Tips for onboarding international employees

Congratulations! You’ve hired a brand new international employee or maybe a few of them. Entering the global marketplace sets your organization up for an expanded presence, improved talent, and — ultimately — better growth, with international recruits lending key insights and skillsets unlocked by our modern, connective world.

You’ve found that valuable person who will add new insights and ideas to your company. Now how do you welcome your new international employee into your organization — and use that welcome as a springboard for performance momentum? Globalization Partners offers a few tips, tricks, and strategies to onboard international workers efficiently.

Onboarding employees in days

Table of Contents

international employee retention

Why Should You Have a Global Onboarding Program for International Employees?

The success or failure of onboarding new employees around the world centers on one thing — how well you integrate and include them within the organization. The most successful international employee onboarding processes do this by:

  1. Setting and sharing specific role expectations
  2. Establishing and communicating fair company-wide protocols and practices
  3. Giving everyone the same access to tools and resources
  4. Creating a welcoming culture of social support

When initiated, these four tenets produce lasting benefits for both your international employees — and those in your domestic offices. Great onboarding for your international employees offers them additional benefits.

Benefits of Global Onboarding Programs

Effects of global onboarding program

1. To Get to Know Your Company

Global onboarding programs are the first opportunity to acclimate your new employee to your organization’s culture. Using your own words, in your own company tone, through your own visuals and media, onboarding can establish a strong connection to your institutional values, often within hours.

While your new employee has likely researched your organization beforehand, such as by reading company reviews online, onboarding presents their first official, insider peek. New hires should be given insights from early training on the following:

  • Work culture
  • Overall organizational structure
  • Company mission and values, with examples of how they’re lived out
  • Short- and long-term goals of the organization and team
  • Their place within the overall company structure

2. To Learn Job Expectations

New employees face unique learning curves in their earliest days. They are exploring new systems, software, and tools to do their jobs — and they’re adjusting to that job as well.

A marketing analyst or a network engineer may perform the same general work wherever they’re employed, but all companies are unique, and expectations vary depending on where they work.

International hires can often feel more isolated, figuring out how to navigate organizations on their own. Employee onboarding processes give them an educational resource that will more explicitly and effortlessly familiarize with performance expectations and role responsibilities — offering the same experience as every other employee.

3. To Contribute More Quickly

Research indicates people’s effort levels increase by 20 percent when they receive effective onboarding. Few employees wake up overnight with a crystal-clear definition of their daily workflows, the technology they can utilize, and task-accomplishing processes. Learning these ropes takes time, but how much effort they apply is completely within the employee’s control.

With their physical distance, it is essential for international employees to feel connected as early as possible. Strategic onboarding geared toward role clarity and talent nurturing will help achieve this.

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4. To Stay Compliant

International labor laws, worker classifications, industry regulations, compliant payroll, tax preparation and filings — these things, and more, are frequent pain points when hiring international employees. Global employee onboarding programs offer ways to mitigate these concerns, particularly when it comes to communicating compliant software and IT usage and risk management to your globally remote workforce.

5. To Stay with You

Strong onboarding programs are also retention strategies. Nearly 70% of employees are more likely to remain with an employer for three years or more after an excellent onboarding experience.

What qualifies as an “excellent” experience? Many of the items named above, plus an authentic effort to socialize and welcome the new hire into the organization as well as a commitment to professional development.

While international employees may not have the luxury of organic office conversations, grabbing lunches, or attending impromptu gatherings, there are plenty of ways to keep them “social.” Think creatively, focusing on what social initiatives an international employer may respond best to given their culture and personality.

What Should You Include in Your International Employee Onboarding Process?

International employee onboarding process

Curating a strong employee-employer connection is essential for new global team members to be productive — and to build that productivity into loyalty.

Revisit your structured onboarding program with freshly listed criteria in mind. What information on social, organizational culture, or role expectations do you include? Which could be strengthened? How long has it been since you reviewed your onboarding modules in the first place?

Strong international employee onboarding programs consistently contain the following things:

1. Role and Performance Expectations

International employees being onboarded need a basic understanding of their day-to-day operations. Performance metrics and milestones should also be relayed in tangent with daily domains. This communicates all employees are evaluated on fair, standard metrics.

