Global Onboarding: Getting it right for new hires wherever, whenever
A guide to global onboarding
The world of business has been adapting to the digital age for some time now, but in recent years we’ve seen an explosion in the number of employees choosing to work remotely, or hired internationally. Among numerous other benefits, this trend has created brand new potential for business expansion. But this new potential also comes with a challenge. Namely, ensuring your remote global hires are integrated into your company as seamlessly as though they were based locally. To overcome this challenge, you need a new global onboarding programme.
What is onboarding?
There is no one-size-fits-all definition of global onboarding, and for good reason – the process is ever-evolving as the world of work faces an unprecedented metamorphosis in the wake of the global pandemic and the rise of remote working. Generally speaking, however, the term refers to the process(es) by which an employer welcomes a new employee to their business, helps them settle into their team, and begin their work both comfortably and competently.
Some guides to onboarding would separate the process into ‘preboarding’ (occurring before the new hire’s official start date) and ‘onboarding’ (occurring after). For sake of simplicity, we’ve opted to group these under the one banner. After all, global onboarding is best conducted from the day your new remote employee signs their contract.
Side Note: Onboarding can be applied to both international employees and independent contractors living abroad, though the onboarding process is typically more intensive and involved for full-time employees.
The benefits of a comprehensive global onboarding process
You’ll already know the major benefits of onboarding, but perhaps not in a global context. Creating a globally sound onboarding programme can be beneficial in a great number of ways, including but not limited to:
- Mitigates the socialisation issues faced by remote workers (both local and overseas)
- Improves employee retention rates across the company
- Increases remote workers’ engagement with their work and colleagues
- Fosters a stronger sense of company culture internationally
- Streamlines cross-border communication between colleagues and departments
- Likely to increase and sustain higher baseline productivity
- Speeds up the learning process for new employees, helping them achieve competency quicker.
Key considerations for employers drafting onboarding programmes for remote hires
There are, of course, a range of new challenges which HR heads and CEOs face in drafting onboarding processes for a global workforce. This, however, is why we spend time developing a coherent programme – in order to plan for and mitigate these factors; often turning them into positive forces for our companies. Here are some of the key considerations you should make when preparing your new global onboarding programme.
Cultural and linguistic differences
Hiring internationally tends to mean coming into contact with cultures far different from your own. Cultural differences can be professional – the Japanese salary-person work ethic, for example, versus a laxer British work ethic – or interpersonal – the rigid hierarchy of age-based respect in Korea, versus the more egalitarian social politics of France.
Moreover, remote employees may require some assistance to fully grasp the nuances (such as dialect and work slang) of your HQ’s primary language.
As an employer, you can turn these differences into a means of improving the diversity and inclusivity of your team, in turn improving employee satisfaction and retention levels. Encourage your colleagues to respectfully ask questions of each other’s cultural, religious, and social backgrounds. Promoting these ice-breaker conversations will leave both the new hire and existing employees feeling better connected and more understanding of each other.
Naturally, the time differences inherent in global expansion can pose a challenge to your onboarding processes. Make sure that you take into account the new remote employee’s local time when scheduling onboarding meetings, catch-ups, and team calls. There are a number of digital apps which can facilitate this automatically, the best of which are often employed by business expansion partners managing the onboarding process on your behalf.
One of the greatest challenges facing remote employees is the sense of isolation from, and dissonance with their new team. It’s easy to see why they might begin to feel isolated when working from home, unable to pop to the staff canteen for a coffee break and chat with colleagues along the way – we are social animals, after all!
Whilst global onboarding must not neglect the basics of orientation, fostering a healthy and tangible sense of community among remote and local workers is key to any effective programme.
Onboarding isn’t a ‘one and done’ kind of process. The foundations laid during the orientation of your new remote team member(s) will prove crucial to their lasting sense of inclusion. For example, regular video calls are key to folding a remote worker into the team during their onboarding; but what happens six months down the line when you organise a team-building lunch for everyone in the office? Thinking about how to continue including your remote workers in team activities in the distant future will help inform an effective global onboarding programme.
Compliancy has a little more to do with the hiring process than global onboarding, but it’s worth mentioning that labour laws differ (sometimes drastically) from country to country. Your onboarding process will, for example, have to account for the definitions of an employee versus an independent contractor – definitions which can be extremely strict (e.g.: in Argentina) or more malleable.
Similarly to compliance with labour laws is the practice of complying with global payroll legislation and culture. In many countries around the world it is expected (and sometime legally obligated) for employers to pay their employees a 13th month salary – and sometimes even a 14th and 15th. Global onboarding should account for these expectations, explaining clearly to the new start how these cultural norms will be adopted by their new employer; including how they will be paid, and paid fairly.
