We live in a time of great change, where we seem to be in an ever expanding digital world, where increasingly everything is connected, instantaneous and involves interaction through digital platforms. There is an explosion of information like we have never seen before in the history of mankind.
Based on the studies on digital data volumes conducted by IDC and EMC Corporation the following facts emerge:
From 2013 to 2020, the digital universe will grow by a factor of 10 – from 4.4 trillion gigabytes to 44 trillion. It more than doubles every two years. Experts suggest that this data deluge is equivalent to the industrial revolution in overall impact, and that we are moving to what Craig Mundie, former head of research and strategy at Microsoft calls a “data-centered economy”. He suggests we are at the nascent stage and that the infrastructural and business models for this new world are not well understood and are just being formed.
A time of Multidimensional Change
A Content Explosion Across The Globe that is Increasingly Digital
The Emergence of Social Media and Social Networking as Business Drivers and Influencers
New Open Innovation & Collaboration Business Models
The Increasing Importance of Technology & Automation
Rising Asian & Emerging Markets Changing Global Enterprise Priorities
So while we see that so much commerce today is increasingly driven and triggered by personalized data on our favorite places on the internet, this technology also makes it easier for people to connect all over the world. Though some B2C products need little direct human interaction to enable frequent and regular business flows to happen, driven only by personalized information and fast web access, setting these global transactions in motion always requires humans to connect first. This is especially true in B2B business relationships, where it is necessary to have regular face-to-face contact, at least in the beginning phases as business partnerships are being built. First, in-person meetings have been found to increase rapport and empathy, facilitating cooperation and enhancing bonds between the parties.
In a global, increasingly digital and mobile economy, it is not uncommon for employees to travel domestically and across international borders frequently, to conduct company business. The fact is that most business trips are completed successfully and without any untoward incidents. Nonetheless, the more that senior management, key persons, key business relationship developers, and other employees travel, the greater their potential exposure to illnesses, accidents and other risks, which always are a possibility in the modern day, especially in travel related to emerging economies and markets.
When one considers that the world is changing and the digital universe is changing the risks for these business travelers is even more evident.
Between 2013 and 2020 the division of the digital universe between mature and emerging markets (e.g., China) will switch – from 60% accounted for by mature markets to 60% of the data in the digital universe coming from emerging markets. What this also means is that new and different languages become increasingly important e.g. the languages most widely spoken in fast-growing emerging markets. Some examples of the important new languages include Brazilian Portuguese, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Indonesian, Malay, Chinese, Swahili, Xhosa, and Filipino.
In a recent report from April 2017, McKinsey points out that there are three geographic entities – India, China, and Africa – in which urbanization is empowering populations that exceed one billion people, and a fourth, Southeast Asia, with more than half a billion. Together, these enormous ICASA (India, China, Africa, and Southeast Asia) markets hold the potential for significant continued expansion and changing geopolitical power. ICASA countries/regions will most likely be the key drivers of global business and globalization. These markets are urbanizing very quickly, leapfrogging dated technology still used in many OECD countries, and have young populations that are increasingly globally connected. A brand-conscious middle class is emerging, and as this continues, so too will demand for diverse goods and services that originate from both inside and outside their home markets.
Thus, given the need to travel, to build, drive and generate new global business initiatives, companies must send key employees to distant locales to build continuing business momentum. When employees travel for business, whether this is within the U.S. or to an unfamiliar location far from home, they generally have many concerns on their minds. This includes the business mission of the trip and considerations on how it can be concluded successfully. In the back of the business traveler’s mind is often some concern over the possibility of becoming sick or injured and not knowing where to turn to for help.
Business travel is as varied and different as the travelers themselves. Some stays are overnight, while others may last up to months. It is important and, in many cases, an essential action to enable business growth and stability. Perhaps this is so because, it contains the one thing technology has not been able to replace yet, human contact.
Travel in the modern era is generally reliable and safe, but even in the best-planned cases, accidents can happen. International travelers, in particular, are especially vulnerable as there is a greater unpredictability in logistics and even in the availability of basic services. Corporations that send employees out on their behalf should take care and precautions, since employee protection may be viewed broadly under the umbrella of Duty of Care, which enforces legal obligations on organizations to safeguard their employees’ welfare.
So what can go wrong for a modern business traveler?
- Logistic Problems: Weather, flight cancellation, missed connections
- Medical Issues: Traveler’s insomnia, respiratory problems, and skin problems
- Medical Emergency: Serious medical conditions aggravated by travel e.g. heart and medication treatment based mishaps where a traveler may lose medications resulting in life-threatening situations
- Traffic Accidents: This can range from minor fender benders in international locales, to serious accidents that result in significant physical and bodily injury
- Theft & Identity Theft: Apart from luggage and personal belongings, personal digital identity and important company secrets contained on digital devices can also be stolen in public wi-fi locations.
- Acts of Nature: This could include things like flood, fire, and quakes but nowadays this could also include acts of terrorism that are an increasing and unfortunate facet of modern day travel.
The Multilingual Challenge
In all of the above situations except for the very first one perhaps, there are likely to be multilingual issues. These issues are faced by one or all of the following players:
- The business traveler
- The corporation that sent the employee out to a distant locale on company related business travel
- The insurance company that may be involved in protecting the company and the traveler in the event of serious mishaps
Some actual scenarios make the communication challenges quite clear.
- A business traveler has a serious medical emergency while in a non-English speaking foreign country that requires a visit to a hospital emergency room. Subsequently, the traveler returns with incident related documentation that needs to be translated from the local language to enable processing. This can consist of receipts and discharge papers from the hospitals that detail the description of the incident, the status of the patient when admitted, diagnosis, the treatment and the recommendations that were provided by the medical staff to the patient (the traveler).
- A business traveler rents a car in a non-English speaking international locale, and is involved in a traffic accident which causes damage to the car and property close to the roadside. The traveler returns home with police reports, damage claims from the rental agency and the damaged property owner and receipts from vehicle repair shops.
- A business traveler has a company laptop and briefcase stolen from his hotel room while in a non-English speaking foreign country. The computer contains company confidential data and documents valued much higher than the PC itself. The traveler returns with police reports.
- A business traveler has serious damage or loss of luggage while traveling. He returns with baggage claim reports detailing the damage sustained by the luggage of a claimant during travel, and/or the loss of luggage and the detail of the value of the items in the bags. International airports will often file these reports in the local language.
In all of these situations, it is possible that a traveler will need language and translation assistance, to enable claim processing and also properly document the incident with his own company. The nature of the translation tasks are very specialized and can require many of the following skills:
- Make OPI (over the phone) interpreters available in real-time
- Handle incident related forms and content that may sometimes be hand-written in a foreign language
- Comply with insurance company claims procedures and rules
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