The State of Hiring
and Retaining Talent

by Annette Hemera, Claire Brovender Liliedahl, and Marcia Sweezey

Everybody already knows that language services providers (LSPs) are growing rapidly, and like many industries today, there are more job openings in the localization industry than there are qualified people to fill them. We recently heard that there are two jobs for every unemployed person in the US. That alone carries a pretty big wow factor. Now, if only all those unemployed people had localization skills: production, engineering, sales. They’re needed everywhere.

As recruiters, we often hear from our clients about who they need to hire, the struggles they are experiencing hiring, and what they are doing to retain their current staff. We also work across the aisle, and, likewise, we hear a lot from candidates about what they are looking for and why they may be leaving their current roles.

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Hiring Needs

At our company, we work with both LSPs and clients in technology, life sciences, and multimedia industries. Although their needs are all slightly different, as you’d expect, there is abundant overlap in the skill sets of the people they want to hire. With a few broad strokes, following are where we see the biggest needs.

Sales

Across the board, tech and service companies are looking for localization-experienced sales people, with language tech companies wanting Software as a Service (SaaS) experience, in addition to industry sales knowledge. Experience in a particular vertical is now more “nice to have,” with even a little loosening in the life sciences and legal verticals.

With the last two years of work from home, we have seen an increase in interpretation technology platforms as well. SaaS plays heavily here, as does artificial intelligence (AI) and machine translation (MT). Sales people with these skills are difficult to find in our industry, so competition is high. Adding to this competitive nature, these skills are in demand outside of localization, and we have lost more than one candidate to the software industry this year.

On average, we are seeing a $10,000 increase in base pay to candidates, bringing the average base pay for sales people in this industry to $85-$125K in the US and higher for SaaS-knowledgeable sales people, who are also attractive to the tech industry. Although more junior sales candidates with lower base pay exist, there aren’t many of them in localization. Commission plans are still spread across a 5-10% range on average for new logos — and everyone wants a hunter!

Production and Solutions Folks

This is an area with greater overlap, and the skill set of candidates has vastly expanded over the last few years. Project management skills now include media, community, and technology experience that has been driven by the corporate social media landscape expansion. Skills in voice recordings, multilingual voice recognition, subtitling and media localization, text to speech, speech training, and video analysis, to name some, are all on the rise in language services and corporate settings.

Individuals with knowledge of technology and their ability to demonstrate such knowledge command higher salaries. SaaS, AI, and MT knowledge lead candidates into the language industry from the software industry but are also paths out of the language industry for our candidates.

What’s Coming

If there is one area in technology where we see the most growth, it’s AI. It is increasingly in everything and used everywhere, from robotics, image processing, computer vision, chatbots, natural language processing, gesture control, speech recognition, and more.

The use of AI tools and technologies has heavily dominated the localization and LSP industry, and AI has been an active part of localization practices for many years now. CAT and MT tools might be considered early, less advanced versions of AI. AI has become a crucial and inevitable part of the value chain, and it is reshaping the industry. It has a significant impact on the Iron Triangle of project management: the way we make the most of time, money, and quality.

There is a growing demand for localization talent to reach maximum efficiency with the help of AI. Many of the larger software, social media, and technology companies are currently searching for talent in the AI space: Amazon, Apple, Google, META. Many of the smaller service providers and clients have not yet hired for these skills. Both candidates and service providers (LSPs and end clients) need to identify and develop knowledge and skill sets to be able to successfully compete with the help of these technologies.

Some typical profiles we are seeing more of with the larger clients are: AI project manager, speech-recognition engineer, solutions engineer – AI, product owner – AI, machine-learning data analyst, deep-learning engineer (speech to text), language specialist, AI/machine learning specialist, voice-building engineer, research scientist in speech and audio, transcriptionist, NLP engineer, conversation designer, machine-learning engineer, speech-recognition editor, and more.

  • Typical AI-related skills include:
  • Knowledge of phonetics, phonology, sociolinguistics, dialectology, and other areas of linguistics.
  • Ability to analyze waveforms and spectrograms.
  • Knowledge of prescriptive writing and punctuation conventions for at least one language.
  • Knowledge in transcription and annotation systems such as SAMPA, IPA, and ToBI.
  • Programming languages: Python, R, Java, C++, and more.
  • Linear algebra and statistics, signal-processing techniques, and neural-network architectures.

Retaining Talent

So, what should employers do in this market to attract and, more importantly, retain the great talent you already have? Those companies experiencing less turnover are doing one very important thing right: communicating — in both directions. Open communications — with a sense of transparency — creates trust. Although this won’t keep every employee in place, it will go a long way to helping you maintain your best employees.

People are motivated by different things, but understanding these motivations allows you, as an employer, to make adjustments that meet people’s needs. In our discussions with candidates, here are the main points of concern and interest:

  • Money — perceived fair pay, commissions, bonuses.
  • Benefits — remote work opportunities, healthcare, dental, vision, and other insurances, educational benefits, retirement funds, etc.
  • Time off — vacation, personal days, sick time, bonus days, holidays.
  • Learning opportunities — training, seminars, conferences, online classes, webinars, meet ups.
  • Company events — one-on-one with the boss, company events.
  • Recognition — publicly or privately acknowledged monetary or any of the above perks.
  • Growth opportunities — chance to start as a junior and advance to a senior position.

When we work with candidates, these are the main areas of concern that we hear about, with compensation and benefits, specifically the ability to work remotely some or all of the time, as the top motivating factors. These are the reasons why candidates consider leaving their current jobs and why they accept another job offer, where they perceive the above will be better.

We see expanding needs for employees with advanced skills who can walk right into defined roles with little to no training. On the other side of the coin, we see a need for LSPs and clients to practice more flexibility when hiring, such as looking at soft skills — eagerness to contribute and learn, basic technical and programmatic knowledge, cultural fit — which will enable faster hiring, but also require more training of qualified junior and crossover candidates. A conundrum, indeed, and an opportunity for growth.

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Claire Brovender Liliedahl is a technology product and programs marketing specialist. In the early ‘90s, she managed a translation program into French, Spanish, and Japanese for a mid-sized networking company. In 1995, Claire switched careers to staffing and recruiting. She joined Anzu Global in 2013, with a focus on globalization staffing for LSPs and clients.

Marcia Sweezey has a globalization career spanning two decades. She was one of the pioneers to first define, implement, and measure the impact of internationalization on localization costs and times. Since then, Marcia built localization teams for Kronos and Teradata, introduced machine translation at Amazon and currently works for Anzu Global as a globalization talent recruiter.

Annette Hemera has 20+ years of localization experience including roles as project, vendor, and account manager and eight years of localization industry recruitment experience. She worked successfully in hiring for the US, APAC, and Europe for several American and European MLVs and enterprise translation software companies. Annette is based out of sunny California.

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