Role and performance expectations also include:

  • Goal-setting: Consider having your international employees draft one-month, quarterly, and/or annual goals in the first 30 days of employment. Use onboarding as a springboard to outline examples of goals and potential targets.
  • Feedback Loops and Check-Ins: Schedule regular touchpoints between you and the new employee as soon as possible. Use them to discuss project developments and answer any questions, as well as take their general morale temperature. Respect both you and your employee’s time by maintaining this check-in hour as consistently as you can.

2. Formal and “Informal” Organization Charts

Formal organization charts are staples in international employee onboarding. These visuals give a thorough explanation of the tiers scaffolding your departments, including their smaller teams and divisions, plus informs new employees whom to reach out to (and when and why). This information is crucial for a new hire to understand their place in the wider organization — and feel like they belong.

Even more importantly, attitudes about roles, rank, and status vary widely across cultures. It is essential to review your organization’s hierarchy alongside accepted interactions, channels, and behaviors. Be honest and transparent. How will the new employee contact those “above” them in the organization chart? What about “below?” Communications within the organization chart are just as important as the chart itself.

3. Technology Protocols and Expectations

Including guidelines on software and hardware usage is necessary for all employee onboarding programs. With an international workforce, attention to IT risk management is even more pressing.


Global employees are often working in dispersed locations, meaning your network endpoints will have widened — and security vulnerabilities right along with them. The compliance portion of your onboarding process should address your company’s IT security policies and practices, including:

  • Password management
  • Data back-ups
  • Data sharing or access-only boundaries
  • Mobile device usage
  • Wireless network access

4. Human Resource Documentation

HR documentation is part of the “employee orientation” portion of onboarding.

Employee onboarding and employee orientation are two distinct things. The former is the overall, strategic, multi-stepped nurturing of new hires, while the latter is the formal documentation that must be completed by new hires.

International employees come with unique sets of HR paperwork, adapted for their regional requirements. From payroll, background verification, and benefits administration to country-specific labor rights contracts and equal employment opportunities (EEOC), international employees may have nearly double the amount of orientation paperwork to comply with new employment laws.

Outsourcing this responsibility to employer-of-records services and PEOs is an attractive, risk-mitigating option for organizations with even one international employee.

Automate onboarding CTA

5. Benefits Package Information

Successful employee onboarding also means reviewing and enrolling in company benefits. Such packages vary widely based on company values and standing. Notoriously complicated and cost-prohibitive, administering benefits to international employees means added research, expanded HR responsibilities, and maybe even new technology. What’s considered a standard benefit in one country may simply not exist in another.

Dedicate a specialist to country and culture-specific worker benefits. Or consider a PEO with global benefit packages and administration a part of their service suite.

6. “In-Person” Meet-Ups

Facilitating meet-and-greets with new remote employees is just as important as it is with those in-house. International hires are no different, often needing even more strategic socializing in order to feel truly part of the team.

Take time to schedule get-to-know-you phone calls or video sessions or even a trip to the office. Personally introduce your new hire to colleagues or key stakeholders across departments. If hours permit, hold an e-lunch or coffee session, where team members can video chat while eating or enjoying a snack together. Make the most of every early conversation to cultivate camaraderie and help the new employee feel valued.

7. Personalized Attention

International employees present valuable, unique perspectives to your company. Yet too often, international onboarding programs are generalized and headquarter-centric, not localized or humanistic. Even worse, these programs can be built off broad cultural assumptions that tokenize foreign hires, putting them into boxes and treating them accordingly.

A little cultural relevance and personal attention go a long way. Companies with international employees would do well to remember everyone is — well — different. Talk to your international hire. Ask about:

  • Communication preferences
  • Work habits
  • Local laws and practices
  • Professional customs

Then tailor your onboarding according to their answers.

making new employees feel comfortable

Making New Employees Feel Comfortable: International Employee Onboarding Checklist

Speed up new employee inclusion with strategies and steps that maximize social integration, colleague interactions, and camaraderie.

1. Include Real-Time Interactions

Establish frequent real-time conversations early on, including during onboarding. These chats and messages help new employees feel remembered and connected, stimulating the organic conversations that strike between employees in the office.

During onboarding, have a rotation of team members and colleagues who “check in” on your new hire, shooting them an instant message or sending a quick voice memo. Factor time zones into these quick conversations, so you’re not messaging someone just as they’re “clocking” out — or on personal time.

2. Discuss Their Country’s Importance

Onboarding programs are often built at company headquarters by in-house HR staff and stakeholders. Because of this, they tend to stress institutional or organization-wide features, sometimes at the expense of locations where they’re expanding.

