Everything is new. Even though the visa process is finally taken care of and the new international employee has set foot on new stomping grounds, relocation is by far not over. Starting by taking the first steps out of the airport, the expat is exposed to the unknown. This is a crucial part of the relocation and often leaves the new talent completely overwhelmed with cultural differences, communication problems and still a ton of paperwork that seems to be overrunning the new joiner.
It is also known that the emotional state of an employee has effects on the work performance, so it is in the employers’ and coworkers’ best interest, to make your new team member feel more welcome and at home. So what could you do to help the new joiner not drown under all these challenges? We have collected 5 tips on how you can support making this onboarding process easier:
1. Culture shock for international team members is real
Even though they made the conscious choice of moving and working abroad themselves, living in a new environment can be unexpected and weird. Being exposed to unknown food, a new environment on top of being away from family and friends is not easy for anyone. On top of this come extreme cultural differences that involve challenges that we wouldn't even think about. For example, Localyze supported an employee who was not accustomed to women in specific jobs - so it was a challenge for him to ride a bus with a female bus driver. A challenge we would have never thought about. Keep in mind that this is not at all meant in an ignorant or disregarding way, but rather comes from a place of cultural differences and inexperience. Try to handle such instances with tolerance and understanding.
2. Don't lose your new talent to the big city life
Take care of your employee’s integration outside of work. The work-life-balance has grown of immense importance over the past years. Keep in mind that your new colleague doesn't know much outside of work and is not familiar with the city or the country and probably even the culture yet, so try and make sure to show them places in- and outside of work. You could support the expat by simply giving some advice on places to visit or overrated tourist attractions. Maybe you have some insider knowledge about where to get discounts on things that non-local people would not know about. You could give them a list of your favorite restaurants or places. This can beware the expat of some bad food experiences and provides something that you can bond over. Additionally, you could go out together and show him your favorite places to grab lunch. Also, if there is a place or an activity that you and your team members often talk about, tell the expat about it, hence he doesn't have any connection to it and therefore won't understand your excitement. Sharing team-relevant information can help the new joiner to get to know you and feel more integrated. Don’t risk losing valuable employees because they are uncomfortable or have a hard time settling.
3. Spice up your team relationship
Arrange a team meet up after work. Getting to know a lot of new people and having to adapt to a new environment can be tiring, especially if all of this happens in the new joiners non-native language. Team-activities that the whole team is interested in, is not only fun but helps everyone grow together. Activities like bowling, escape rooms, mini golf, playing cardboards or simply going out to eat or have a drink can make the new expat feel welcome right away and will help loosen the mood and evoke more personal conversations that would not usually come up at work. This can be as much fun for the expat as for the rest of the team.
4. Provide a personal contact point
Think about the buddy system. Providing your new joiner with a work buddy can help him/her through the complicated and confusing process of a relocation, that - as we all know - doesn't stop with a finished visa process. Social integration is an essential part of the process and can not only rely on the expats coworkers or HR team. Therefore a buddy can take on the responsibility of showing them around work, planning a team event, helping him at first hand with some administrative work or simply checking in with them on a regular basis. He would be a person to trust and ask all the questions that might come up about everyday situations.
5. Be understanding.
Expats usually try to integrate fast, but there is so much that you can learn or read about. Be aware that the expat moved to a new country, maybe even continent and left his familiar environment behind and is now facing a wall of the unknown. This is not an easy thing to do, so try to be understanding and support the expat and try to regularly check in with them. Even after some time, there are still new topics coming up. Always keep in mind that the expat has not grown up in this culture and work environment, so “unwritten rules” need to be learned over time.