Securing a competitive edge through further education

The demand for advanced education is increasing, but is the investment in training and certification programs worth it? Today more than ever enterprises are spending money on the further education of their employees to increase their competitiveness in the market. In 2014 alone, €33.5 billion was spent on such measures in Germany and over $164 billion in the United States. This clearly indicates that employee education is increasingly being regarded as an integral component and a key driving force of corporate training and development strategies.

One trend is the increased interest in certifications associated with employee development to ensure that skills, abilities and knowledge learned through certification programs improve the productivity and efficiency of the business and meet the needs of individual career goals. For freelance professionals in the translation industry, it is a distinction that increases their marketability to attract clients and open doors to new business opportunities. But probably most significantly, companies that invest in translation services look for the highest quality return possible and will look at certifications as a way to identify and hire the best translation professionals.


Why certifications are important

for business growth

First, let’s understand why additional training and certification programs are important for translators and language service providers (LSPs). Most importantly, certificates provide proof of skills and knowledge that helps make translators and LSPs more marketable. In an extremely competitive environment, translators and LSPs have to constantly compete for work. Having a certification helps to differentiate them from others and gives them a leg up against the competition by becoming more knowledgeable and credible. For example, sponsored by the Global Translation Institute, The Certified Translation Professional (CTP) is a leading online training and certification program for translation professionals to help advance their careers and business interests resulting in a greater number of translation projects. The American Translators Association (ATA) also offers a certification exam that allows translators to demonstrate that they meet certain standards of the translation profession.

For LSPs and freelancers, certifications provide a way to boost résumés with upgraded abilities and diversified skill sets which gives them a competitive edge in the market. Having access to deeper knowledge, LSPs become more than just translation providers, they become credible professional sources that provide specialized knowledge and better services for customers. By knowing their work inside and out, specialists have an easier time selling services and can potentially charge higher rates. For example, LSPs that complete the Across certification program for language service providers come away with increased competence in using the Across Language Server.

Employees also benefit from training opportunities to help increase self-confidence and secure promotion opportunities that become available. From a company perspective continuing employee education makes business sense. Having highly skilled employees helps increase business performance, improve profitability, develop better customer service and ultimately provide a competitive advantage in the market. Incorporating training that develops employees increases job satisfaction, which improves productivity and retention.


What types of training options are best?

Although additional training renews knowledge and expands the skills and abilities of individuals who complete the training, it also involves time and commitment and many times is completed while working a full-time job. Fortunately, there are various forms of training that can help to increase capabilities, all with advantages for a learner to consider in choosing what is best. The most common options include:

Lectures, seminars and courses. Arguably the most common form of further education is the conventional face-to-face teaching method in a classroom environment. For many people, this interactive technique is the best way of learning, as the learning process takes place in a group and enables exchange and benchmarking with other participants. This method allows for immediate help and support with in-person instructors who can adapt quickly to the needs of the class and make the learning experience engaging for the participants.

eLearning. eLearning stands for “electronically supported learning” and is sometimes called online learning. This is where electronic and/or digital media is used to communicate, present and distribute material and content to learners. This option, which is similar to distance education, is especially popular with younger people. The multimedia capabilities of eLearning differs from distance learning in that it enables interactivity, and learning with modern communication media such as discussion boards, emails and chat.

Distance education. Distance education is a self-study option like eLearning where the teacher and the learners are entirely or mostly physically separated. With distance learning, there may not be a specific teacher, but instead a student will complete work independently and send it in for evaluation and grading. The advantage for the learner is the individual, flexible timing.

Training on the job. This means that employees participate in an additional training within their own work environment and can use the tools necessary for their role and have access to experienced employees. This can be organized flexibly and enables the employee to get additional training for his job at his usual place of work. One of the biggest advantages to this method is that the employees are working as they are learning, which can be more productive and cost effective; however there is not typically a “certificate” involved for proof of learning.

In evaluating what method of delivery to choose, it is important to conduct a needs analysis to determine the purpose of the course, learning goals of the program, skills of the instructor and the expectations of the learners. Regardless of the training technique used, coursework needs to be aligned to the organization’s strategic goals and what a learner needs to know on the job.


What to look for in a

certification program

On the downside, further education can be time-consuming and expensive. Some programs can come across as too theoretical, with not enough emphasis on experience-based content that can be applied in a business environment. In addition, some certification programs may be considered “shady” or “worthless” and have a bad reputation in the industry.

From an employer standpoint, a company could assume the cost of training, pay for the employee training time and still bear the risk that the employee is merely planning his or her next career step in another company instead of using the knowledge in daily operations.

These things may cause you to rethink whether or not to make the investment in a certification program. Strategic planning becomes critical in (1) defining which trainings and certifications are necessary to support individual improvement goals and corporate strategy as well as (2) properly choosing and evaluating further trainings or certification options that provide real knowledge and qualification.

There are many things to consider when defining and evaluating training options. Here are some questions that will help in identifying the best trainings and certifications:

Is the training offered by a renowned provider?

Are references offered?

Is the lecturer/trainer known and experienced?

Are the goals of the training measure defined precisely enough to enable the result to be reviewed later on?

Are the seminar contents described in detail?

Is the planned duration of the event reasonable under consideration of the material to be conveyed?

Is the planned number of participants reasonable under consideration of the seminar contents and methods?

Is the participation subject to certain conditions (skills, experience, function in the company)?

Will a certificate of participation or examination be provided?

Which additional benefits (such as logo) will be provided?


