Why Helping Relocating Employees Settle in Is a Key Investment (And How to Do it Well)

Your guide to creating smooth country onboarding experiences for your international hires.

Let’s assume you’ve found the perfect hire from abroad. Let’s also assume your company’s onboarding process is brilliant and your immigration support flawless. Can you stop here and take it as given that your international hire will be 100% happy when they arrive and start working?

Nope!

What if they can’t find milk at the supermarket? Or figure out how the showers work? They might quit overnight and leave you in the lurch!

OK, so your new hires probably won’t quit because of the first minor inconvenience.

But it’s a cold hard fact that the relocation process extends far beyond your talent’s arrival date. ​​Lack of local support in the host country is one of the leading causes for international assignment failure. As Jobbatical’s Global Mobility Expert Lisette Kampus puts it, “One of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen employers make is onboarding the talent to their company while not supporting onboarding to a new country, which is just as important, if not more so.”

From absolutely crucial support to the cherry-on-top extra touches, here’s a list of settle-in services to offer your relocating employees. 

Start off on the right foot

Level: Cherry on top

First impressions aren’t everything, but they matter. Getting a person’s life in a new country off to a great start takes just a little bit of care and time, but it can mean the world to someone who’s uprooted their life to work with you.

How you can create the softest possible landing for your new arrivals:

  • Airport pickup. Travel is exhausting and commuting on top of that just adds to the mental and physical drain. Spare your new arrival the need to make their way from the airport to their new home with luggage (and possibly family members) in tow—make sure someone is there to meet them at their point of entry. A friendly face does wonders for a tired mind.
  • Care packages. Having some necessities waiting for your new arrivals at their apartment serves dual purposes: It’s practical and helpful but also a simple reminder that they’re not alone in this stressful time. SIM cards, maps, city guides, toiletries, adapters, welcome notes from the team—anything that will make life a bit easier and nicer for those first few days.
  • Jetlag relief. Depending on how far they’ve traveled, your talent may be feeling anywhere from mild to severe discombobulation from the time difference. Make sure they have time to decompress after their flight—don’t schedule any important meetings too quickly, be extra flexible with working hours, etc. 

Eating habits

Level: Cherry on top

Moving to a new country has huge potential to change people’s eating habits

Maybe they’re too jet lagged to find a supermarket on day one. So they find a food delivery app, order their first meal, and hey presto—a habit is born. Or maybe the unfamiliar packaging and ingredient lists in a strange language limit their options when grocery shopping. Perhaps the food culture is just so different from what they’re used to that they’re completely thrown off by the new flavors and ingredients. 

All of this and more can have a strong effect on eating habits, which in turn is likely to affect general well-being in any number of ways.

How you can help:

  • Stock their fridge for the first week or two. Include some healthy ready-made meals, because cooking while jet lagged is going to be a drag regardless of how full the fridge is.
  • Provide a glossary of the most common food-related terms to help them find their way around the grocery store.
  • Taking into account any dietary requirements, share restaurant and shopping recommendations. People who follow vegetarian, vegan, or halal diets, for example, can have a harder time finding good places to eat or shop.
  • Take them out for a meal to introduce them to the best of the local cuisine in a controlled environment.
  • Book a local cooking course for them to get acquainted with the possibilities out there.

Exercise

Level: Cherry on top

Some people rely on an exercise routine to keep them structured and thriving. One thing that can easily disrupt such routines? An international move!  Not to even mention that exercise in general is great for physical and mental health and can also offer ways to meet new people in an unfamiliar city.

How you can help:

  • Offer a gym membership as one of your perks.
  • Provide a list of places to go for physical activities: a list of nearby gyms, parks, etc.
  • Encourage them to get involved in any in-company fitness challenges or groups.

Healthcare

Level: Crucial

Pandemic or no pandemic, access to healthcare is a massive factor in human happiness and quality of life. In fact, along with accommodation search (more on this below), finding a doctor is one of the two most crucial elements of settle-in services, according to Monica Laater, Global Mobility Specialist at Jobbatical. “If you have no understanding of the country and the language, things could go really wrong,” she cautions.

Depending on how healthcare works in your country, there are steps of varying size you can—and should—take to ensure your talent (and their families) feel safe throughout their relocation process.

How to help:

  • Make sure they know where to turn in case of a medical emergency (emergency phone numbers, ER locations, etc.)
  • Help them understand the healthcare system and how it applies to them. 
  • If they have to sign up for insurance or register with a doctor, help them with the paperwork and any necessary translations.

