Whether you are an employer or an employee you can benefit from reflecting on the ways the organization and employee can work together to ensure a smooth adaptation to the new location.
However silly and obvious it might sound, the most important thing is to talk about each others’ needs. Say if you are moving to a new country to work for a new employer and they don’t mention any relocation packages in their offer – try to ask about it. It wouldn’t make harm but could help you massively when relocating. Obviously this would be an extra cost for the employer to offer this to you and they might also be trying their luck. But if they really want you in the company, they will most likely be willing to negotiate the terms.
I find that many employers, although indeed they work globally with various clients around the world, don’t seem to acknowledge that as much as they look after their international clients they need to look after their own international employees.
The globalisation, metaphorical shrinking of the world, enables people to move around the world easily and work abroad, a diverse workforce is becoming the key to having a successful business. We need to therefore take a closer look at the topic to ensure that in the long run the needs of both, the business and its employees, are met.
What can you do as an employer to help your new international employers with their move abroad?
If you are able to do that of course it would be great if you offered a financial relocation support which would be enough to at least cover one month’s flat rent for the new employee and basic paperwork costs. If you offer to provide a flat for them for the first month instead that’s even better!
Finding a place to live in a totally new city (not to even mention a new country!) can be really nerve-racking. You don’t know where to look for it, you don’t know the prices, you don’t know the administration behind it and you don’t necessarily want to commit for a long time in case the area turns out to be no good.
A help from the employer here can be really great – if the flat is provided for the first month that’s great as it gives you time to look around, look for something that you’d be really happy with and that would meet your requirements. It’s also easier to look when you’re actually in the new city already. A financial help on the other hand can at least cover the agency costs of finding a flat or the travels you need to make to do the viewings. In case of moving countries when the currencies differ it’s definitely also helpful to cover the actual cost of living for the first month when you don’t yet have your salary in the local currency.
It might not seem that relevant as with every job change there is some administration involved and the HR already has to deal with quite a lot of paperwork. But especially if you hire people from around the world it’s worth considering helping them settle down easily so that they can work more effectively instead of being constantly distracted by the admin for the first couple of weeks.
When I was moving to the UK, although it was within the EU and I didn’t need a visa there was still a lot of admin that I needed to take care of. Wherever you move there are always some things you need to do once you arrive. Things like visas, insurance, doctors, bank accounts, finding a flat… If the employer can take on some of it or at least be quick with providing all the required documents (letters with your salary statements or simply some confirmations that you are employed there etc) that already is a huge help. Ideally if there was a default 1-2 days that the employees can take off or work flexibly from home to be able to go to all the institutions, banks and offices to set everything up. Unfortunately most of these places are open within your office hours usually and if you don’t have that flexibility you’d have to give up your holiday days to do this.
The topic of ‘what a good onboarding means’ is a hot one on various websites for HR professionals. It doesn’t quite show in my friends’ stories though. Not only in Poland or the UK. Too often I hear about people being left alone on their first day after two hours of talking at them about some company rules, procedures and sending them thousands of pages to read through. But ok, people started acknowledging the fact that it’s not ideal and try to do something about. So I guess it is getting better.
This point is rather for the employers who have got the basic things in place already and are looking to improve even more. If you are employing people from around the world quite frequently, whether that’s on a full-time or part-time basis, why not spare an hour or two for a little workshop or a chat (depending on the number of people involved) about how can the new hire look for support if they need it, what they might experience, how they can invest in a smooth adaptation process from the very beginning? Just the two hours won’t of course suddenly make your employees more culturally aware, but will give them the support and reassurance they need to feel more at ease in the new environment. It’s good to know that the employer is aware that you might have tough times and that they are willing to help you out if need be.
Maybe in all the materials that you give to the new joiners you could prepare a one-pager with the coolest places too see or nice restaurants to go to which are near the office? Of course that people will discover them themselves sooner or later, but at least they will be more confident when people around them start talking about all those places. At least they would know that they’re talking about restaurants and they can join in the conversation more easily.
Remember, small things make a difference!
Assign a buddy
Buddies are very common already at schools or universities. If you haven’t got it in your organisation yet why not make it a default part of every new employee’s onboarding? Regardless of whether they are from abroad or not. Assign a person who currently works in the team to pick the new joiner up on their first day, guide them to their desk, show them around, explain some basic things about how everything functions, make them the primary point of contact for any questions, let them know what the new joiner’s training schedule is so they can help guide them. It’s such a small thing and usually (but not always) happens quite naturally after a while anyway, but it makes such a difference to the new joiner’s experience! A buddy can introduce them to the whole team, take them for lunch and just basically be around in case of any questions. How great is that to feel so looked after and so much more comfortable in this new (rather stressful to be honest) situation?
In case of hiring international employees it would be even better if the buddy was culturally aware and could help guide the new person through the nuances of their culture. If they understand how the culture shock works and what is related to it, it’s easier for them to have a common language with the new joiner who might experience a variety of feelings towards the rules of the country they moved to (sense of time, how the decisions are made or how you address other colleagues etc.).
Did your employers help you out when you moved from abroad? How did they do that? What else do you think the employers should be doing to ensure their international employees feel looked after?
The focus of this post is on the corporate world. I realise that if you’re moving abroad as a non-specialist or work part-time you might not have the opportunity to negotiate with your employer to that extent. You can still use the help of a buddy who can guide you through the complexities of your new workplace, but also do a bunch of other stuff to help you adjust and overcome the culture shock. Explore the website and hopefully you’ll find something helpful here! Also, I’m looking forward to hearing about your experiences either in the comments, via email or on the facebook page!