How to integrate and onboard a culturally diverse workforce
Marketa Littlemore, head of talent acquisition at NonStop Recruitment
As many of you will know, we’re a pan-European recruiter with offices in some of the major continental markets, not to mention a workforce comprised of talent from a huge range of countries and backgrounds. There are countless benefits of having a diverse workforce and it brings different skill sets, personalities and cultures into the melting pots that are our offices. However, it can also bring challenges and questions, particularly for organisations that don’t have experience of integrating different backgrounds into one team. So what do you need to keep in mind when employing a culturally diverse workforce?
The first factor to keep in mind is that you need a common language. This is a necessity and you can’t really get anything done if people can’t communicate effectively and understand each other. Here at NonStop, for example, everyone speaks English, regardless of their background or country of origin. This rule applies everywhere from football teams to businesses so decide early on what your company’s working language will be. If you’re reading this then I imagine it’ll be English!
You could also look to have groups of employees starting together rather than taking on individuals one at a time. This may prove challenging in the early stages; the cost of recruiting one new employee can be intimidating enough for a smaller or fledgling business, but the benefits are clear to see. If you hire someone and drop them in on their own in a foreign country, there’s a good chance they can be left feeling lonely or isolated. Taking on groups of people on the other hand means they have an instant support group and network to turn to. If you’re doing this regularly, people who’ve recently gone through the same process will understand what it’s like to move overseas to start a new role which, as happens at NonStop, provides an extra layer of support for your new starters.
Another way to get over any initial bumps is to get team leaders involved with new starters early, at least the ones who will work in their teams. This gives them an authoritative but friendly point of contact as well as someone to organise team building and networking events that can improve motivation and provide greater opportunities for your new employees to get to know each other. It’s a particularly good idea to arrange a night out before their first day so the team can meet in a more relaxed environment. However, it might also be a good idea to keep the drinking to a minimum; no one wants to start a new job with a hangover!
Your organisation could also look to provide as much support outside of the workplace as it possibly can, particularly for those who are moving from other countries. It’s a lot to ask someone who’s moving across borders to have accommodation ready for when they arrive, so look instead to sort something for them, at least for the first month while they get used to their new home and how everything works. It’s also worth making the extra investment to pick people up directly from the airport or train station as well as helping them with basics like setting up bank accounts, health insurance and providing them with SIM cards. It doesn’t sound like much, and it won’t set you back a considerable amount, but it can make a huge difference to the employee. Be careful not to do too much for them though – they also need the chance to figure things out themselves. While they should be able to look to you for support, you don’t want to mollycoddle them as that is no basis for a successful working relationship.
Bringing together a diverse workforce isn’t without challenges, but it is worth it. As we all know now, diversity brings huge business benefits and considerably greater traction in international markets where having a range of languages and skill sets can make a big difference. However, it’s easy to recruit and then lose these individuals if your onboarding processes aren’t right and once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. Ensure you get your foundations right and your business can reap the benefits of a diverse and international workforce.