Permanent accommodation

Level: Crucial

Renting an apartment in most major cities is a nightmare for foreigners and can stretch out for months. What is the real estate market like? What to expect from brokers, landlords, utility bills...? There are lots of variables at work, with the odds stacked against those who don’t know the ins and outs of the system.

How to help:

  • Provide temporary accommodation for the search period. This is a major safety net you should be budgeting for. 
  • Translate real estate listings. Often, real estate listings are only available in local languages (and we all know that Google Translate can get quite creative sometimes).  
  • Accompany them to viewings. This will knock down language and cultural barriers and help your talent make better-informed decisions.
  • Translate and explain rental agreements. No one wants to be hit with surprise fees or bills, so make sure they understand what they’re signing.


Language and culture

Level: Very important

Cultural differences can be nearly insignificant, massive, or anything in between. Adjusting and learning to thrive in a different environment is a key part of your talent’s onboarding process.

How to help:

  • Offer language classes or point them in the direction of good classes or apps for learning.
  • Make sure they have access to general mental health support. Having therapy as part of your benefits package is a good idea anyway, but in the case of expats specifically it can help decrease any anxiety about adjusting to their new environment.

Life admin (banking, taxes, address registration)

Level: Very important

Beneath the shiny exterior of excitement and adventure, moving abroad entails many everyday hassles. Many countries assume all paperwork should be done in their native language, which can make bureaucracy extra confusing for newcomers. Even locals have a hard time with red tape, so you can imagine how bad it can be for an expat.

How to help:

  • Help them set up a bank account.
  • Fill them in on how taxes work and help them with the paperwork when the time comes.
  • Help them with various red tape activities such as registering an address or getting a social security number—depending on your local regulations.

Social life 

Level: Very important

Making friends as an adult is difficult on a good day. Making friends as an adult in a new country? Doubly so. Jobbatical’s Engineering Manager Param Harrison moved to Tallinn, Estonia, from Chennai, India, in 2016. “The biggest help was introducing me to their Indian friends,” he says. “It helped me get to know Estonia better and feel less lonely during the initial months.”

How to help:

  • Organize mingling events that include both expats and locals. As good as it is for your international hires to hang out with other people from their countries, it’s also important to help them escape the expat bubble.
  • Add an allowance for courses and classes to your benefits package. Whether it’s work-related or purely recreational, extracurricular activities are a great way to meet new people.
  • Get them actively engaged in their professional sphere outside of your company. Are there events happening that are relevant to their area of expertise? Get them to speak at these events to expand their personal and professional networks alike.
  • Encourage locals on your team to “adopt” lonely expats. If you don’t already have some kind of buddy system in place, find local team members who are excited about helping others feel welcome.

Spouses and children

Level: Very important

According to an InterNations study, 72% of non-working “trailing spouses” gave up a previous career when moving abroad. 58% would like to find a job but can’t work for different reasons, such as not being able to find a suitable position, balancing work and family, or work visa issues. Out of all expat groups in that survey, spouses had the lowest percentage (9%) of respondents who said they were completely satisfied with their life abroad. Loss of personal income and financial dependence on their partner is one of their biggest concerns.

All this to say: Expats who move with spouses are fairly likely to experience added domestic turmoil due to the move. 

How you can help:

  • Look for career programs and counseling for spouses, like this one in Estonia.
  • Create and point out networking opportunities.
  • Offer childcare support or point them in the right direction. For stay-at-home spouses, limited access to childcare can be a huge deterrent to getting immersed in the local environment.
  • Present your talent with a shortlist of potential schools so they don’t have to start researching from scratch.

Summary 

At the end of the day, as Jobbatical’s Monica Laater puts it, “Settle-in support is a life raft for a person who is thrown into completely new surroundings.”

As independent and kick-ass as your hires may be (they probably are—you hired them for a reason), don’t leave them to fend for themselves. Liisa Surva, Jobbatical’s Global Mobility Manager, emphasizes the importance of offering professional settle-in services. “It’s best to have it done by an agent with experience in these situations, rather than leaving it up to someone who is only just coming to the country or has recently arrived,” she says. “Relocating to a new country is hard enough. Anything that can relieve some of the stress will have a positive effect.”

Ready to take your country onboarding game to the next level? For the smoothest experiences for your talent, get in touch and check out Jobbatical’s settle-in services—already available in Estonia, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands, with more countries launching soon!



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