Compared to domestic transfers, the relocation of international offices presents many challenges for both employees and the human resources department. Adapting to a new culture in a foreign country is one of them.
With a completely new world with entirely different sets of social and cultural norms, it’s normal for people to have a hard time adjusting at first. In fact, the move might even require a moving assistance service.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make the adjustment easier for everyone in the business, such as:
1. Recognize the reality of culture shock.
Not everyone can function the same as after moving to a whole new environment. Most will feel frustrated and even anxious at times.
To make sure this does not affect the business and its bottom line, make sure employees are aware that these stresses are normal, situational, and temporary.
No matter where you come from, there are bound to be different traditions, social norms and values that differ between your country of origin and your country of destination. Different variations of how things should be will stand out. People will naturally carry the culture they grew up in, which will shape how they adapt to their new community..
The adjustment could also result in some level of culture shock, although not everyone will show the same signs. In some cases, people may even experience it at different times – some immediately while others a little later.
Help your employees accept this as part of their new reality by identifying common reactions to culture shock, comprising:
- Intense homesickness
- Avoid social interactions
- Sleep disturbances and physical complaints
- Inability to concentrate at work
- Sudden irritability or outbursts of anger
- Extreme exhaustion or nervousness
Knowing how to spot the signs of culture shock will make it easier to take effective steps to help your employees overcome it.
2. Carry out a cultural inventory.
Whenever your company undertakes a move or a significant initiative abroad, everything must be filtered through the logic followed by the new cultural system. This applies to all aspects of the business, whether it is the human resource system, expansion by recruiting workers, or implementing a new technology platform.
Bring in cultural translators – or people who understand both the culture of your home country and that of your destination country – and work with them to identify which processes, procedures and systems work universally and which need to be redesigned. This will ensure that the company adapts to the new culture with its employees.
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3. Offer intercultural training.
With every new platform, tool, or piece of equipment, companies provide training for their employees to learn how to use and get used to these new things. Adapting to a new culture is no different.
It’s here that cultural training programs become necessary.
This formal method of teaching employees a foreign culture covers everything they need to know and respect customs, local laws and cultural nuances that can be difficult to understand right off the bat. In other words, cultural training will help improve the cultural sensitivity of your people, thus eliminating the risk of miscommunication that could negatively affect the entire business.
Here are two types of cross-cultural training your employees may need:
- General awareness training: This covers the appropriate methods for dealing with foreign clients, educating employees of a different culture, supervising and managing a culturally diverse workforce, and facilitating cross-cultural exchange.
- Culture specific training: This focuses primarily on the values, traditions, ethics, general beliefs and unique protocols of a specific nation or territory.
Engaging your employees in these trainings will allow them to understand the foreign culture to which they are exposed, help them to better perform their tasks and, ultimately, allow them to live a fulfilling life in the new nation.
4. Pairing of employees in a buddy system.
Here’s how the buddy system works: An employee with recent experience in the destination country serves as a guide for a coworker by answering any questions the coworker may have prior to the move.
This will make the adjustment for those who stay in your home country more efficient.
The system follows the principle which revolves around talk to someone who has already experienced the new culture to gain a practical insight into the day-to-day realities of living in a foreign country. Once the transfer has started, everyone can stay in touch thanks to a technology that allows the sharing of experiences in real time. Any communication platform should work perfectly for this purpose.
5. Support the learning of new languages.
One of the most important obstacles hindering adaptation to a foreign culture is the difference in language.
Communication is the key to closing any gap. The best way to make sure it stays unhindered is to help employees learn the language of the new country in which your business will be operating.
Language training is vital for cultural adjustment, even for the other countries which mainly speak the universal language. Some native language courses immerse employees more deeply into the culture, thereby boosting their self-confidence and promoting a smoother transition.
6. Extend aid to the families of employees.
Sometimes cultural adjustment becomes difficult for employees not because of their own failure to settle down, but because their families have not been able to adjust to life abroad. For this reason, you should extend your cultural adaptation assistance to them as well.
Make sure the whole family receives some form of cultural training. It doesn’t have to be as extensive as your employees’, but make sure you offer them language course and some basic information about the country cultural practices at least.
7. Encourage queries and acceptance of errors.
Encourage your employees to ask for help when needed. Some may see asking for an explanation or for help as a sign of weakness. They may even fear that it will interfere with the evaluation of their performance at work.
However, it would be beneficial for their adjustment if they clarify things that are not clear rather than making wrong assumptions.
By eliminating the idea that they have to be perfect all the time, you give your employees some leeway to adjust to the new country, culture, and community..
In addition, mistakes are inevitable. The sooner you and your employees accept it, the sooner they can gain momentum to learn all about the new culture. Even with cross-cultural training, they can still make generalized or inaccurate statements about culture.
Instead of seeing it as a setback, teach your employees to see it as an opportunity to learn and grow with others in a different environment.
New opportunities in a new culture
There is no shortage of opportunities for those who open up to possibilities. Doing business abroad in a new country presents a lot.
Help your employees realize this by offering them cultural adjustment assistance when you move your office abroad.
Interesting related article: “5 things to know before working abroad”