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Onboarding international employees: tips on how to make them feel at home!

Nikolina Kukoč

Nikolina Kukoč

02.09.2021.

You hired an international – now what?!

We are not human resources experts, nor are we pros at onboarding employees. However, we are used to welcoming internationals to our city, and some of our team members have experienced being expats. Therefore, we think some of our ideas and tips on onboarding international employees might be useful.

Onboarding is not a new process at this point. Having an onboarding process set up is essential to building your company culture. We all know this already: onboarding makes sure everyone in the company is on the same page and following the same criteria – regarding doing their job and otherwise. It also helps your new employee feel welcomed and not so out of their depth in a new environment.

However, there is something uniquely significant about international employee onboarding: you are not only welcoming your new hire to a new company.

You are also welcoming them to a new city, a new country, a new culture.

Employee onboarding when hiring international talent should also take into account the cultural differences from the new hires’ backgrounds. When hiring global talent, you need to consider a few extra things in the employee onboarding process that might go beyond the company itself, such as aiding them in obtaining documents, finding a place to live, and generally reducing that initial cultural shock.

Adapting your onboarding process for internationals

Once a new hire decides to become a part of the company, the onboarding begins. We all know about the buddy system (having a seasoned employee who helps the new hire), but one good thing to do when onboarding an internationals is to have some video calls with their future buddy. Who can better describe the culture of your company than them? Also – who better to give your new hire some tips related to everyday life in their future country than someone who lives that life daily?

For an effective onboarding process, make sure the discussion takes into account the good, the bad, and everything in between.

No company nor country is perfect.

Therefore, realistically discussing every single aspect of their new life with your new employee might make that initial cultural shock we have mentioned much easier to handle because they know what to expect and can prepare for it.

Starting to work in a new company is uncertain enough, add to that the stress of moving to a completely new place, and people might feel very overwhelmed. That is why communicating things beforehand is so important. At that point, they are still in familiar surroundings and can calmly dedicate their time to getting to know as much as they can about their new country and their new company.

Before the arrival of your new employee

If you as a company don’t have the resources to have the above-mentioned everyday information ready for your new hire, do some research on expat-related information about your city. It will help them enormously if you give them a starting point for their research in the form of websites, how-to articles, expat groups, etc. Yes, everyone can use Google, but it is nice to do this for them to show them that you care.

It also shows them that they will have someone to rely on once they arrive.

If your company has the resources to handle the more technical and bureaucratic side of your new employee’s whole move, like residence permits, work permits, taxes, and housing, that would be hugely beneficial. If not, then your duty should be to at least point them in the right direction to handle this themselves, as well as make sure they have a native speaker with them whenever they have to do business with governmental agencies. We are welcoming to internationals but all of us are aware that our government prefers correspondence in Croatian. Therefore, make sure your new hire has a Croatian-speaking buddy, at least!

Upon arrival of your new colleague

We could not stress this enough: it makes a big difference to have someone waiting for the new employee at Arrivals at the airport. There is no need for grand gestures, but a familiar face in the crowd will make them feel very welcomed.

Having someone friendly there for them once they arrive also helps with all the emotions.

You have to take into account that this person just left their home to start a new life somewhere else. Just try to imagine what they might feel and tell us having a friendly face to spot in that crowd at Arrivals gate would not make you feel a hundred times better were you in that situation!

Another interesting but also very helpful thing you can do is prepare a care package. It may sound like a lot but it does not have to be and it can be very useful. It does not take much time for a local to figure out what to include, and it has the possibility of making a big difference for someone who just landed in a new city or country. If you are not up to creating a physical package, it can also be in digital form – a guide on where to buy groceries and other necessities, what places to visit in the area or what restaurants have good food, where are the pharmacies and healthcare facilities, etc. Try to think of what might be helpful to you if you suddenly found yourself in a new country and go from there.

The company’s onboarding process

In the first few days, you might want to go easy on the meetings. We know – no time should be wasted! But you should also consider all the new, information, faces, and names your new hire is trying to remember, on top of handling an international move. Think of what they have gone through and tell us overwhelming them with meetings is a great way to start. It is not – going from one meeting to another one is not going to help, nor be productive. Maybe give your new colleague a day or two to settle in their new home before starting the company onboarding schedule at full force.

Another important thing to remember is this: culture is a two-way street.

Give your new hire an opportunity to 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. You want them to feel welcomed, not integrate them to the point of dismissing their roots.

A well-done onboarding process should make your new international employee feel comfortable in their new surroundings – both inside and outside the company. Home is where the heart is. Therefore, to make sure they feel at home, it is up to you to do your best so that they love living and working in Croatia!

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About author:

Nikolina Kukoč

Researching is woven into my DNA, but I'm a musician at heart. Interested in too many things and always curious. Forever in love with Split and enchanted by people who teach me new things. When I'm not writing about Split's tech community, you will find me somewhere in nature, in the theatre, or with my head stuck in a book. I do my best to live by the verse from the opera "Fedora" by Umberto Giordano: "Love forbids you not to love."

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