Jovana Vranic, HR Manager Technical Recruiting at XING SE, answers seven questions about recruiting and retaining international talent, and outlines the onboarding and integration support that employers need to provide to international hires and their relocating spouses.
1. Headquartered in Hamburg and having recently opened new offices in Porto and Valencia, why is XING expanding to new locations?
In addition to our headquarters in Hamburg, XING now also has office locations in Barcelona, Porto, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Zurich, and Valencia. The reason for this is pretty simple — for an organization growing so quickly it was necessary to expand to new locations so that we could find the right people, with the required skills and talent, to join the team. Doing so was important to ensure the continued growth and success of the organization, and to remain competitive in the global war for talent.
What’s more, the ‘New Work’ philosophy is really important to XING, and we try to promote a healthy work-life balance in everything that we do. Providing employees with flexible working arrangements is part of this philosophy, sourcing talent across multiple locations and working together in collaboration — without necessarily having to be in the same place. As is also true for our members, we want XING employees to benefit from these positive changes in the world of work, and be able to shape their working life to suit their individual needs and circumstances, regardless of location.
2. What do you see as the challenges in attracting and retaining international talent?
Most importantly, the relocation process — and the many challenges it poses for international hires and their families — can often dissuade prospective employees from accepting international contracts. Providing well-rounded relocation packages to overcome these challenges should be of top priority for employers wishing to attract global talent, and support should cover both the practical and personal aspects of relocation. While practical support — such as relocation assistance, and visa and tax support — might be more valuable in the initial stages of attracting international hires, it is the personal aspects — such as social integration assistance — that will facilitate the retention of talent, and support international hires to be happy and productive in the workplace.
The recruitment process in itself can also be challenging, with time, location, and visa constraints often making it necessary to conduct recruitment remotely. It can be difficult to get a feel for a prospective hire without meeting in person, and it can be challenging to make recruitment decisions when you know you will only meet the new employee on their first day in the office. Even so, developments in technology have made remote recruitment easier for employers, and will continue to ease the process.
3. What do organizations need to be doing in order to remain competitive in the global war for talent?
Organizations need to ensure that their recruitment processes are flexible and adaptive to each individual, with offerings that meet the needs of the employee as well as the employer.
In order to be attractive to IT specialists and software engineers in particular, it is all about having a desirable product, utilizing modern technologies, and keeping up with new developments in the industry. Luckily for me as a recruiter, XING has a pretty big advantage in these areas — we have multiple quality products, the technology stacks are all up to date, and we have an excellent engineering and product community within the company.
It is also important that organizations foster innovation and provide opportunities for creativity outside of the day-to-day tasks. As well as regular training and development offerings and opportunities to travel to workshops and conferences, a few times a year XING hosts a ‘’HackWeek’’. This initiative enables engineers to come together in cross-locational teams and work on projects that are not necessarily related to their everyday work. Through these projects they can broaden their network and connect with others within the organization, investigate new coding languages and technologies, build games, or simply improve the existing internal processes and workflows.
To summarize, organizations need to think outside the box when it comes to recruiting and retaining global talent, and consider the support and benefits that they need to offer. In today’s competitive talent landscape, organizations need to go beyond the standard benefits — such as paid transportation, fresh fruit, and a kicker table in the break room. While these are nice-to-haves, they do not position an employer at the forefront of the global war for talent.
4. In your experience, what are they key aspects of onboarding support that international hires require when they first arrive in their new location?
Whether it be aiding the completion of paperwork, showing them around the city, offering support to find an apartment, or introducing them to local cafes and restaurants, employers need to be flexible in their approach when it comes to onboarding their international hires.
Employers are responsible for ensuring that their international hires feel welcome and safe from the moment they arrive in their new location, and successful onboarding means making sure all their basic needs are met. To do this, employers need to keep in mind the background and culture the employee is coming from, take into account their family situation, and consider their individual needs when it comes to support.
One aspect of basic onboarding support is simply making sure the employee and their family have a roof over their head. At the XING Headquarters in Hamburg, for example, we offer new international hires the opportunity to stay in the XING apartment for the first months after arriving. This removes the stress of finding a place to live in a new and unfamiliar city, and provides them with some breathing space to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and settle into their new life before finding more long-term accommodation.
Onboarding goes beyond the workplace, and includes making sure the new employee and their family have everything they need to ease the transition and experience a positive start in their new location.
5. In addition to these initial aspects of employer support, what types of support are needed on a more ongoing basis?
While employers often tend to focus on the logistical aspects of relocation and the initial onboarding of their international hires, settling in takes time. Employer support needs to reflect this, extending beyond the initial months of relocation and onboarding, and providing both practical and personal aspects of support — for the employee and their partner.
Employers must incorporate longevity into their relocation packages, and ensure that they are providing ongoing support to facilitate social integration. Such assistance can take shape in many forms — such as organizing socializing opportunities that bring together employees and their families, hosting networking events for new employees, paying for social club and expat networking memberships, and providing language classes to support integration into the local community.
Employers who underestimate the personal challenges that relocation poses to the expat family and fail to provide adequate social integration support put themselves at risk of losing their global talent, who may struggle to settle into their new location.
6. How does the expat family fit into the relocation picture, and what do employers need to consider when providing support for relocating spouses?
It is really important that employers consider the entire expat family during the recruiting process, as well as when they are putting together their relocation packages. Afterall, moving abroad means an upheaval for the entire expat family, and not just the individual employee.
When hiring internationally, I always try to think a few steps ahead, and get as much information about the expat family as I can. Understanding the family circumstances, such as the working situation for the relocating spouse, helps me to determine how I can best support the entire family unit — for example, assisting the spouse to find work in the new location, or considering how we can help the complete expat family to settle down and socially integrate.
Family matters play a big part in determining the success of international recruiting efforts and the retention of global talent, and should not be underestimated by employers.
7. How does providing long-term relocation support as well as spousal assistance help employees both inside and outside of the workplace, and benefit employers as a result?
Providing ongoing employer support to assist international hires and their families with the practical and personal aspects of relocation is essential for organizations looking to recruit and retain international talent. Holistic support helps employees and their spouses with the logistics of relocation, eases the initial onboarding phase when they first arrive in the new location, and supports the long-term integration of the expat family. Taking care of all these considerations within a supportive and understanding environment not only results in happier and better integrated expat families, but more productive and motivated employees in the workplace as well.
About the Expert: With an educational background in business management, Jovana Vranic is a recruiting specialist working at XING SE in the field that she is most passionate about — IT and software engineering. An expat herself, Vranic’s international flair and love of working with people from all over the world makes her a big enthusiast of being part of an international recruiting team.