The Language Group | 2018 Best Places to Work, first place, small companies

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By Bruce Ebert

Original published  in Insight Business – The Hampton Roads Business Journal 

The Language Group is one of Hampton Roads’ best places to work.

C’est si bon! (French for “it is so good.”)

The Virginia Beach-based language translation firm – the only one of its kind in Hampton Roads – can say that in about 200 languages.

With 25 employees at its home office and 1,000 contracted interpreters scattered about the U.S., The Language Group provides on-site and telephone-enabled translation services, mostly for businesses, medical clients and government entities – virtually on a moment’s notice when necessary.

Employees interpret foreign language documents and operation procedures, help medical personnel communicate with patients who don’t speak English and assist others who would otherwise be stymied by language barriers, said Lorien Picou, the company’s human resources manager.

It is work that demands precision, appreciation of subtle differences among words that would seem to have the same meaning, and understanding that success and failure can sometimes hang by a single word.

“Everyone brings something to the environment here,” Picou said. The office has an international flavor – highlighted not only by the various tongues spoken in the break room but by such touches as green tea brewed by a Japanese employee and broadcasts of the recent World Cup soccer tournament during office hours.

“Each and every one of us works in a highly collaborative environment,” Picou said. That is made obvious at the beginning of a staff member’s employment, when founder and managing partner Giovanni Donatelli sits down with the new hire and explains where he or she will fit in the organization, tells the history and mission of the company, and stresses the company will do all it can to help the employee succeed.

“This guidance from the top gives the new staff person the sense that they are a part of something and gets you off on the right foot,” Picou said. “It puts you in a great mind frame.”

To sustain that tempo, home office employees roll out the red carpet and show the town to part-time and contract employees from elsewhere who are summoned to Virginia Beach. Quarterly luncheons are held to allow staffers to socialize in-house, and retreats enable everyone to thrash out fresh ideas and mull over issues in a relaxed atmosphere where, regardless of experience-level, opinions are respected.

The company gives back to the community with services aligning with its work. Picou said The Language Group pays the yearly cost for the American Sign Language budget for deaf-friendly performances of the Virginia Stage Company. It is also planning to set up boxes in its lobby for food bank and Toys for Tots donations, she said.

What Jacquelyn Thomas, an interpreter specialist and vendor coordinator with the firm for less than a year, likes best about her job is the professional way she is treated.

“They trust me to do my job,” she said. “And upper management provides great leadership and is open to feedback.”

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