3 things to think about when welcoming an employee from another country
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Most smart tech companies are taking advantage of Canada’s favourable global image and our progressive immigration programs to broaden the talent pool. Whether you’re bringing in a new executive with global experience or a young professional, you know that hiring a new Canadian presents both an incredible opportunity and a challenge as your new hire faces an integration into both your company and into their new country.
As a consultant to growing tech companies and someone who recently navigated my own arrival in Canada, I’d like to share my experience. I hope that these learnings will help you build a process and an environment that fosters success and a true sense of welcome for your new hire.
Moving to Canada from India was not a decision I made lightly - it involved furiously googling “things to do in Waterloo”, a very long winter prep list, medical tests, farewells and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. The decision was so daunting that I initially turned down the job offer for fear of “being cold and lonely” in a land far far away. I’d be leaving family, taking a 24 hour flight and starting from scratch in a town where not having a driver's license was laughable.
But I survived.
And I not only survived, I thrived.
I happily renewed my work permit after 18 months, was promoted and opened up the Toronto office for Artemis Canada. Then last month I got my Permanent Residency and am officially Canadian (with the HBC blanket and sensible boots to prove it!)
So what made the difference for me? Why did Canada stand out vs Paris or Amsterdam where I'd studied in my early 20's? What did my team do right that made the transition easier and that made me feel like I was home, even when Waterloo was as different from Mumbai as you can get?
Here are some things I hope you'll take away from my adventure in Canadian immigration -
#1 - Set Expectations & Onboard Early
Moving to another country or city is a big investment - in time, money and trust.
Make sure your new hire understands not only the scope of their role but also the details of their employment package. Don’t assume that vacation, benefits, or standard salary will be easily understood. Google may have all the answers, but when you care to explain the basics of the Canadian healthcare system and how your benefits package will cover other things, this is really valuable.
There is typically some time between an accepted offer and your new hire’s arrival. Use this time to share your employee package and get started with onboarding. This gives you a head start on the ramp-up and also helps to build excitement and preparation for change.
Nothing gets a candidate ready for an adventure like knowing who they're going to be working with. Introduce your new hire to their coworkers to fast track relationships.
I had a video call with my team which while awkward (for me) was very reassuring. Their excitement to welcome me was evident and just knowing they were waiting for me felt great! We brainstormed ideas for the project I’d be leading, which made me feel part of the team.
Taking on a new role moving to Canada felt like jumping into the deep end. I didn’t have a tech background and knew nothing about the Canadian startup ecosystem, but my learning was accelerated as I was included in status meetings even before I arrived. Those initial meetings were like a foreign language, but I subscribed to newsletters and social channels, and read news sites and anything else that would familiarize me with the companies and people in Canadian tech. I was added to team slack channels, included in important updates and given context to every story.
#2 - Open Communication / Buddy system
While constant contact isn’t realistic, it is important to know there’s a human on the other side who understands where you’re coming from and makes you feel comfortable. It’s easy to send lists and links to resources but nothing can beat a thread of connection.
I’d recommend having a buddy system with a weekly touchpoint until your hire has moved into the city and well into their first 3 months. Moving can be isolating, so having a person in the company for non-work-related questions, to vent to and laugh with, will help build a sense of belonging.
My own boss had worked abroad through the same exchange program in her 20’s, so she related to my experience in a real way. We emailed regularly in the 2 months it took to process my visa. I had a hundred questions ranging from transit schedules, to which areas are safe for a young woman to live in, to lists of meetups and social events, to tax policy, and even clothing advice. She went above and beyond, even previewing a few apartments herself so I’d be settled right after my long flight - something my parents really appreciated.
#3 - Candidate Welcome
Put together a list of resources - like cheat codes for your city! While the basic info - public transport, benefits, neighbourhoods, housing costs are important, often they’re not enough. Banking too can get complicated, I had to move funds over from European banks and India. Recommend trusted institutions and advisors to make the transition easier. Talk to people in your company who’ve gone through a big move and ask them what they would have liked to learn while making the jump. There are also resources in your community that you can tap into, like relocation and settlement consultants who can provide resources or act as a concierge.
Be sure to make their first day memorable! I showed up to a stuffed moose and a jug of maple syrup on my desk. I still have that moose -- a reminder that I was welcomed with open arms.
It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies (as someone who made the move in a snowy December I can 100% testify to that) but the more I reflect on it, the more I realize how critical community was to me.
My team provided a great support system, and the foundation for me to build a social circle. I made friends with people my age who’d also recently immigrated. Together we shared meals, a very tiny car, big wins (running my first event!) and little ones (first really sunny day!)
And I knew I had a team that really cared. They took me out for Indian food, invited me to share Christmas with their families, connected me to the community, and never made me feel like any question was the wrong question. As I’ve grown with the team, they encouraged me to open up an office in Toronto, showing me that taking a risk with the right people is nothing short of magic.