Lastly, it’s important that ‘accessibility’ remains at the forefront of your mind when developing a global onboarding strategy. An international pool of talent may have many additional needs which you or your HR team have not previously had to deal with. Ensuring documentation and orientation processes are accessible to all will streamline employee learning, whilst making remote hires feel more welcome.
There is a wealth of onboarding software which can consolidate all your orientation materials in one place, whilst ensuring new hires have the tools they require to access and digest them. Again, these tools are often used to great effect by Employers of Record (EoR).
Remote-hire onboarding best practices: 5 factors to include in your global onboarding programme
Having discussed some of the core challenges and mitigation methods to global onboarding, let us turn our attention to the five most important steps, or factors, to include in any effective remote orientation strategy.
1) Start onboarding from the day your new hire signs the contract
This tip should realistically apply to any onboarding practice, but becomes even more important when we consider the global context. To ensure a remote hire is both prepared for the start of their contract, and is made to feel immediately welcome in their new company, begin your onboarding process the moment they sign the contract.
Prior to their first day on the job, onboarding can include a mixture of the following.
- An accessible, digestible, and engaging welcome package which clearly establishes company values; the remote worker’s role and position within their new team; contact information for colleagues the new start can ask any questions the may have, etc.
- An audit of the new employee’s home office, assessing whether they have the necessary tools to carry out their new role.
- Branded company equipment or merch sent to the new employee’s home (including the equipment your audit highlighted missing from their setup).
- Video messages from team members and heads of other departments, introducing themselves to the new remote employee in friendly, welcoming snippets.
2) Ensure consistent and regular face-time
A new, local employee in an office setting arrives on their first day and is met face-to-face with every member of their new workforce – not just those in their immediate team, but also those from other departments. This physical interaction is a basic human need, without which we can quickly become disconnected. In a work context, this means a loss of motivation, and potentially leading in time to the new hire quitting. Whilst we can’t perfectly replicate this human interaction for global employees, we can give them the next best thing throughout their onboarding experience: one-to-one and team video calls on a regular basis.
These calls should be scheduled to cover a whole host of different interactions, including:
- Regular check-ins to identify how the new hire’s transition into their new role is going, ideally conducted on day one, five, ten, thirty, sixty and ninety – representing their first week, fortnight, and first three months.
- Formal meetings and briefings as you would conduct normally, only with the remote worker included digitally.
- Informal catch-ups and introductory sessions where team members are given a chance to get to know each other.
- Office parties and lunches, whereby all remote employees are invited to attend online.
- A buddy system through which the remote worker is connected with in the office, who they can chat to virtually and through them come to know their new working environment better.
3) Don’t forget the orientation basics
Of course, no matter how different global onboarding can be to its ‘local’ equivalent, you must not forget to cover the basics. Such as setting clear expectations for work ethic, communication, inclusivity, and working hours; as well as providing the new hire a clear ‘family tree’ of the business, detailing how each of their colleagues fits into your company’s structure.
4) Think of onboarding as a long-term process
There is no set end date to global onboarding. It’s not a process which lasts a week, nor a month, nor necessarily a year. Depending on the nature of the challenges your onboarding programme will face with each new remote employee, the process should be developed with an end goal in mind, rather than an end time. In other words, global onboarding is not complete until the remote hire is comfortably and competently integrated into your company.
5) Have fun!
Last, but certainly not least, is this: remember to incorporate the aspect of fun into your global onboarding programme. It can be very easy to get wrapped up in the logistical side of remote onboarding – focusing on the educational, social, and cultural training and care you’re prepared to offer. Even when drafting onboarding processes designed to make your new hire feel like a part of the team, the idea of ‘fun’ is not something we’re accustomed to considering.
This is because the fun of office work is rarely planned for or organised. It takes the form of passing jokes, canteen banter, unexpected visitors, wanders to the water cooler. However, it still can be something the remote worker is included in.
We all became experts, during the Covid-19 lockdown, at finding ways to entertain ourselves virtually – from online quizzes to party games. These are the sorts of virtual activities you can take inspiration from when making your global onboarding ‘fun.’
How a global expansion solutions provider can streamline remote onboarding
We are hopeful that by reading our guide to the best practices for global onboarding, you are now more confident and better equipped to draft your own effective programme.
Of course, we also understand the strains and pressures which new recruitment challenges can place on an organisation. Thankfully, DIY is not the only viable approach to global onboarding. Instead, you can always rely on the trusted, time-tested expertise of an Employer of Record, fully-equipped to manage the global onboarding process on your behalf.
With over twenty-five years’ experience in global expansion, find out how Mauve can help you. Explore our global expansion solutions today.
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