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On-boarding: How to welcome your Belgian employee?

As an employer you need to ensure your new employee feels comfortable working for your company. Particularly so when cultural differences may arise, as could be the case when hiring new Belgian personnel. What would your ideal on-boarding strategy then look like?

A good on-boarding strategy is an absolute must in the current ‘War for Talent’, as per recruitment and selection agency Robert Half. After research among 1.000 Belgian employees it became apparent that 60% would be considering quitting within the first month if the on-boarding is seen as insufficient.

Meanwhile, research done by Acerta, an HR service provider, states that one in every three new employment contracts for an undetermined amount of time is terminated within one year. The employee is usually the one who makes the decision, citing the notion that the work does not fully live up to the expectations.

Steps of international on-boarding

A good on-boarding strategy can ensure neither the employee nor the employer is disappointed in some way, shape, or form. Accumulating a right strategy will give any company an advantage in retaining that one applicant who had been difficult to acquire. On-boarding successfully will also be of benefit with regards to your new employee’s productivity.

The process is generally subdivided into a few steps that complement each other. These steps can also be used during international on-boarding, where each step may require an additional focus for international aspects.

Pre-boarding

The on-boarding process does not start when your new employee starts his or her first day of work; a new employee can be well-prepared before even setting foot inside the office. Insight with regards to work expectations prior to starting a new job, has proven to be essential in keeping a new employee happy. Pre-boarding is vitally important.

In Onboarding - How to Get Your New Employees Up To Speed in Half the Time, authors George B. Bradt and Mary Vonnegut make a case for all practical issues to be sorted before the first day on the job, as any small details can make a huge impression on new personnel.

They write: “New employees are usually hyper-alert, as they find themselves in an unknown environment. However, they lack the knowledge their more-experienced colleagues have attained to simply navigate their way through the work. New employees do not know ‘how things are done here’. That can even result in the littlest details seeming much more complicated than they are.”

Anyone who has ever started a new job, knows how lost the newcomer can feel. Make sure your employee has a well-equipped and fully-functioning workplace and is able to work properly, without having to deal with administrative ‘to-do’s’, missing passwords, a non-responsive WIFI-connection, or other fundamental issues.

Particularly when dealing with international on-boarding, it is important you outline the overall culture of your company, to provide a fair and honest assessment of the organisation. You will have dealt with this during the initial recruitment outreach and the job interview, but it is never a bad decision to further reiterate what type of work-culture you have built. It only provides an additional moment where your new employee knows what to expect. He or she can then take these matters into account.

First days on the job

Never just throw your new employee into the deep end. Make sure colleagues are aware of the fact that a new employee has joined the forces, and organise introductory meetings for your staff. This way your new employee will feel welcomed.

For international on-boarding it is particularly necessary to allocate someone of your staff as a possible mentor or coach for the new employee, who would check in on a regular basis and is available for any questions he or she may have. This phase of the on-boarding program will continue until your new employee is fully familiar with his or her job, tasks and capacity.

Follow ups

Due to a number of cultural differences, international on-boarding will likely take a bit longer than usual. Generally, a process that lasts six and nine months is no exception.

To make sure your new employee does not feel lost, it is recommended to always keep a finger on the pulse by regularly scheduling performance, assessment and evaluation interviews. Beyond talking about his or her accomplishments or goals, it provides an opportunity to further discuss the overall happiness of your new employee about the work itself and the employer.

The first conversation of this kind would have to occur within the first few weeks; ideally within the first 30 days. Follow-ups should then be scheduled every 30 days, until your new employee really feels at home within a new organisation. This study, done by the Academy of Management Journal, shows that it is likely that both the employee and/or the employer will know whether that will be the case within a time frame of 90 days. 

On-boarding Belgium personnel

International on-boarding deviates from the on-boarding of employees from your own country due to a variety of cultural differences: it is never a one size fits all. And delving even deeper into it, no two employees are ever the same, so a strict and definitive on-boarding strategy is important - even though there is a danger of being too rigid.

However, even though a ‘typical employee’ does not exist in this process, it is possible to highlight a few general characteristics of the Belgium culture, using the cultural model of Geert Hofstede.

Using Hofstede’s model, it becomes apparent that people in Belgium are used to a strict hierarchy within the company: the boss is the boss. This explains why, according to the Global Talent Acquisition Monitor of Intelligence Group, Belgians find it important to meet the team/line manager during a job interview.

A Belgian will also likely find it difficult to give feedback during an evaluation, as they are typically rather indirect in their communication - particularly in comparison to other Northern cultures. 

Furthermore, Belgian employees have a strong desire to build a line of trust. If this turns out to be the case, it is perhaps wise to match that employee with a mentor or coach for a longer time than you would usually do.

Apps

The amount of technological possibilities to further enhance the on-boarding process has vastly increased over the last few years. Software applications in particular are on the rise.

A well-built on-boarding app can help the employee during the first steps of acquaintance. He or she will learn more about the company, perhaps through a virtual tour of the head-quarters, and is able to get in touch with his or her new colleagues. Your employee is also able to follow their progress, and view what type of professional standards he or she will be held to. Apps have simplified and professionalized the on-boarding process at an affordable price.

A few well-known apps are Appical and Talmundo, as well as more extensive Human Capital Management software applications like Workday and Paycor.

Looking for greater insight into labour market data?

Interested in smarter international recruitment using the European Recruitment Dashboard? This dashboard gives you access to data from 28 countries in Europe, concerning 500 professional groups. It will empower you to develop and fine-tune your recruitment strategy in the European labour market. The data we use comes from our very own European job-market study: The Global Talent Acquisition Monitor (GTAM) and from Jobfeed by Textkernel. If you are interested in more information about this dashboard, please contact us to request a demo. 

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