Take Note Team
HR departments need to be able to take accurate and detailed notes to record the contents of meetings, ranging from product demonstrations to dispute resolution. Often, the best way to do this with the highest accuracy and least disruption is to record the event and get a transcript produced later. But finding a quality service that can deliver the right outcome at the right price can be a challenge. The reality is that there are a lot of options when it comes to transcription services. Making the best choice requires knowing what you need and what different services deliver.
Currently, there are two broad categories of transcription services from which HR departments can choose: human-based transcription services (where a person listens to the conversation and manually types what was said) and algorithmic speech-to-text software. HR departments can use both types of transcription services to take minutes, but which is best for your department?
Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) Software
Speech-to-text software aims to do what human transcriptions services do, but at a lower price point and faster. The idea is for computer software to listen to a conversation and then record what is said in real-time, without the need for a human to be involved at all. This delivers price points that are, on average, ten to twenty times less expensive, with some ASR services even being free.
While it might sound good to HR managers in principle (by enabling them to save money), software solutions often turn out to be somewhat disappointing in practice. The main issue with software is the lack of accuracy. Even the best software can usually only achieve rates of accuracy of around 80%. That might sound pretty good. However, every fifth word being wrong can actually prove to be a debilitating problem, even if you are willing to go through and fix those issues.
To make matters worse, if audio quality isn’t perfect, speakers start talking over one another or background noise is present, those accuracy rates can plummet dramatically — producing wholly unintelligible outcomes. ASR programs struggle to accurately identify different speakers, and broadly deliver a transcript outcome that underperforms.
Human Transcription Services
Human transcription services are the premium solution. You get near perfect accuracy rates, the accurate identification of speakers and a large number of quality control mechanisms. Human transcription services also allow for more intelligent transcriptions, letting you select from variable levels of detail to get the exact transcript that you need.
Sometimes, every detail is needed. If that is what you need, human transcription services deliver an outcome that you can count on, even offering the ability to pay more for notes on tone, pauses, laughter, etc. But, equally, HR department professionals have limited time. All human conversations are full of extraneous noises like “um” and “err” as well as redundant phrases, such as “kind of”, that don’t necessarily add to the meaning of a sentence but can make that sentence far harder to read. Sometimes, the details aren’t important at all, and a quick summary of a meeting will serve your purposes much more directly.
Options around detail are not something that ASR is currently able to provide. ASR simply delivers the closest full- verbatim account that the audio quality and sophistication of the program will allow. When engaging with human transcription services, HR teams are able to select transcripts that edit the recording to varying degrees, delivering transcripts that either include every detail (full-verbatim), are slightly abridged to improve readability (verbatim), or simply seek to convey the meaning of a meeting in the most concise way possible (detailed notes transcripts). This delivers the greatest value for money by providing the exact transcript that is suited to your transcription needs.
Transcription Rates: Human Transcription Services Cost More, But HR Gets Better Value
When deciding which kind of transcription service to deploy, HR professionals need to perform a cost-benefit calculation. Human transcription services are more expensive than software-based solutions, starting from around £1 per minute of audio — although, in practice, that figure is often closer to £2 per minute. Software services, on the other hand, cap out at around £0.10 per minute, and some are even free. The trade-off, as discussed, is the product delivered. Human transcription services offer a higher degree of accuracy and, more importantly, a finished document that is much easier to refer to than the jumble of text delivered by software. Software has its place, but most HR professionals need solutions which accurately record what’s being said, especially in sensitive meetings involving employees.
Security and Transcription Services
Maintaining data security is important for most people using transcription services. The sensitive nature of the transcriptions sought by HR teams makes this specifically important. The reality is that most transcription services are pretty safe. But, there are a few signposts that you can look out for to ensure that your data is in secure hands. First, watch out for HTTPS web addresses. Second, find companies with ISO 27001 & 9001 accreditations. Third, make sure that transcription services use SSL or TLS encrypted log-in portals and encrypted storage. Then, make sure the transcription service is willing to sign an NDA.