Evaluating success

One of the best ways to measure the effectiveness of training is to understand how behavior is influenced. This involves evaluating how quickly and effectively the transfer of acquired training knowledge can be applied to daily work, resulting in improved performance. However, if there is no post-processing of training, then content learned can be easily forgotten. Also, many times, learners feel they don’t have time to implement their newly acquired skills. To circumvent these types of situations, learners need to take training seriously, fully concentrate on the material and be clear about how to fit this new expertise into their work day. To be successful, they need to establish an action plan for implementation and be able to make a real time connection between the coursework and the workplace.

There is also the danger that the training will lack relevance. To counteract this situation, a training program should be evaluated based on what will actually be provided and the expected results. Talking to others who have taken a particular training or reading reviews can help you learn firsthand from others’ experiences what results have been achieved with a particular training provider and whether or not this training will suit your needs.

Ultimately, measuring if the return on your training investment is “worth it” can be determined by whether or not real value is achieved. Real value comes down to whether or not the training is useful, increases proficiencies and is able to be applied on the job. It is also attained by promoting good employees and ensuring they stay with your company for a long time. The value of a certification can also increase your brand image, leading to more customers.

How to supercharge

your marketing efforts

You are now a bona fide specialist with more in-depth knowledge. Now that you are on the forefront of industry knowledge and will be in greater demand and can command higher fees, it is time to market your new expert status to get more customers.

Marketing is a great way to gain visibility with your prospects and grow your business and there are several ways you can leverage your certificate to accomplish this. Forbes magazine classified “transparency” as the most important marketing tool of 2015; however, very few brands are taking advantage of this. Consumers are demanding credible service providers and will feel more comfortable buying services and are more likely to become long-standing customers when they buy from those professionals and companies they deem to be credible.

Remember, the translation business is very competitive and the best way to stand out from competitors and to create a memorable impression with prospects and customers is to have a well-constructed marketing strategy. Since many customers will check how competent a freelancer or company is in a particular subject area, a marketing campaign that communicates your certification can help provide this “proof” of expertise, make your knowledge transparent for your customers and increase customer trust and security.

There are many ways translators and companies can use certificates as a marketing instrument. To do this effectively, you need to be able to describe the value your additional training provides to your target market. A quick review of basic economics can help. Understanding the diffeence in your industry between a want versus a need will help you create a marketing message that will resonate with your target market.

A need is something you have to have, like water. You need it to survive. A want is something you would like to have, such as wine; wine is not necessary to live. So the trick here is to clearly articulate what benefits you are providing to your target market. What does your target market “have to have”? In the translation industry that could be quality, efficiency and reliability, among other things. How does your additional training help with this?

Once you have established your unique value proposition, you can then determine the best way to communicate your message. The following are various creative marketing techniques you can use to help differentiate yourself and your company from your competitors.

Include credentials on your website. In today’s world, the first place people will look to find out additional information about your business is via your website, so take advantage of this chance to share this information with your website visitors and include certificate designations and logos on your website. You can also provide links to the training provider to give interested persons detailed information about the expertise you acquired through this additional education.

Update your email signature. Don’t miss the opportunity to add your certificate credentials on your email signature. This is a great way to reinforce your expertise with everyone you correspond with via email.

Write a press release. A press release can help you become easier to find through search engine optimization and can be shared on your website and on social media. To write a powerful press release, include a brief description of the training program with the schedule and subjects covered, share special features such as qualification exams and communicate how the customer benefits because you have this additional expertise.

Blog. In terms of search engine rankings, blogging is a way for you to add more content to your site. This improves organic search visibility and increases website traffic which in turn can increase conversion rates. You can write a blog article to reach your customers or potential new customers. A blog can share a story about your experience, what you learned and how your customers benefit. The best part is you can share your blog on your website as well as on social media. These stories can also be used to pitch to the media.

Interact on social media. Social media is a fantastic way to increase your exposure to thousands of people very quickly in many ways. For business purposes, LinkedIn is the best option. With over 364 million members, LinkedIn is the most popular business social media network out there with many ways you can leverage transparency and demonstrate you are a credible service provider. First, update all your social media profiles with your certification designation, then share an update with your connections. You can also participate in group discussions. This is just a start. There are a lot of ways to get more involved on LinkedIn to build relationships and increase business opportunities.

Update your business cards. Don’t forget to add your certification on your business cards. Again, it is another way to distinguish yourself from competitors. This is especially useful when you are in a networking situation. If someone meets you and others at a networking event and later refers to your business card, your certification designation could help differentiate you from others.

Create powerful profiles on online search directories. If you are on any online search directories for freelancers, like, you typically have the option to create a profile. It is imperative that you include any reference to advanced training and education on your profile to attract interested parties. People who use these sites to find freelancers need a way to qualify and select potential candidates, so use this as a way to stand apart from your competitors and increase the chances that you will get contacted.

Utilize email marketing. Email marketing is a great way to communicate with your customers and prospects quickly and provides you with a way to build rapport and direct your readers to key content. It doesn’t take much time to send personalized messages to your contact database. Plus you can track the response rate and user engagement. Use this cost-effective tool to keep your business top-of-mind by sharing relevant information, such as the ways you can add additional value through your new designation.

Marketing gives your business a way to communicate with your prospects, share your voice and personality, build up trust and increase your brand visibility. The results of successful marketing include increased customer and prospect trust, more inquiries, website visits and business opportunities.

Advanced learning enables learners to acquire new skills and knowledge that can be applied on the job to add value for employers and customers. For LSPs and freelancers, certification programs provide a great way to provide evidence of expert knowledge and can increase credibility in the market. The biggest advantage to continuing education is the ability to become more marketable, stay ahead of competitors, keep existing customers and attract new prospects.