OK, we’re sure we’re not saying anything new at this point: Having an onboarding process set up for your new hires is essential to building your company culture. We know this already—how an onboarding process makes sure everyone in the company is on the same page and following the same criteria job-wise and otherwise.
Employee onboarding when hiring international talent also needs to consider the cultural differences from the new hires’ backgrounds. You need a solid company culture since everyone can have different understandings of what a sick day is, what punctuality means for meetings, or what’s an acceptable leaving time for a Wednesday—even if you have a deadline.
But, in addition to this, there’s also something uniquely significant about international employee onboarding: you’re not only welcoming them to a new company — you’re also welcoming them to a new city, a new country, a new culture.
And of course, it’s important to share your company culture, but when hiring global talent you also need to consider a couple of extra things in the employee onboarding process. Let’s talk about some ways to make foreign employees feel at home.
Before the arrival of the new international employee:
Just like company culture is a present agent even before the actual hiring process is set in motion, once a new hire decides to become a part of the company, the onboarding plan begins. And it’s always advisable to plan ahead! What are some things you can apply to welcome the new team member before they even land? Here are some ideas:
- Organize 1:1 video calls with in-house talent before the trip. Who can describe better the culture of your headquarters and your company than them? For an effective onboarding process, make sure they discuss the good and the bad beforehand. And we’re not only referring to Company Culture. It’s also acceptable—and encouraged—to discuss if it’s a pain to find a parking spot in the area, if the bakery downstairs makes the best sourdough croissants, or if September is amazing for biking around the coast.
- All about the playlists! If your HQ’s destination is well portrayed in books, movies, or songs - why not share them with your new hire? Setting the mood in advance will help them get excited about the big changes coming up.
- Let’s get technical: Onboarding in advance also means addressing the more serious subjects. We’re talking taxes, housing, and other topics HR should address in advance to make sure the new hire knows exactly what to expect before jumping in the plane.
Upon the arrival of the new hire:
We can’t stress this enough: it makes a big difference to have someone waiting for you at Arrivals at the airport.
In fact, we recently heard this story from one of our team members regarding just how special this was: “The first time I arrived in Penang, Malaysia, after 3 literal days of transit, I was exhausted. The air was hot and humid, people were speaking in a language I didn’t understand, and l couldn’t wrap my head around the whirlwind of emotions surrounding me. Luckily, three of my colleagues were waiting for me at the airport. No confetti or embarrassing signs — just some friendly faces when I needed them the most. They helped me carry my luggage (I used to bring so much luggage with me back then!), explained what ATM I should use, and helped me get some cash. Then, they took me to eat some ginger fish soup for dinner at a local market.”
And hey! Care Packages may sound like a lot—but they are useful. We’re talking prepaid Sim Cards, petty cash, and a map if you’re feeling crafty. It won’t take much time for you or for a local, and it will make a fantastic difference for someone who just landed in a new city or country. And how about a nice guide on where to do laundry, where to buy groceries in the area, or what pizzeria is much better than what their name may indicate?
In-house onboarding process:
After getting some rest and fighting the jetlag—a Herculean task, at best—it's time to start the onboarding process in-house. Here are a few things you can consider once in the HQ to make international employees’ onboarding smoother:
- Go easy on the meetings. I know, I know. Time’s a-wasting! But you also need to consider all the new faces and names your new hire is trying to incorporate. Think of the jetlag, the change of environment, the rules of the office, and how to operate the fancy espresso machine. Going from one meeting to another one is not going to help. Plus, it won’t be as productive either. Maybe give your new colleague a day or two to settle in before joining the onboarding schedule at full force.
- Set up a buddy system: Have someone show the new team member around the basics of the office and of the new city. You can also dedicate a small budget for lunch outside the office as an introduction to the new neighborhood. Also, it would be great if the buddy assigned is someone outside of the team. This helps open the environment of the new recruit and creates bonds between the teams as well. Win-win!
- Culture is a two-way street: It will also make your new hire feel welcome if they can talk about their own culture as well. Maybe give an introductory presentation focusing on some aspect of their home culture they would like to share with everyone else as an international employee. The kick-off questions could even be: What’s something from your home culture that you would like to bring with you to the company?
An effective and engaging onboarding process will help improve your new employees’ productivity by giving them a real sense of purpose. A really good onboarding process can also make them feel comfortable in their new surroundings. And who knows? Maybe they’ll find their new favorite pizza place along the way.
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