International Onboarding: Balancing Out an Unbalanced Offer

Ingo Priebsch, Business Solutions Team Lead, and Julia Benz, Senior Business Solutions Consultant at InterNations, spoke at Zukunft Personal Europe about the onboarding of international hires — and how HR teams can better support their global employees to improve talent retention.

360-Degree Onboarding to Reduce Employee Turnover

A well-structured onboarding process is key to winning the hearts and the minds of new employees. It not only defines a new hire’s first impression of a company, but it also influences the level of commitment to their new employer. Furthermore, it determines how fast an employee can be productive at work to fully contribute to the company goals in their new position. Onboarding is also an important element of any successful employer branding strategy, as it helps shape the company's image as an employer of choice.

Despite this, onboarding is still not considered as a top priority by too many employers. Data from Haufe shows that 90% of HR teams don’t allocate any budget to the onboarding process, even if 85% believe that onboarding facilitates the professional and social integration of a new hire. What holds them back from investing into well-rounded onboarding programs? Faced with the increasing pressure of filling vacant positions and a lack of resources, HR managers have to juggle many challenges and tasks on a low budget. It’s true, onboarding can be costly, but not acting could even be more expensive.

How to Achieve Successful Onboarding in 6 Steps

The talent acquisition process doesn’t end when the contract is signed.  A Bersin by Deloitte report shows that 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 45 days of an employee's tenure. At a time where the global war for talent is rife, it’s vital to plan and implement a 360-degree onboarding program. At InterNations Business Solutions, we have identified six key steps to ensure successful onboarding:

  1. Pre-onboarding 

    Squaring out the formalities during the phase between when a candidate accepts the employment offer and the first day of work saves time for both employer and employee. During this time, it’s also important to engage with the new hire and maintain the excitement established during the recruitment process to prevent second thoughts that might arise during this transition period.
  2. Introduction to the new company and team

    Employees don’t only need to be provided with corporate information. They also want to receive purpose and emotional identification with the company’s culture and mission.
  3. Presentation of job role and expectations

    Offering a clear picture of the job role and presenting the expectations honestly and transparently is extremely important to make new hires feel at ease and appreciated.
  4. Training on the job

    Introducing processes, tools, and day-to-day operations is necessary for a good start in the new role to improve the new hires’ level of productivity from the start.
  5. Ongoing feedback

    After the first days and weeks in the new role, it’s crucial to continuously engage with the new hire, address their doubts and frustrations, and shift strategy where necessary.
  6. Integration into the corporate culture

    For employees, and especially for the younger generations, it’s not just about getting the job done. Social integration within the company also matters. That’s why making new hires feel welcome and appreciated is crucial.

Ultimately, the success of onboarding new employees centers on one tenet — how well they integrate within the company on a professional, practical, and social level. While this is true for all employees, the integration of international hires is a bit more complex. When it comes to onboarding international talent, the recipe for success needs to include one more ingredient: the integration into a new country.

Onboarding International Hires Poses Different Challenges

Accepting a new job is a major life decision — and it’s even more life-changing when it implies a relocation to a different country. Along with the challenges posed by a new career chapter, international hires need to organize their relocation and overcome many bureaucratic and administrative hurdles. They often experience culture shock and language barrier, as well as loneliness caused by the difficulty to recreate a social network, leaving behind their family and friends. Sometimes they even have to uproot their entire family. Oftentimes, they underestimate these challenges before relocating abroad and feel unprepared when they arrive in their new country.

On the other hand, supporting international hires poses new challenges for HR teams. They have to address administrative hurdles, such as relocation, visa, and tax support, and facilitate the social integration of the new hire in and outside of work. They also have to face the challenges posed by cultural and linguistic differences — a task that not all HR teams are trained for.

International Hires and HR Teams

As the lack of resources represents a real challenge for HR teams, managers need to look for innovative and sustainable solutions to avoid talent loss. Luckily, international onboarding doesn’t need to be costly. Self-service solutions such as peer-to-peer support can improve talent retention, offering international hires the tools to help themselves without the involvement of a third party. Thinking outside the box is paramount to overcome the challenges posed by international onboarding. A forward-looking approach can help HR teams to find innovative solutions that guarantee talent retention in a successful and sustainable way.

International Onboarding as a Balancing Act

Based on the aforementioned, it is clear that well-structured international onboarding can help reduce talent loss. It also stands out that a shift of approach is needed to support international hires where they most need it. But what do they currently receive?

Findings from the Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition show that 67% of international hires do not receive any relocation services from their employer. Of these services, the most commonly received tend to address the practical needs of the move, while the least commonly received respond to the personal integration abroad. While practical support might be more valuable to attract international hires in the first stages, the personal aspects of international onboarding play a crucial role in supporting the productivity of international hires and facilitating the retention of talent.

Data from the Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition confirms the importance of personal support to ensure global talent retention. Of the international hires who are unhappy abroad, the top reason for their unhappiness is the lack of socializing opportunities, as indicated by 50% of the survey respondents. The difficulty to find new friends abroad can easily lead to loneliness, which represents the top reason for an early return. One in four international hires are currently considering this option, according to the report. These data clearly shows that there is a link between failed social integration abroad and talent loss. Despite this, only 12% of international hires receive access to social networking opportunities.

While it’s crucial to support international hires at the beginning of their journey, it is also important to extend the onboarding support beyond the first weeks after starting the new position. Findings from the Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition show that after the first six months abroad, international hires begin to experience greater levels of unhappiness. This is a delicate phase which HR teams need to address.

Taking all of this into account, is it not time to realize that 360-degrees onboarding represents a crucial element of any talent retention strategy?

To receive a copy of the presentation or to find out more about our solutions, contact us.

About the Authors:

Ingo_Priebsch_ InterNations Business SolutonsIngo Priebsch is Team Lead Business Solutions at InterNations, which provides solutions for global mobility and HR professionals to ensure successful foreign assignments and improved international talent retention. He has over 20 years’ experience in the national and international HR consultancy field. He holds degrees in educational sciences and human resources development from the Helmut Schmidt University and the Technical University of Kaiserslautern.



Julia Benz InterNations Business SolutionsAs a Senior Business Solutions Consultant at InterNations, Julia Benz partners with global mobility and HR departments in the DACH region to provide social integration solutions for expat employees. With a master's degree in international culture and business studies and over 10 years’ experience in the international HR sector, Julia is an expert in the field of global talent mobility.

Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition

Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition

A Look At Global Talent Mobility Through Expat Eyes

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