It does this through the ‘Tomedes Hub’ – a blog that delivers detailed weekly articles on topics relating to translation, localization, interpretation and language more generally.
Respecting translation professionals’ availability
It was through the hub that the company reached out to its translators. How do you survey employees? There are plenty of options out there. Tomedes needed a simple, reliable site that provided it with the functionality that it required without costing the Earth. A link on the hub page took its translation team to the survey site, which collected and collated results so that Tomedes could then interrogate the data.
Interestingly, rather than running one lengthy survey, Tomedes split its questions up into weekly or two-weekly campaigns. The company focused on a single translation-related question per week (or per fortnight).
Keeping it short and sweet
When examining reasons why people don’t finish surveys, datagame listed overly long surveys as its top reason. The company advises that, “You will achieve a better response rate by issuing two or three short surveys rather than one long, time-consuming survey.”
This was precisely the approach that Tomedes took. It recognised that translators are busy people and that freelancers in particular don’t have time to squander. By factoring this into its survey process, the company enjoyed healthy engagement rates.
Survey example one – translation and motivation
One of the Tomedes surveys that generated the most responses was the company’s question on freelance translators’ motivations. Tomedes simply asked: Why did you become a freelance translator?
The aim of the question was to provide a better understanding of the motivations of those who translated for Tomedes – which it certainly did.
The company found that 50% of those who translate freelance do so due to their love of language. 23% are in it for the flexible working hours, while just 16% cited money as their top priority. A further 11% of freelance translators chalked their career choice up to mere circumstance.
Of course, asking the right questions and generating responses is only half of the process when it comes to surveys. The other half is what you do with the results. In the case of Tomedes, the company used the findings to reshape the focus of the content on its hub page. Article topics were selected with a much greater awareness of the fact that the company’s translators prioritise their love of language more than money. In the past few months, traffic to the hub has tripled.
Survey example two – practical translation insights
Another employee survey that Tomedes used to good effect was: How many words can you translate on a really good day? This wasn’t about finding out how many words certain individuals could translate, but about achieving a more general insight into industry averages.
The results showed that the majority of translators (36%) translate 1,500-3,000 words per day when performing at their best. A further 26% can translate between 3,000 and 5,000 words per day, while 17% of respondents revealed that they can translate upwards of 5,000 words on a good day. The remaining 21% translate fewer than 1,500 words per day.
The survey highlighted the huge range in translation pace that exists. It allowed Tomedes to understand its translators in a different light, as well as providing useful data in terms of mapping out timescales for translation clients’ jobs.
Using translation survey data
Tomedes also used the survey results from both of the examples that we have detailed here as the basis of content for its blog. The company also issued the translators’ motivations results as part of a press release, highlighting the versatility that the right survey can provide. Those using the hub enjoyed unique insights into their industry, while Tomedes gained content that it could use as part of its external public relations activities, as well as to shape the way it conducted aspects of its business.
There are certain key strategies that Tomedes employed here in order to use surveys so effectively. Keeping its surveys short and sweet – usually only a single question – meant that it didn’t rack up a stack of unfinished responses. By posting surveys regularly, the company also built up momentum, with freelancers knowing they could expect a new survey question every week or two.
Turning translation survey results into business insights
Sharing the results of the surveys was another important step. Showing those using the Tomedes Hub that their participation was valued and that the company was working positively with the data provided encouraged further engagement.
Ultimately, Tomedes used the survey process to drive insights into its business that it would not otherwise have had. The more a business understands about itself, the better it has the potential to be. In discussing the results of the survey on translators’ motivations, Tomedes CEO Ofer Tirosh commented:
“We wanted to find out what motivates our translators to do what they do. There are a lot of assumptions made about freelancers, but data in this field is still in its infancy, so we wanted to compare the reality with what people assume.”
This desire to cut through assumptions and uncover real data is one of the cornerstones of the survey industry. It’s why businesses will always need to use surveys if they wish to be the best that they can be.
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