A Soft Landing: How to Support Your International Employees Both Practically and Emotionally

6 Oct ‘22
4 min
Editorial Board OpenUp
Reviewed by psychologist Jan Helder

Switching jobs is a big deal. So is moving. Now imagine that you’re changing jobs and moving at the same time. And imagine that you’re even moving abroad. As an HR professional, team lead or manager, you’ll have to deal with this on a regular basis: welcoming new colleagues that are also migrants. What’s the right way to support them? 

 

Reportedly, last year more than 250.000 people emigrated to the Netherlands. There might already be highly skilled migrants working within your organization. If your organization attracts employees from abroad, as an HR manager, you’ll need to take care of a range of practical matters. But you can also help with the “softer” side of emigrating.

 

The organization uButler knows this all too well. They handle both the practical and the emotional side of employee relocation. In this article, they share their knowledge to help you create a soft landing for foreign employees when they arrive in your organization. 

 

About uButler

 

Via a 24/7 chat function, uButler provides your international employees with unlimited personal support. This takes the pressure off HR/mobility and helps them to attract and retain talent. Without chatbots!

 

Employees will always speak to a real person: mobility agents that work under the name of “Sophie”. Your employees will then be supported for nine weeks. For each employee, an appropriate program will be developed. Amongst others, uButler oversees smooth relocations at ASML, KraftHeinz and VanMoof.     

 

 

The practical side of relocation

 

If you’re going to live in a new country, you need to take care of various practical matters. Below, we’ve included a list of tasks you might have to perform. Some of these tasks are the responsibility of HR, some are the responsibility of the employees themselves (or you can make all of these uButler’s responsibility, if you want to). 

 

How you divide up these tasks depends on the organization. For example, is there company healthcare or not? Will the company help you find housing or not? 

 

Legally speaking, the following tasks need to be taken care of when you move to a different country for work:

 

  • You might need to register with the local authority and request some kind of social security number
  • You may need to secure a residence permit
  • In some cases, you might have the option to apply for a tax rebate
  • You might need to apply for health insurance

 

 

The following are not required by law, but they may be necessary if you want to participate in society:

 

  • Applying for a digital ID (like the Dutch DigiD) 
  • Opening a bank account 
  • Search for housing
  • Organizing a SIM card and telephone number
  • Requesting a public transport card (MetroCard, Oyster card, etc.)
  • Applying for education for any children
  • Applying for a GP, dentist and pharmacy
  • Applying for any benefits, such as care allowance and child benefit 

 

 

The emotional side of relocation

 

The practical side of relocation is of course essential, but a soft landing is perhaps more about the emotional side which is also important. This is where you as an organization can really make a difference to your foreign employees. 

 

If you fully support your employees – and not just in compulsory tasks but also, for example, in helping their partner find a job and getting their social lives established – this will help you to attract more foreign talent. And to keep it: because you’re ensuring that your employees are both satisfied and grateful. 

 

uButler also offers support on the emotional side of things. To support both employees as well as employers. If your employees need mental health support, then OpenUp is the place for you (more on this later). 

 

Here are some examples of the emotional aspect of immigration: 

 

  1.   Social contact

 

Social contact is a basic human need. Some new employees will already have a well-established group of friends and family members when they arrive in their new home, but it might also be that your new employee doesn’t know anyone at all. 

 

You can help them in various ways:

  • Schedule coffee appointments with new colleagues 
  • Organize welcome drinks with the team or department
  • Ask which sport or hobby your new employee practices and make a list of clubs and groups they can join. To get them started, as an organization you could consider offering them the first year’s membership as a gift.
  • Direct them to social media groups (Facebook or Whatsapp) for migrants in the region
  • Maybe you know somebody with the same interests as your new colleague: introduce them to each other! 

 

Also think about your employee’s family when considering the points above. For example, if your new employee emigrated with a partner, then you could, for example, invite them both for some welcome drinks. 

 

  1.   Getting to know the new city

 

Naturally, your employee will want to get to know their new home as quickly as possible. How nice would it be to have a city guide waiting for them as a welcome gift. You could buy one in a shop, but it’s even more fun to get your other employees to put together a selection of their favorite places and events in the city. 

Include all the tips you can think of, such as festivals, activities, bars and restaurants, gyms, weekend getaways, and specialist shops. And, if possible, include a short sentence about why each one is such a fun place.  

 

You can also write down practical things in this guide. For example, how should I separate my waste and where do I leave it? How does public transportation work in the city? Where can I buy a bike?

 

  1.   Help with integration

 

What might feel very normal to you, may be a total culture shock to people from other countries. Whether it’s your degree of directness, the way you greet each other, methods of transportation, the taxation system, the times you eat, the hierarchies within organizations, methods of payment, or punctuality. You name it!

 

In order to help your new employee feel at home as quickly as possible, it’s important to let them know in advance “how things are done here”. You could do this yourself, but it’s more fun to ask a member of your team to do it. 

 

They could arrange a chat over a cup of coffee, or maybe put together a fun, more interactive initiation into the new culture. This could be a quiz, for example. 

 

 

The emotional side of relocation in the long term

 

At OpenUp, we see that migrants (particularly in the long run) struggle with different emotional challenges than other employees. A consultation with an experienced psychologist can help migrants with these challenges. OpenUp offers 1-on-1 consultations with licensed psychologists – via video and online chat. Our psychologists speak 18+ different languages, so you’re likely to find a match! 

 

For us, privacy is a top priority. Employees can contact us without their employer knowing and we will never share who has contacted us or what is discussed. However, we do share general trends with the employer, so you’ll know which issues keep cropping up within your organization. 

 

Our psychologists often see the challenges below:

 

Cultural differences 

 

Migrants are often used to a different working culture or style and will need to adapt in certain ways. In other ways, they might be able to bring about positive change.

 

In order to manage cultural differences well, it’s important to be open about the work culture and to manage expectations in advance. In addition, it’s advisable – particularly in the first few months – to give migrants time to bring up anything they’ve encountered that’s different from how they do things back home and what the migrant themselves or the team can learn from this. This way everyone can grow.

 

[Read more about cultural differences

 

Home sickness

 

Naturally, over time many migrants start to miss their homeland, friends and family. It might help the migrant to adjust if you allow them to take long continuous periods of vacation, so that they have plenty of time to spend with family and friends. 

 

In addition, allow your employees to work from abroad for certain periods of time, so that they can spend more time with their loved ones.

 

Paperwork

 

If paperwork hasn’t been completed – for example, a long-term residence permit or an application for benefits – things can get really stressful. By working with uButler, you can take this stress away from your employee. 

 

OpenUp can help with the emotional care. Particularly employees who must wait a long time for a residence permit can feel tense and insecure. Talking about this helps. 

 

Migrant depression

 

Research shows that migrants have an increased chance of developing depression, feelings of anxiety, nervousness and isolation. OpenUp helps your employees to avoid these feelings or how to manage them. 

 

If the situation gets worse, you’ll need to proceed in the same way as you would for any other employee: by placing the employee on sick leave and calling the company doctor. 

 

Migrants probably don’t understand the local healthcare system quite as well. It’s good to direct them towards the correct help, which often begins with a visit to the doctor. OpenUp helps to guide employees through the healthcare system. We’ll continue to support them until they can be transitioned into conventional care. 

 

 

Although emigration is a big change, it’s also a great adventure! With these tips, you’ll make sure that relocation goes as smoothly as possible and that your new colleague has time to focus on the fun side of the adventure.