These factors are important for both human transcription services and providers of ASR software solutions. Even though when using an ASR service a human will likely not ever directly see your data, that does not lessen the importance of encryption. It is also not always clear that a human will not review your data for quality control checks. Even when using software providers, an NDA is critical to making sure that a data breach does not occur.
If the sensitivity of your data requires taking security precautions to the next level, look for transcription companies that keep their transcriptionists in-house and are based in areas of the world with robust and functional judicial systems. The use of offshore workforces is common among transcription firms, allowing for lower labour costs and lower prices. But, it comes at the cost of accountability — reducing a firm's ability to enforce data protection policies and pursue breaches if they occur. If you need the highest security standards, seek to avoid the use of offshore transcriptionists.
GDPR and Transcription Services
For companies subject to the GDPR, making sure that partners handling sensitive personal data of employees follow GDPR guidelines and regulations is critical. The best way to guarantee that your transcription partner is GDPR compliant is to pick a transcription firm that is themselves subject to the GDPR. For English language transcriptions, that broadly means looking for transcription companies based in the UK.
The Benefits Delivered By Transcription Services to HR and Corporate Teams
Protect corporate interests. HR is often on the front line when it comes to protecting the company from legal disputes with employees. HR is responsible for employee dismissals and disciplinaries — issues which put the firm at legal risk. Transcription services can form an essential part of your company’s legal risk mitigation strategy. Transcription services allow you to create a legally-relevant record of what is said during meetings, ensuring that your department remains compliant while also avoiding risk.
Improve candidate selection. Creating a transcription record should be considered best practice for job interviews. First, it creates a written record allowing any member of the team to review a particular candidate for their suitability, including people who were not present. Second, it creates a record of claims made by the candidate which can be checked and cross-referenced for validity. Finally, under some circumstances, it allows companies to reevaluate candidates without having to ask for a second interview.
Protects your reputation. Part of the job of an HR department is to protect the reputation of the firm. But HR departments are involved in a range of sensitive activities, including fraud investigations, dismissals, disciplinary hearings, meetings about company restructuring, redundancy proposals and take over bids. Having an accurate record of all of these proceedings is critical to understanding who knows what and making sure that misunderstandings and misrepresentations do not occur.
Live Notetakers and Transcription Services
Although most modern transcription services operate using recordings, it is still possible to hire professional, in-room, live notetakers. Rather than recording a meeting and having that recording sent off to be transcribed off-site, someone comes to you and records a meeting on-location, while it happens. Professional human typists can churn out around 100 words per minutes — or more than 1.5 words per second, which, for most HR meetings, is a sufficient pace to record salient points and provide a summary.
This delivers several benefits that are of particular use to HR teams. First, having a stenographer present can add a level of professionalism and seriousness to any meeting. Particularly where disciplinary actions are concerned, that extra clout offered by a live notetaker can prevent what would have otherwise been a volatile situation from getting out of hand. Live notetakers also deliver immediate access to a rough draft of meeting notes, allowing you to avoid waiting for online delivery. By keeping everything in the room, you can also achieve the highest possible level of security — even supplying a typist with an air-gapped computer if necessary.
HR departments don’t just need transcription services that record the contents of their meetings verbatim; they need services that do so accurately and in a way that makes minutes easy to refer to afterwards. HR performs a range of sensitive functions in business and requires transcription partners who can serve their needs discreetly and with utmost sensitivity to data protection. Transcription services deliver the records that HR departments need to maintain the information control required to complete their tasks with professionalism and efficiency. Making the right choice comes down to understanding what you need from transcription services and what options are available on the market.
You have been reading about how HR teams can make the right choices when it comes to transcription services. If you still have questions about how to get the best deal when it comes to transcription service rates, turnaround times or security factors, we have written the Ultimate Guide to Transcription Services just for you!