Compared to domestic transfers, international office relocation presents a lot of challenges for both employees and the human resource department. Adjusting 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 find it difficult to adapt to in the beginning. In fact, the move might even necessitate a relocation support service.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make the adjustment easier for everyone in the company, such as:
1. Acknowledging the reality of culture shock.
Not everyone can function the same way they did after moving to a completely new environment. Most will feel frustrated and even anxious at times.
To ensure that this doesn’t affect the company and its bottom line, ensure employees are aware that these stresses are normal, situational, and temporary.
Regardless of where you come from, there are bound to be different traditions, social norms, and values that differ between your origin and destination country. 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 will adjust to their new community.
The adjustment might also result in a certain level of culture shock, though not everyone will show the same signs. In some cases, people may even experience it at different times – some immediately while others a bit later.
Help your employees accept this as a part of their new reality by identifying the common reactions to culture shock, including:
- Intense homesickness
- Avoidance of social interaction
- Sleep troubles and physical complaints
- Inability to focus at work
- Sudden irritability or temper outbursts
- 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. Performing a cultural inventory.
Whenever your company undertakes any significant move to or initiative on foreign land, everything needs to be filtered through the logic followed by the new cultural system. This applies to all aspects of the business, be it the human resources system, expansion through worker recruitment, or implementation of 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’s – and work with them to identify which processes, procedures, and systems work universally and which ones need to be reimagined. This will ensure that the company adjusts to the new culture along with its employees.
Take note certain elements may be changeable while others cannot be negotiated at all (i.e., laws covering employment), so make sure you take every factor into account when performing a cultural inventory.
3. Providing cross-cultural training.
With every new platform, tool, or equipment, companies provide training for their employees to learn how to use and get used to these new things. Adjusting to a new culture is no different.
This is where cultural training programs become necessary.
This formal method of teaching employees about a foreign culture covers everything they need to know and respect customs, local laws, and cultural nuances that can be difficult to understand from the get-go. In other words, cultural training will help enhance your people’s cultural sensitivity, thereby removing the risk of miscommunication that could negatively affect the entire company.
Below are two types of cross-cultural training your employees may need:
- General awareness training: This covers appropriate methods for handling foreign clients, boosting awareness about employees from a different culture, supervising and managing a culturally diverse workforce, and facilitating cross-cultural
- Culture-specific training: This primarily focuses on the values, traditions, ethics, general beliefs, and unique protocols of a specific nation or territory.
Engaging your employees in these training courses will allow them to understand the foreign culture they are exposed to, help them perform their tasks better and, ultimately, allow them to live a fulfilling life in the new nation.
4. Pairing employees in a buddy system.
Here’s how the buddy system works: An employee with recent experience in the destination country serves as the guide for a colleague by answering any questions the latter may have before the move.
This will make adjustment for those left in your origin country more efficient.
The system follows the principle that revolves around talking to someone who already experienced the new culture to get a practical insight into the daily realities of living in a foreign country. Once the transfer has commenced, everyone can stay in touch using technology that allows the real-time sharing of experiences. Any communication platform should work perfectly for this very purpose.
5. Supporting new language learning.
One of the most significant barriers that hinders adjustment to a foreign culture is the difference in language.
Communication is the key to bridging any gap. The best way to ensure that it remains unhindered is to help employees learn the language of the new country your company will be operating in.
Language training is vital for cultural adjustment, even for other countries that predominantly speak the universal language. Some native language tuition immerses employees deeper into the culture, thereby boosting their confidence and promoting a smoother transition.
6. Extending help to employees’ families.
Sometimes, cultural adjustment becomes challenging for employees not because of their own failure to settle in but because their families weren’t able to adjust to life abroad. For this reason, you need to extend your cultural adjustment assistance to them as well.
Make sure the entire family gets some form of cultural training. This doesn’t have to be as extensive as that of your employees’ but make sure you offer them language lessons and some basic information about the country’s cultural practices at the very least.
7. Encouraging queries and the acceptance of mistakes.
Encourage your employees to ask for help when needed. Some may see asking for an explanation or assistance as a sign of weakness. They may even fear it would be detrimental to their performance assessment at work.
However, it would be beneficial to their adjustment if they clarify things that are unclear rather than make the wrong assumptions.
By eliminating the idea that they have to be perfect all the time, you allow your employees some wriggle room as they adapt to the new country, culture, and community.
Besides, mistakes are inevitable. The sooner you and your employees accept this, the earlier they can gain their momentum in learning all about the new culture. Even with cross-cultural training, they might still make generalized or inaccurate statements about the culture.
Instead of seeing this 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 lots of these.
Help your employees realize this by providing cultural adjustment assistance when you move your office overseas.
Interesting Related Article: “5 Things To Know Before Working Abroad“