Productivity quota for in-house position?
Thread poster: Anne Rueppell

Anne Rueppell
Local time: 18:47
English to German
+ ...
Oct 5, 2015

Hi everyone,
Has anyone ever heard of agreeing to a productivity quota, i.e. guaranteeing that you can/will translate x words/day or edit x words/day as part of a salary negotiation for a full time position?
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 08:47
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Thai, Indian and Philippine agencies Oct 5, 2015

Anne Rueppell wrote:

Has anyone ever heard of agreeing to a productivity quota, i.e. guaranteeing that you can/will translate x words/day or edit x words/day as part of a salary negotiation for a full time position?
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

I was contacted by Thai, Indian and Philippine agencies for in-house position. When I discussed with them on minimum job volumes and/or labor hours, they disappeared. I understood that they might advertise for attractive job offers [e.g. with 10 million word jobs and unclear time duration] but could not actually guarantee the revenue levels of the one translator they expected to hire.
I have my minimum job productivity for employment negotiation.
I recommend you to have discussion in detail before accepting the in-house position.

Soonthon L.


 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:47
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Für nichts garantieren Oct 5, 2015

Hi Anne,

First of all I hope you got my Wir Sind Helden referenceicon_wink.gif

Anyway it's not clear to me if you are asking whether it is normal for a company offering an in-house position to expect you to guarantee x amount of words per day, or if you are asking whether it is appropriate for you as the potential employee to guarantee x amount of words per day as a sort of 'ace' card for negotiating a higher salary.

When I worked as an in-house translator, I worked under the agreement that I would try to translate 2000 words per day, but that the company understood that productivity would vary based on what was going on that day in the office or difficulty of the text being translated, etc. I know of other translation agencies that expected much higher numbers, but those were agencies that did not really care that much about quality, apparently.

What I would say is that it is probably not a good idea to 'guarantee' a certain number of words ever. Working in someone else's office will sometimes mean that your time is not your own. So while you may need to finish this file or that project by this date, you still have to attend that Monday meeting or go to that workshop, for example, which will cut into your time. Your colleagues will interrupt you more frequently, something unexpected will happen, the company's network will suddenly drop out and the IT department won't be able to fix it until 2pm, whatever. You won't be as free to refuse to translate certain texts.

Of course unexpected things and IT problems also occur when you work as a freelancer, but your time is much more your own, you are able to refuse texts that you know will take you longer to do, you can cherry pick the texts you work with and cherry pick the hours you work, which will ultimately boost your productivity. When you work for someone else, your time is not your own, the work you do is not always something you would choose to do voluntarily, and you have far more interruptions, so you may be able to agree to aim for x amount of words per day but I strongly advise against guaranteeing it.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:47
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Right Oct 5, 2015

Angela Rimmer wrote:

Hi Anne,

First of all I hope you got my Wir Sind Helden referenceicon_wink.gif

Anyway it's not clear to me if you are asking whether it is normal for a company offering an in-house position to expect you to guarantee x amount of words per day, or if you are asking whether it is appropriate for you as the potential employee to guarantee x amount of words per day as a sort of 'ace' card for negotiating a higher salary.

When I worked as an in-house translator, I worked under the agreement that I would try to translate 2000 words per day, but that the company understood that productivity would vary based on what was going on that day in the office or difficulty of the text being translated, etc. I know of other translation agencies that expected much higher numbers, but those were agencies that did not really care that much about quality, apparently.

What I would say is that it is probably not a good idea to 'guarantee' a certain number of words ever. Working in someone else's office will sometimes mean that your time is not your own. So while you may need to finish this file or that project by this date, you still have to attend that Monday meeting or go to that workshop, for example, which will cut into your time. Your colleagues will interrupt you more frequently, something unexpected will happen, the company's network will suddenly drop out and the IT department won't be able to fix it until 2pm, whatever. You won't be as free to refuse to translate certain texts.

Of course unexpected things and IT problems also occur when you work as a freelancer, but your time is much more your own, you are able to refuse texts that you know will take you longer to do, you can cherry pick the texts you work with and cherry pick the hours you work, which will ultimately boost your productivity. When you work for someone else, your time is not your own, the work you do is not always something you would choose to do voluntarily, and you have far more interruptions, so you may be able to agree to aim for x amount of words per day but I strongly advise against guaranteeing it.



