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Settling in - 6 min read

How to Craft an A+ Relocation and Onboarding Experience for Your International Hires

Maria Lamp
Content Strategist

So you’re hiring from abroad. Of course you are—who isn’t? In the US, for example, 95% of employers consider foreign nationals important to their talent acquisition strategy. Virtually all European startups (97.5%) have international teams. But are you hiring well from abroad? Is your relocation and onboarding experience as smooth as it can get?

Because consider this:

  • Employee turnover can be as high as 50% within the first year and a half of employment.
  • Replacing an employee can be spectacularly expensive even if you're not relocating them from abroad.
  • Nearly half of HR professionals admit they struggle to onboard international candidates.
  • Someone relocating to your company is already under tremendous stress from moving to a new country. Their first impressions of working with you will strongly shape their entire living-abroad experience.

From here it doesn't take a massive leap to say that losing a foreign hire is both easier and more expensive than losing a local one.

Here’s how you can elegantly relocate and onboard an employee from abroad without traumatizing either them or yourself too much. 

Get uncomfortably familiar with your country’s immigration policies

If this isn’t your first rodeo, you already know that relocating a foreign national isn’t something you can make up as you go along. “Room for error” is not really a concept this space is familiar with. 

Depending on where you’re hiring your person from, relocating them will either be a lot of work... or an absolute metric crap-ton of work. 

The preparation, paperwork, and red tape part of the process varies hugely from country to country (which we’ll cover separately in an upcoming series of articles), but there are some general pointers here that apply universally:

  • Be extra careful when researching immigration law. Chances are that you’ll find conflicting information from different sources like one Estonian startup did. Because that’s just the way the world works and bureaucracy is a boobytrapped nightmare everywhere.
  • Double, triple, and quadruple check your paperwork. The smallest mistake can cost you a successful visa application. Having to appeal a decision because of a typo you made will probably haunt your dreams. So be meticulous and save yourself a world of trouble (and time and resources).
  • Have a lot of patience and tolerance for uncertainty. Even the most efficient government machines tend to run slowly.

Don’t distress, de-stress: find a trustworthy partner to boost your relocation and onboarding experience

Speaking of saving time and resources...

About halfway through step one, you might be starting to realize that this is going to hurt. 

Talent immigration is a magnificent time-suck. Nearly a quarter of US and 27% of UK execs report spending 40 hours or more per month on clerical and administrative tasks related to mobility. When you’re hiring a lot, this adds up to a lot of bone-breaking work

Sure, it’s rewarding (you’ll have a great new team member by the end of it!). But it also makes you feel like instead of making a real difference in your day-to-day, you’re always putting out fires.

To break out of the productivity black hole, weigh your options when it comes to working with a relocation partner. Outsourcing the hassle of immigration and relocation to a partner with the right local experience can significantly speed up your hiring. Not to mention reducing the stress levels of overworked HR teams.

Focus on the right things

Do you know what a relocating employee really wants or expects from their onboarding experience? Are you focusing your energy and resources on the right bells and whistles? 

An overwhelming majority of professionals surveyed in the US and the UK say they expect their employer to help with their relocation. Specifically, they expect:

  • Cash allowances;
  • Housing assistance;
  • Insurance coordination;
  • Spouse and family support.

This might seem obvious enough, but it turns out that expats also want to network and socialize. More than two thirds of expats surveyed by InterNations report that they weren’t offered this kind of support when they moved but that they would have liked it. On the other hand, language classes and intercultural training were considered less useful.

If you're still not sure what your international hires want—ask them. Survey your existing expat employees and find out what they liked or didn't like about their relocation and onboarding experience.

When you know which forms of support make the biggest impact, you'll be equipped to shape the most efficient relocation package possible. Which, in turn, will make it more likely that your hires stick around for longer.

Be the first thread in their support network

Some say that moving is as stressful as divorce. Others say it’s even more stressful than that. Wherever it ranks exactly—it’s pretty damn taxing. If you lose track of that fact, you’re harming your new hire and yourself. 

They’ve just uprooted their life and now, for at least some time, you’re probably the only support network they have. Check in on your new expat. Let them know you care by—wait for it—actually caring (people can tell). When they share their concerns, offer solutions. Make introductions to the right people when your personal expertise runs out. 

But set boundaries too. You can’t be there for everyone 100% of the time. And if you try to be, you’ll burn out quicker than you can say “Oh no, I think I’m burning out.”

Make sure your new hires know what they can expect from you—and when. Establish ground rules on what constitutes an emergency. When they’re locked out of their apartment at midnight, are you the person to call? If not, make sure they know that.

This is another good time to consider getting outside help. From viewing apartments to finding a doctor, the errands add up. A relocation partner like Jobbatical can take some of the weight off your shoulders when you're helping your new hire settle in.

Depending on the kind of support you want to offer your hires, you can save another significant chunk of time by trusting an expert with it.

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