Easy Transition: 5 Tips for Onboarding Your New International Employee

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Published by Oslo Business Region, 27 May 2024

So, you’ve won the battle for an exciting new recruit. But getting them to Norway is just one small part of the equation – onboarding new international employees requires a bit more planning. Here are five tips for ensuring your new team member gets a smooth landing and introduction to your company.

1. Strategy… It’s always about strategy, isn’t it?

Common pitfalls when enriching your business with international hires are quite often tied to a lack of routines and processes, and it requires a bit more planning when compared to hiring Norwegian nationals.

In other words: Having an onboarding strategy in place as soon as (or even before) you hire internationally is a huge boon. Because failing to ease the transition for international employees can become quite an expensive endeavor.

Remember: Starting a new job and moving to a new country can be a challenging undertaking.

Getting to know the workplace – the routines, systems, colleagues, and so on – is one thing. Finding a place to live, learning the culture, and an unfamiliar way of life, is another. And on top of that, there are all the formalities that need to be in order for anyone living and working in Norway. Some of this falls on the person you’ve hired to figure out, others have been sorted before they stepped on the plane heading to Norway.

But you should never underestimate how overwhelming a process such as this can be. Therefore, as an employer, it’s a good idea to let new recruits know how they will be supported, both professionally and privately.

2. Preboarding

You can probably deduce what the word “preboarding” refers to, but it can easily be lost in the hiring process. By staying in touch with your international recruit before their first day, you not only ensure that they know where and when to show up. You let them know that they will be taken care of, that they can trust you have their best interests at heart – and that they can turn to you with any questions they may have.

It’s a friendly bit of hand-holding that truly starts off your working relationship on good terms.

3. Your Employees Will Want to Help – But Shouldn’t Need To

Getting to know a new workplace and colleagues can be an exciting experience. And our guess is that your Norwegian employees find it even more invigorating to greet a new colleague from “The Great Abroad”. Many will probably go the extra mile to help them get situated and off to a flying start as a member of their team.

However, it shouldn't be everyone's responsibility to spend significant time training the new colleague. That’s your responsibility as an employer. The team members can, of course, take the international recruit under their wing and include them in the business culture. Everything the new employee needs in order to do their work however, should come through a formal training program provided by you.

This can be done by assigning a veteran of your company to teach the new employee the working tools, routines, and facilities. Or it can be an HR representative's job. Either way, you need to make sure that the training program is thorough, that the employee has all accesses required, and the tools they need to get going.

This, of course, is true for any new recruit, but it is even more important when the person is new to the country. Simply handing them the company’s credit card and saying “get whatever you need,” is not particularly inclusive when someone doesn’t know what “Elkjøp” is. Neither is “If you have any questions, just ask Ahmed, Kari, or Ole.”

4. Dot the I’s and Cross the T’s – Sort Out Those Formalities

As Norwegian citizens we probably don’t think too much about all the things that are required to work and live here – in the eyes of the authorities, that is. This is actually quite comprehensive – and even more so for internationals.

This may seem like this is unrelated to onboarding, but if your new international employee has to worry about non-work related issues outside of working hours, it can easily affect their performance.

For that exact purpose, we’ve compiled an extensive list of everything your new international employee needs to know before (and upon and after) entering Norway. Again, a lot of this falls on the employee to sort out. But it can be enormously helpful for them if you take an active interest in them getting it done properly!

If you can answer questions about taxation or bank applications, it will benefit them greatly. Does your business use a specific bank that gives certain benefits to your employees? Are your employees organized through a labor union that would also interest your international recruit?

The international employee may have these sorts of questions, but there might also be questions that they don’t know they should have. Any help and guidance you can provide will surely be well received.

5. Take care of taking care

We’ve already talked about how the onboarding starts before the international employee enters your office for the first time. It is also important to remember that they’re not wholly onboard even when they're fully up to speed.

Again, this isn’t exclusive to international employees, but having a plan to follow up with those who are new to both your company and the country is incredibly important. How are they adjusting to the workplace, their assignments, and their colleagues? Are they facing any challenges that weren't addressed in their training? Is the language causing any problems? Do they have any troubles outside of work? And, perhaps most pertinent, why on earth are they not sprinting out of the office at noon on Fridays, like a proper Norwegian?

It’s a good idea to plan to touch base with your international hire, even before they arrive. The follow-up frequency will naturally be different between businesses, but you shouldn’t be apprehensive about holding informal status meetings after a week or two, a month into your working relationship, and so on.

It cannot be stressed enough: Starting a new job all the while they’re starting a new life in a foreign country can be an exciting and horrifying experience. However, the transition may be mostly positive if their employer is taking care of them.