Agree with every points you have made. I don't know if it is even legal to have a requirement of a minimum amount of work completed in a day on average in an office setting. This is because for a lot of posts such a requirement is barely possible. For example, how would you set a minimum amount of work for the security guard? If you cannot set an minimum requirement for all positions, why would you set one for the translator?

[Edited at 2015-10-05 07:08 GMT]


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:47
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
What can be measured will be managed Oct 5, 2015

Anne Rueppell wrote:
Has anyone ever heard of agreeing to a productivity quota, i.e. guaranteeing that you can/will translate x words/day or edit x words/day as part of a salary negotiation for a full time position?

Having had long experience of output quotas in a different industry, it is quite likely that this will be used as a stick to beat you at your periodic performance review, whether that be quarterly, half-yearly or yearly.

You may think you did a good job over the year. At your review you may push for a raise from your low starting salary. Your manager will make sympathetic noises, but point out that your "attainment ratio" was only 195 days out of 235. "You only hit 2,000 words per day for 83% of the year" she will sigh. "And other translators are generally close to 90%. I'd love to be able to help but as it stands..." You don't get the raise.

You will be unhappy but agree to aim at (say) 87% for next year. If you don't achieve that, you won't get the raise. However, if you DO achieve that 87%, there's a good chance that your manager will find something else wrong.

She may for example say "Ah, well, you hit your target, but everybody else performed better as well, so in relative terms you're no better than you were last year. It would be really difficult" she will continue sadly "not to say unfair, to reward only you and not the others and we just can't afford to give raises to everybody." And you won't get the raise.

Notice also - as Angela has commented in depth - that this kind of metric makes no allowances for the demands made by the text itself. It effectively forces the translator to commit to a goal the difficulty of attaining which cannot be accurately gauged in advance.

Suppose the firm wins a huge amount of business with a new client in a vertical market, perhaps an oil & gas pipeline firm with very demanding texts to translate. Let's further assume that the material is in your pair but not in one of your specialist areas.

If you're told to translate it, will you be able to maintain your guaranteed level of output? Even if you can't, how can you refuse such work without it being used against you during later reviews?

In theory, if it truly is a decent company the management will understand and allow for this. In my experience the reality is that companies that want this kind of guarantee want it for a reason, namely to use it as described above to avoid awarding raises or bonuses.

It's a brutal world.

Regards
Dan


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:47
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Sweat-shop? Oct 5, 2015

I'm sure such jobs exist, but I know I wouldn't want their salary, however high it is (and it's probably very low). Of course they want maximum productivity from you - they've invested in you and they expect a good ROI. But standing behind you with a metronome and a whip isn't the best way to go about it. People seem to forget that translating is an intellectual exercise. Translators must be allowed to cogitate and research. If that means staring up at the ceiling every so often then, however it seems, you're hard at work. Productivity must be based on quality at least as much as on quantity. Respect of deadlines is extremely important, but those deadlines must be realistic.

 

polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
agency or public/private enterprise ? Oct 5, 2015

If this post is in a big company or international organisation, it is not surprising that they want to set productivity targets. Most big firms do this for all their employees, so why should translators be an exception?

If it is an agency, I would tread very carefully, since there is no guarantee that they will have the requisite amount of work to give you in the first place! That said, one presumes that, if they are recruiting, they have sufficient work.

In big firms, productivity targets tend to be averaged out to allow for fluctuations in daily rates. They also want to be sure that you will put in the extra effort/hours if there is a rush job on or a vast workload to shift. These targets are usually negotiated with the employees' representatives.

I seem to remember being fixed productivity targets at one point in my career in in-house positions but the work kept flowing, we never missed deadlines, so it was purely academic in the end. Dan's warnings are, however, justified: not all employers are fair and even-handed.

Perhaps a few questions are in order about how the scheme is managed (averaged out or not, weekly, monthly or annual averages), purpose of the scheme, existence or not of bonuses for exceeding the targets, what happens if targets are not met through lack of workload, etc.

Working in-house has lots of advantages: you are paid a salary, your social contributions are paid, you have a regular income, you don't have to spend time on self-marketing, you may even have colleagues with whom you can interact and from whom you can learn, you have fixed hours (I could go on...). There has to be a downside somewhere.

