Global workers need a unique onboarding process because their transition into your workplace is different than other, local workers. In the United States, when you receive a job offer, you accept it, put in notice at your current company and start the new job within a few weeks. But if you’re a foreign-born worker pursuing a U.S.-based job, you accept, then wait for the immigration process to play out. And you wait.
In fact, our Immigration Trends 2016 survey showed that the average time it takes from identifying a candidate and his or her first day of work spans two and seven months. Both preboarding and onboarding are crucial times when your new employee is forming an understanding of the company and expectations of his or her new role – and that impression is only amplified by the tedious and sometimes nerve-wracking nature of the immigration process.
You likely already have set processes in place. But taking a fresh look at how they pertain to your foreign national employee can make a world of difference in how he or she experiences your company – and how long the individual stays put. Here are three best practices for onboarding foreign nationals.
1. Research global workers.
One of the best parts of welcoming foreign national employees into your company is the unique perspective they will bring. But even well-meaning HR managers have fallen into the trap of using stereotypes to form their expectations for how that person will function at the company.
“Do your research,” says Britt Harris, human resources manager at Envoy. “Internet research is valuable, but don’t limit your search to that. Use a variety of resources – and sometimes research just means asking that person directly.” While your initial approach can be based on knowledge of the employee’s background, you should course-correct based on the interactions you have with him or her.
“Everyone’s experience is unique,” Harris says. “Have a strategic approach, but be ready to adjust and adapt in a way that shows them you recognize their importance as an individual.”
2. Show, don’t tell.
“Companies do a lot of telling: ‘We have a culture of transparency and social interaction,’” Harris says. “Of course it’s important to communicate what the company’s values are, but it’s even more imperative to incorporate those values into the structure of your onboarding program.”
In other words, if you say that your company culture is “friendly” and you have no social interactions built into your onboarding – it’s actually probably not. If you say your company values integrity, stay true to your word when you say you’ll file important visa documents by a certain date. If you talk about teamwork, your onboarding should include a group activity.
“Oftentimes, companies will describe their values and culture through their website and brochures,” she says. “That’s great as a supplemental tool, but it’s important not to rely on words and pictures to demonstrate culture. The message conveyed via a website or printed material won’t resonate nearly as much as what a new employee experiences in onboarding.” Preboarding and onboarding are opportunities to prove that your company walks the walk.
3. Prioritize a “people” orientation.
Because foreign nationals are typically brought in to fill highly skilled roles, they’re often coming into a management position and will be a key contributor to the team. At that level, it’s particularly important to make sure they’re set up for success in cultivating relationships with their coworkers. But forget about handing out an org chart and walking away. Instead, take some time to set up individual meetings across departments between the new employee and key colleagues. It’s helpful to provide a framework of topics beforehand, to make the most of those conversations. Some topics might include:
- The person’s role at the current company and background at past companies.
- Who the new employee will be working with, and how the departments interact with each other. Be truthful. For example: if communication has been a challenge between departments, say so.
- Obstacles the person’s current department and company faced in the last year.
- Recent accomplishments of the department and its top five goals over the next six months.
Building in time for your new employees to connect with key personnel gives them a structured way to communicate with the people they’ll work with, and help them begin to understand office dynamics and relationships.