Yes, relaying wide-scale company goals and values is important. But you are scaling globally and sought international recruits for a reason, so it’s also important to broaden your context. Make sure your new employees know they matter, and can see how their efforts will fit in to the organization as a whole.

To do this, try highlighting the impact and value of the new hire’s home country. Include case studies, examples, imagery, and stories from other global employees in onboarding modules. Discuss how global networks amplify your company’s overall impact, align with your mission, and accelerate your vision for tomorrow. Weave in how the new international hire is personally part of that growth — and a key to realizing your goals.

Country labor laws

3. Have Them “Meet” Colleagues

An employee feels most in need of interpersonal resources during their early days. Facilitating colleague connections via digital channels is an essential part of a robust international onboarding plan — just make sure you’re doing so at mutually convenient hours.

A peer introduction provides many benefits for international employees, such as:

  • Helping them get acquainted with peers
  • Assigning them points of contact to answer questions and field concerns
  • Encouraging fellowship and work friendships across borders, which can also increase employee job satisfaction
  • Allowing current team members to get to know new hires, as they onboard around the world

4. Assign a Mentor or Buddy

Mentoring programs take the benefits of peer facilitation to a new level. Mentorship can be structured or loose, scripted or ad-hoc. There can be a series of activities and professional-development exercises outlined by your company that mentors help walk international employees through. Mentors and mentees can be structured or left to their own devices, creating personalized meet-up schedules and discussing personalized topics and needs according to their own priorities.

Pick a program type that fits your culture or team. Like any office initiative, mentorship and buddy programs stick when you have employee buy-in and value alignment.

5. Have What They Need Ready

An international employee may not have the traditional first day in the office. But they still require comparable office resources to be set up, accessible, and ready when they are.

Use employee onboarding as the time for tech and system initiation. Consider the hardware and software the international employee needs:

  • Are those serviced and ready?
  • Have proper accounts for computer devices and internal portals been created?
  • Does the new hire have access to role-required systems and documents?

Review these tips for the smoothest possible onboarding schedule:

international employee onboarding tips

International Employee Onboarding Tips and Tricks

1. Use Professional Translation Services

Today’s technology helps navigate the language barriers that traditionally impeded smooth international employee onboarding. As a best practice, deliver employee training modules in their expressed desired language. Present language adjustments for more technical material or documents.

And please, don’t rely on Google Translate to translate your materials. Free, automated language translators are not advanced enough to convert paragraphs into professional, natural-sounding programs.

2. Use a Digital Learning-Management System

Software platforms can house your complete, end-to-end international employee onboarding process. That means easier system oversight, scheduling, data collection, document administration, and module management all from one computer program.

The digital-first program also allows you to sync up with anyone, from anywhere — a true solution for global workforce scalability.

3. Make the Program Straightforward

Present your company, your values, your work culture, and your expectations of employees honestly and transparently.

For example, stating one of your core values is “collaboration,” but having no peer introductions during onboarding, falls short of true collaborative spirit. Preaching “innovation” but maintaining strict workflows and textbook policies doesn’t encourage out-of-the-box solutions. And saying your company has an “open-door policy” when departments are constantly siloed misleads everyone.

Build your onboarding around real employees’ everyday experiences, ensuring the program talks the talk and walks the walk.


Globalization Partners: Onboarding International Employees in Today’s World — and Tomorrow’s

onboarding employees in over 170 countriesNeed help with your onboarding process? Globalization Partners is one of the world’s premier global professional employer organizations (PEOs) with a global network featuring local employment expertise.

Words like “global” and “partner” are more than just a name. The working world is more globalized than ever. We exist to bring streamlined, scalable HR, tax, legal, and financial services to businesses with expansion plans beyond borders — including custom, compliant, digitally managed workforce onboarding plans.

If you need help with global expansion, Globalization Partners’ Global Expansion Platform™ enables you to hire in more than 170 countries within days, and without the need to set up costly international subsidiaries. You identify great talent anywhere in the world, and we put them on our fully compliant global payroll—lifting the burden of global corporate tax, legal and HR matters from your shoulders to ours.

Globalization Partners: we make global expansion fast and easy. Get in touch today to request a proposal for your team.

For more information regarding onboarding and managing global talent, download our Global Hiring Handbook here:

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