So I would suggest you find out about the details of this productivity scheme by asking tactful questions and then weigh the answers in the balance against the advantages of an in-house position, as you see them.
HTH


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:47
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
watch out! Oct 5, 2015

Of course they want a minimum number of words a day. Otherwise they might lose money because your salary will be fixed.

However, you need to ask what happens when there are not enough words in your language combination/s and specialist subject/s. Will you be required to translate files in languages you don't really master or in subjects that you are largely ignorant of and definitely not interested in?

You might also want to ask whether some jobs will be counted simply in terms of wordcount or time spent. For example, if you're asked to do a test translation for a bid, you'll obviously want to spend extra time on it.
You might want to negotiate a bonus for bringing in contracts with your test, after all the sales guy will be getting his commission, why not you?

And you might need to point out that if you are required to attend meetings, use new software with or without training, brainstorm hard-hitting slogans for the agency in your native language etc etc, all that will eat into your translation time. If you only spend half the day actually translating your target should be halved accordingly.

It might well be worth keeping tabs on the work you're putting in too. I used to work as an in-house translator and was accused of not hitting the (unofficial) target. It turned out that my boss had forgotten to factor in the fact that I did not work full time (funnily enough, he never forgot at pay-time). It further turned out that project managers were not bothering to do POs for my work, so that it looked like they were generating higher margins. And if they did a PO, they would not put the full wordcount. Partial matches were considered to be "proofreading", full matches and repetitions were not counted at all even though I proofread them and corrected them, and all sorts of "mistakes" were made, and funnily enough, these mistakes were always in their favour. They did the same to the free-lance translators. For as long as nobody bugged me about my productivity, I didn't bother to say anything. Then one day the boss came down on me like a ton of bricks and I realised it was time to move on. I could have put up a fight since I was translating well in excess of target on the weeks I was given plenty of work, and only underperformed when there wasn't enough work in my combination, but there were various other reasons for leaving and this was simply the final straw.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:47
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
That is a good one. Oct 5, 2015

Sheila Wilson wrote:

If that means staring up at the ceiling every so often then, however it seems, you're hard at work.


 

Anne Rueppell
Local time: 18:47
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Oct 5, 2015

Thank you all so much for your input.
This is in fact regarding a position with a translation company and they have brought up the daily quota issue during our negotiations.

The impact of all the other office tasks are what concerns me most as well. Looks like I will have to dig a little deeper.

All your ideas and comments have been immensely helpful and have given me a lot to think about.

Have a great week, everyone, and thanks again.


 

Thomas Rebotier  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:47
English to French
Do they provide enough? Oct 6, 2015

The reason many agencies go to freelancers is also they don't have such a steady business in a particular language pair. What do the offered conditions say when *they* don't provide source texts enough? Does it sound like the minimum/day is a way to make sure you are productive, or like an excuse not to pay you when they can't?

 

Anne Rueppell
Local time: 18:47
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Do they provide enough? Oct 6, 2015

It's definitely intended to make sure that I will be productive enough for the salary they will be paying, not as an excuse not to pay when there is not enough work. So the only concern here is that I might be obligated to produce higher volumes than reasonably possible in a standard work week.
Thanks for your input, though.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:47
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Availability & feasibility Oct 7, 2015

Guaranteeing any number of words, pages, projects, etc. is a 2-bladed sword. For one, how can you guarantee a dayily (or other) output when the company doesn't have the corresponding work load? Doing so would equal the company guaranteeing your salary on the condition that it generates incomes which is topped by a certain percentage of net profits.

The only option here is to agree to trying your best (all things and circumstances considered) to reach a specific number of words per day... provided there is enough work in your area/languages, that you won't have to attend meetings, classes, a quaranteed reduced number of words in (the hopefully rare) case you come to the office with a head-cold, and that your colleagues will leave you alone so that you can fulfill that quota. Yes, especially the latter part of the sentence is impossible. In other words, be careful with guaranties.

When I worked as an inhouse translator, I was expected to do the work at hand, ensure good to extra-ordinary quality, and to put in some overtime in case of emergencies (we were an autarkic airport where Civil Engineering problems/emergencies occurred occasionally). But those times and working conditions were in the "yester-millennium", and things do change.


 


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