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Onboarding is the process companies use to integrate new employees into their teams, the keyword being “integrate.” Employees need to become one with the company quickly. The employee who fails to assimilate both the needed information and culture will be headed for the door — taking the company’s initial investment with them.
Onboarding any employee is a challenge. Onboarding an internationally-based employee is a different beast entirely — requiring special care and teaching ability.
Creating a solid onboarding strategy can help you avoid the loss of promising talent at home and abroad. Here are five tips you can use to make onboarding your global workforce a little easier:
1. Prepare to pay up.
The first question of onboarding will always be about payment processes. For global workers, those can be complex. Different countries have different rules and regulations for cross-border payments. Not all banks are prepared to facilitate such transactions.
Implementing an international payroll system is a huge undertaking, but it’s necessary to ensure employees are paid promptly. Lean on a payroll partner to handle all the taxes and withholding required by the team member’s home country.
If you want your international workers to trust your business, you need to back up your word with hard cash. A global payroll system is part and parcel of being reliable to international employees.
2. Be proactive — and reactive.
Your onboarding plan must be comprehensive and tailored to each of your international locations. Onboarding begins with pre-boarding and lasts throughout the first year, with a half-dozen or so key milestones along the way.
Step one is to provide access to your online onboarding portal as soon as an employee accepts your offer. Ensure this portal has accessibility features, such as translation tools for people whose primary language is not English.
As soon as possible after hiring, employees should be introduced to important company individuals and to their primary team. Company introductions tend to focus on the home country; make sure to include information about your company’s global workforce as well. Explain the roles and responsibilities of existing team members to give your new hire a sense of their place in the business.
Check-in at the one-month, three-month, six-month and one-year marks. Don’t just throw your onboarding program out there to see what sticks. Provide substantive feedback from new and seasoned hires.
Remember not to rely solely upon your HR manager to gather feedback. Fellow employees, supervisors, and mentors might provide the most in-depth insight. Even interns and contractors can provide new hires with meaningful feedback, though you may need to prompt them to provide it.
Don’t forget to solicit feedback, too. What did your new team members like about their onboarding experience? What are their suggestions for improving it? Welcome both positive and negative feedback, as long as the information is constructive.
3. Mind your language.
There’s no beating around the bush: American English is full of idioms, which can be problematic for non-native speakers. Add in industry catchwords, abbreviations, and slang, and you can confuse even fluent global hires.
The fast-paced nature of business conversations compounds this challenge. For global workers who aren’t native English speakers, reading is likely easier than listening to company leaders speak. Put onboarding details in writing online where it can be accessed at any time — including team meeting minutes. Having a portal with all information available at all times gives global hires more time to read and absorb information.
As with pre-boarding materials, make meeting minutes available in employees’ native language when possible. If nobody on the team can translate, invest in professional translation services. The payoff is worth the price: Your new hires will more intimately understand the nuances of your company.
Be understanding if a new team member stumbles over their words when communicating with you. Remember, starting a new job is intimidating. If their language skills aren’t perfect, chances are good they will flub a phrase or two. Don’t take it as a demonstration of their skills.
4. Address cultural differences.
New hires aren’t a one-size-fits-all group, so onboarding shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all process. Engagement is the key to retention, so make sure you provide a culturally meaningful onboarding experience.
If you’re building a global workforce based in a number of foreign countries, it can be tough to grasp the nuances of each culture your workers hail from. Sometimes, the easiest way to bridge cultural divides is by encouraging employees of different cultures to educate one another. Encourage them to ask questions if they don’t know what is being said.
Start things off on the right foot. Hold icebreakers where workers can talk about their backgrounds in a productive way. Facilitate “did you know” and “would you rather sessions.” Questions are not only less intimidating in this climate — but they make it easy for team members to get to know each other.
It’s vital that collaborative teams understand one another on both personal and professional levels. There’s no easy way to bridge cultural gaps, but one of the best is through casual interactions. Make space for chit chat, fun activities, and other diversions to bring workers closer together. The result will be teams that are more understanding, better informed, and more efficient than they would be otherwise.
5. Watch the clock.
Navigating time zones can be tough for global teams. The more offices you have, the more time zones you have to work with.
If offices are in three or more time zones, consider scheduling meetings and events using Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). UTC is a time standard, not a time zone. Employees can calibrate their local time to UTC without the need to Google everyone else’s time zone. There are various calendar apps and scheduling apps that will make these conversions for you so that you don’t have to stop and calculate time.
Regardless, the responsibility is on you to schedule times that work well for everyone. No new employee wants to be embarrassed by missing a meeting because it’s at 3 a.m. local time — or someone miscalculated the time or date. International workers’ hours may not always align with your own, but giving them some breathing room is crucial for getting off on the right foot.
Business is an increasingly international game. Building a global team is the only way to rise to the challenge. By onboarding your international hires well, you’re setting your business up to win in the 21st century.
Image Credit: andrea piacquadio; pexels