With a decade of experience in the expat field and working with international teams, the Head of Business Solutions at InterNations, Theresa Häfner, explains what employers can do to better onboard international hires and illustrates what a well-defined onboarding schedule looks like.
The increasing pressure of filling vacant positions makes many companies concentrate their energy and resources on optimizing their recruiting efforts — focusing only on attracting and selecting the right candidates. However, the talent acquisition process isn’t over once a contract is signed. On the contrary, it is only the first milestone when hiring a new employee and it needs to be followed by onboarding that is structured and well-defined. If not, the risk of losing those new hires in the first weeks increases significantly — and this risk is even higher when employers recruit international talent.
Successful onboarding does not only define a new hire’s first impression of a company, but it also determines the level of identification with and commitment to their new employer. It is a decisive factor for how fast an employee can be productive at work and whether they fully contribute to the company goals in their new position. Any cost of churn and turnover can be reduced significantly by ensuring a smooth internal transition and handover, too.
International Hires Should Feel at Home in the Company and New Country
Based on the aforementioned, it is essential to have a systematic approach to this critical onboarding phase which can easily last six months or longer. A new hire needs to learn everything about the company, internal processes, and what the new position entails. Apart from that, they will have to get to know their new team, colleagues, and the new work environment and culture.
What many employers tend to forget is that an international employee will be confronted with additional challenges when starting in the new position. International hires must organize their relocation, overcome many administrative hurdles, and familiarize themselves with a completely new culture both at work and outside of work, in their private lives.
They have to learn a lot about cultural differences, get a first orientation in the new country, and in many instances also learn a new language. This is even more difficult as those employees leave family and friends back home and need to establish a new social network abroad. Therefore, successful onboarding must also achieve two core goals: that they feel welcome within the company and in their new home country.This makes well-planned onboarding a critical “tool” to ensure a smooth start and effective initial learning phase for any new employee — while for international hires it goes even beyond purely work-related topics. For them, the onboarding plan also needs to cover aspects such as social integration, intercultural intuition and awareness. and easing the settling-in process to ensure long-term retention and employee satisfaction.
So, what can employers practically do to onboard international hires and what do they need to offer them differently to local employees? What does such a well-defined onboarding schedule look like?
To Start, It Is Helpful to Keep the Following 4 Phases in Mind
These can be used to structure the employee onboarding process and match the employee’s learning curve:
The goal of an effective onboarding process is to support these different phases in the best way possible, to offer the respective emotional support, and to alleviate a potential disappointment.
5 Ways to Support the Different Onboarding Phases
About the Author: Theresa Häfner is Head of Business Solutions at InterNations, which provides personalized solutions to global mobility and HR professionals to ensure successful foreign assignments and improved international talent retention. Theresa played a vital role in building Community Management at InterNations, as well as other key areas since joining the company in 2010. Having lived abroad for long periods of her career, she knows the challenges of relocation first-hand and is an expert in the field of global talent mobility. She holds a degree in international cultural and business studies from the University of Passau.