Onboarding employees in an international working community includes several points from language and cultural issues to taking care of official matters. It is advisable to discuss all points with the employee to ensure a smooth introduction to working at your organisation and in Finland.
In this section we have included information and tips on points to consider and ways to support your employees and working community.
When onboarding new members into your international working community, consider the following:
Check out the exercise and facilitation tips to get ideas on how to address the topics above.
Establishing trust and a safe space for sharing among the team is essential for the integration of the new employee and consequently for the performance of the individual and the team. In order to facilitate good relations, it would be good to have regular team meetings as well as occasional team-building events.
Checklist for onboarding:
Everyone values human relationships and is looking for a connection and a sense of belonging to a group. Your focus should be to support that sense of belonging in the first months. This will support both the new member and the whole team, as successful cooperation with co-workers is based on a healthy relationship among them. Good relations lead to e.g. feelings of inclusion and safety, which in turn support open ideation and innovation.
Food for thought:
Have you ever thought about asking for (anonymous) feedback from your new employees? Feedback gathered soon after onboarding a new employee can give valuable insights about expectations, perceived working culture, whether the onboarding was comprehensive and useful, etc. You can create a simple feedback survey online, for instance, and send it to the new employee a few weeks or months after they have started working in your organisation.
The way we behave and interact with others is influenced by our experience, the communities we grew up in and interact with, our understanding of our own communication styles and ways and those of others, cultural factors, and much more.
In a way, culture and communities teach us what to think about the world. For instance, our views and values, what we consider proper and respectful interaction, or best ways to work, differ based on our socio-cultural background, exposure to other cultures and viewpoints, etc. We don’t always pay attention to this as it’s like our behavioural autopilot.
Our cultural background and personal experiences can be considered our invisible teacher, as it affects how we perceive other people and our surroundings. The attached picture summarises how culture can affect us. View it by clicking on the image below. You can also read more about cultural aspects in the Culture section.
Communication is a vital part of creating happy and functional teams. When a new employee joins a team, it is good to take some time to get to know them and help them become part of the team.
Every organisation and community has its own, often unwritten, rules and ways of working, etc. New employees cannot know them unless they are explained. Similarly, every person has their own view of what makes a good employee, colleague, or working community.When a person comes from a different cultural background, they might different expectations on how to behave at a work place, ask for support or guidance, or how to approach their supervisor, for instance.
The attached exercise can help your new employee and the team learn more about each other and their perceptions. It can also help adjust expectations. The exercise is based on 66 questions and you can use it as a team building exercise, for instance. Click on the link to view the exercise.
Even if you do not discuss these questions with your colleagues, you can think about your own answer to the questions. This will raise your awareness on how you see the world, and can be quite eye-opening. It can also help you verbalise your wishes and expectations towards your colleagues and supervisor.
Raising awareness with 66 questions
Everyone grows up with certain ideas of how the world works and what is smooth interaction between humans. These ideas might differ significantly between people from different cultural backgrounds. Therefore it is important to raise your own awareness of different perceptions and enhance understanding of yourself and your team members.
As an employer/person in a leading position, communication plays a crucial role in the success of your role and that of your team. Communication is very important and also one of the hardest things to master. Perceptions of good and appropriate communication depend on the individual, and preferences on communication styles vary, especially across cultures. If you know the communication preferences of your employees, it will be easier for you to connect and communicate with them.
It is likely that there is too little rather than too much communication in any organisation. For instance, one of the most common comments that supervisors get is that they should give more feedback. However, your team members might have very different preferences related to how they want to receive the feedback. One easy solution is to have a standard model of giving feedback. From an intercultural perspective, this too should be explained, as the reasons to and ways of giving feedback can be different from one culture to another.
You can find more information and tips in the articles under Communication.
Being a leader can rewarding and also challenging. Leading diverse teams requires great leadership and interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to adapt your leadership style to your employees’ expectations.
The traits and characteristics of a good leader is a much discussed topic. You can develop your leadership skills in a myriad of ways throughout your career. One of the most important skills is listening to and communicating with your employees. For instance, 360 reviews and feedback can help you develop as a leader and work better together with your team.
It is also advisable to learn about different (cultural) leadership styles, especially if you manage a culturally diverse team. Expectations for leaders and managers can be quite different from one culture to another, and that can affect performance and rapport, for instance.
Do you know what kind of leader you are? Are you aware of what kind of leader your international employee is accustomed to? There are as many leadership styles and especially expectations for a good leader as there are people, and it would be useful to know what your employees think. You can start by being open to self-development and asking your employees for feedback about you as a leader.
It is good to keep in mind that your employees might expect different things from you as their leader. For instance, in some cultures a leader or supervisor will check up on what the employees are doing at regular intervals. Employees used to that and expect that to happen. If it does not happen, the employees might think that they are doing something very wrong when the supervisor does not want to connect with them. Or they might wait for further instructions instead of proactively asking about it themselves. Then again, in some other cultures, supervisors trust their employees to know what they are doing and to take care of their work independently, and the supervisors do not keep asking the employees how work is progressing. Both leadership styles can be considered good and normal in their respective cultures.
To avoid misunderstanding and confusion caused by leadership and communication styles, it is good to explain them to all employees, and especially new ones.
Picture will enlarge by clicking it.
Reflecting on your leadership style
Leading a diverse team can hold extra challenges and most importantly extra advantages. In order to get support the employees do their best in their work, it is good to know what the employees are expecting from their leader/supervisor.
Consider the employees’ preferences, especially the international ones. Are they used to being told what to do or to being proactive and showing initiative? What do they prefer? Keep in mind that though leadership is often defined and approached from a ‘western’ point of view, there are many different ways to lead people and organisations. For instance, some people prefer a task-oriented approach while others focus more on interpersonal relationships. A diverse team might be best guided with a combination of different styles.
You can educate yourself on different leadership styles and cultural considerations by reading books, attending a course, or by taking note of how your international colleagues lead, for instance. You can also gather information on cultural leadership preferences from your international employees by asking everyone to list the characteristics of an ideal leader. As always, it is important to ensure a safe environment and atmosphere for sharing.
You can also find some further food for thought in the following articles: