Onboarding new employees from a different country is different to the process of hiring domestically. While that point is obvious, companies often fail to consider what’s involved. For instance, they may comment that Vietnam is quite different to back home, but the executive commenting has never even visited South-East Asia before. Therefore, they lack the frame of reference that comes from in-country experience, an understanding of the local culture, or how work is done there.
To help out, here are 6 tips for onboarding international employees.
1. Use an Employer of Record
Avoid complicated situations where an understanding of local employment law is required by using a Vietnam employer of record (EOR) for the local staff. For example, New Horizons acts to employ staff, take care of employment contracts, and handle the majority of the onboarding process. Certainly, this provider of employer records makes it a faster and smoother process to begin working successfully with local people in a foreign country.
2. Learn About the Cultural Differences
There are cultural differences with interacting between people generally and how it relates to doing business. People pay lip service to cultural differences, but it needs to be taken seriously. A company cannot force American standards abroad where they’re not going to be well-received or easily understood.
As an example, when employing someone in the Philippines, it’s customary to pay the 13th month as a bonus at Christmas time (sometimes employers pay two months). Furthermore, people put family above work and will more frequently have genuine family-related emergencies.
By learning about the differences – the EOR can be helpful here – it makes the behavior of new employees easier to understand when issues arise.
3. Expect a Different Way of Working
While American work procedures are commonplace and widely understood, that’s not the case abroad. The style, type, and pace of work will be entirely different. The hugely competitive nature of the business market in the U.S. is not reflected abroad. In many cases, the usual procedures observed in a local office environment don’t match up with expectations stateside.
Get used to this difference. Offices need to be run in a way that local employees will feel comfortable and not out of place. By letting the EOR operate an office that’s typical of the country or region, staff will be happier and more productive too.
4. Treat Them as a Valued Employee of the Company
While a new international staff member may technically be employed by the EOR locally, they should be treated as a direct employee of the business.
It’s important that they feel part of the company, the brand, and the mission. Just because they’re thousands of miles away from the office headquarters, doesn’t mean they are not valued. This needs to be communicated often throughout the onboarding process.
It’s a given that they will feel separate. So, staff from the company should make trips out to the country where they have new international employees. Meet with new staff to discuss the business, share explanatory videos translated and subtitled into the local language, and answer questions with a translator present.
5. Get Payroll Managed Locally
Organizing payroll and paying people locally is a royal pain. Avoid the hassle by either letting an EOR manage it or by using a payroll processing organization that works in-country. This will ensure that the necessary tax records are produced correctly, submitted on time, and it avoids any difficulties with international bank transfers being delayed too.
Even when remotely dealing with freelancers instead of employing local people, find solutions to get payroll processed locally. It avoids so many problems for all parties that way.
6. Accept a Slow Warming Up Process to Foreigners
Not every local worker has dealt with someone from the West. They may be excited to meet someone from the head office but yet be incredibly shy to interact with them. This results in questions not getting asked and feedback not being forthcoming.
To work around this during onboarding and beyond, have new employees ask or submit questions to the local employee. They will feel far more comfortable doing so. Then these questions can be addressed one at a time.
Onboarding an international employee who is from and resides in a foreign country is entirely different than doing so domestically. Different steps must be taken, and additional care given to the entire process to ensure it’s done right. Otherwise, the new employee won’t feel part of the team or have a proper sense of who the company is, and this causes potential problems with employee loyalty later.
Although it’s preferable to extend company values across the world, this has to be done while keeping a close eye on the local culture and standard of working. Simply overlaying an American culture abroad won’t work – greater care must be taken to successfully onboard foreign employees situated internationally.
HR Future Staff Writer, United Kingdom.