Learning & Development, Recruiting

Onboarding Goes Global: New Research Challenges Onboarding Routine for International Hires

A well-structured onboarding process is key to winning the hearts and minds of new employees. It not only defines a new hire’s first impression of a company but also influences his or her level of commitment to the new employer.onboarding

Furthermore, it determines how quickly an employee can be productive and fully contribute to company goals in the new position. Onboarding is also an important element of any successful employer branding strategy, as it helps shape the company’s image as an employer of choice.

360-Degree Onboarding to Reduce Employee Turnover

Despite this, onboarding is still not considered a top priority by many employers. Data from the HR platform Haufe show that 90% of HR teams don’t allocate any portion of their budget to the onboarding process, even though 85% believe that onboarding facilitates the professional and social integration of new hires.

So what prevents them from investing in well-rounded onboarding programs? Faced with the increasing pressure of filling vacant positions and retaining existing employees, HR managers juggle many challenges and tasks on a low budget. It’s true that onboarding can be costly, but not acting could be even more expensive.

How to Achieve Successful Onboarding in 6 Steps

The talent acquisition process doesn’t end when the contract is signed. A Bersin by Deloitte report shows that 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 45 days of an employee’s tenure.

At a time when the global war for talent is rife, it’s vital to plan and implement a 360-degree onboarding program. At InterNations Business Solutions, we have identified six key steps to ensure successful onboarding:

  1. Pre-onboarding. Squaring out the formalities during the time between when a candidate accepts the employment offer and the first day of work saves time for both employer and employee. During this time, it’s also important to engage with the new hire and maintain the excitement established during the recruitment process to prevent second thoughts that might arise during the transition.
  2. Introduction to the new company and team. Employees need to be provided with more than just the corporate information. They also want a purpose and emotional identification with the company’s culture and mission.
  3. Presentation of job role and expectations. Offering a clear picture of the job role and being transparent about the expectations are extremely important in making new hires feel at ease and appreciated.
  4. Training on the job. Introducing processes, tools, and day-to-day operations is necessary for improving new hires’ productivity levels from the start.
  5. Ongoing feedback. After the new hire’s first days and weeks in the new role, it’s crucial to continuously engage with him or her, address his or her doubts and frustrations, and shift strategy where necessary.
  6. Integration into the corporate culture. For employees, and especially for the younger generations, it’s not just about getting the job done. Social integration within the company also matters. That’s why making new hires feel welcome and appreciated is crucial.

Ultimately, the success of onboarding new employees centers on one tenet: how well they integrate into the company on a professional, practical, and social level. While this is true for all employees, the integration of international hires is a bit more complex. When it comes to onboarding international talent, the recipe for success needs to include one more ingredient: the integration into a new country.

Onboarding International Hires Poses Different Challenges

Accepting a new job is a major life decision—and it’s even more life-changing when it involves a relocation to a different country. Along with the challenges international hires face with a new career chapter, they also need to organize their relocation and overcome bureaucratic and administrative hurdles.

They often experience culture shock and a language barrier, as well as loneliness caused by the difficulties in recreating a social network, having left behind their family and friends. Sometimes, they even have to uproot their entire family. And often, they underestimate these challenges before relocating abroad and thus feel unprepared when they arrive in their new country.

On the other hand, supporting international hires poses new challenges for HR teams. They have to address administrative hurdles, such as relocation, visa, and tax support, and facilitate the social integration of the new hire inside and outside the workplace. They also have to face the challenges posed by cultural and linguistic differences—a task that not all HR teams are trained for.

As the lack of resources represents a real challenge for HR teams, managers need to look for innovative and sustainable solutions to avoid talent loss. Luckily, international onboarding doesn’t need to be costly.

Self-service solutions such as peer-to-peer support can improve talent retention, offering international hires the tools to help themselves without the involvement of a third party. Thinking outside the box is paramount to overcoming the challenges posed by international onboarding. A forward-looking approach can help HR teams find innovative solutions that guarantee talent retention in a successful and sustainable way.

International Onboarding as a Balancing Act

Based on the above, it is clear that well-structured international onboarding can help reduce talent loss. Additionally, a shift in approach clearly is needed to support international hires where they most need it. But what do they currently receive?

Findings from the Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition show that 67% of international hires do not receive any relocation services from their employer. Of these services, the most commonly received tend to address the practical needs of the move, while the least commonly received address personal integration abroad.

While practical support might be more valuable in attracting international hires, the personal aspects of international onboarding support the productivity of this talent and facilitate their retention.

Data from the Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition confirm the importance of personal support to ensure global talent retention. Of the international hires who are unhappy abroad, the top reason for their unhappiness is the lack of socializing opportunities, as indicated by 50% of survey respondents.

The difficulty in finding new friends abroad can lead to loneliness, which is the top reason many return home early. One in four international hires is currently considering this option, according to the report.

These data clearly demonstrate a link between failed social integration abroad and talent loss. Despite this, only 12% of international hires receive access to social networking opportunities.

While it’s crucial to support international hires at the beginning of their journey, it is also important to extend the onboarding support beyond their first weeks. Additionally, after their first 6 months abroad, international hires begin to experience greater levels of unhappiness; this is a delicate phase that HR teams need to address.

Taking all of this into account, it’s clear that 360-degree onboarding is a crucial element of any talent retention strategy.

Theresa Häfner is Head of Business Solutions at InterNations, which provides personalized solutions to global mobility and HR professionals to ensure successful foreign assignments and improved international talent retention. She has nine years’ experience in the expat field and working with international teams.