Making people feel welcome at work

Your company will be a central part of the life of your foreign skilled workers. This is why they have to feel at ease and supported there. Not only their fellow colleagues but also the managers need to create a welcoming culture and actively help newcomers settle into day-to-day work. You can find out how to achieve this and how to inspire your existing staff here.

Making people feel welcome at work © istockphoto / Squaredpixels

Be prepared

Be prepared © istockphoto / mediaphotos

So, your new recruit has cleared all the hurdles and becomes a part of your company? The challenge facing you now is to integrate this new member of staff at work. Establishing a welcoming culture in the company is of key importance.

Initial accommodation

The first thing someone moving to Germany needs on arrival is somewhere to live. Because without somewhere to live, they can neither register their place of residence nor open a bank account. A temporary hotel address will not be accepted as an officially registered address. This is why it is important that you should make initial accommodation arrangements for your staff member. If possible, look for some temporary accommodation close to your company that you can offer the member of staff for an initial period.

Provide help for language courses

Learning the language is crucial to successful integration. Especially when German is the corporate language, it is advisable to help the staff member learn it. That will help them cope in everyday life.

If there is still enough time before they start work, you can encourage your new employee to begin learning German while still in their country of origin. It would be helpful in that case to provide information about the different types of language course in that country. The Goethe-Institut offers German courses abroad. Besides courses demanding a physical presence, there is also the option of doing an online German course.

You can find more tips about learning German in the guide entitled “Learning German”.

Put together “welcome packs”

 “Welcome packs" are in themselves symbols of a genuine corporate welcoming culture. They should serve the purpose of helping new staff members find their feet in their adopted country and provide information about the company, the first things they need to do on arrival and life in the region. Put together your own welcome pack before the arrival of your new staff member from abroad. Below is a list of topics to fill your welcome pack with:

  • Worthwhile facts about the company and day-to-day work
  • Information about life in their new home town: the housing market, medical care, childcare facilities, cultural and recreational activities, eating out
  • Material to help them find their way around: town map, public transport map and timetables
  • Information about necessary administrative formalities: addresses and opening times of the resident registration office, foreigners’ authority, family benefits office, banks and insurance agencies

Once you have compiled a welcome pack, not only the foreign staff member benefits, but the whole company. So make sure that the welcome pack is available to the entire workforce. The BDA (confederation of German employers’ associations) “Welcoming Culture” guidelines provide further information on how companies can make foreign staff members feel welcome and integrate them into their corporate structures.

Onboarding and welcome days

Onboarding and welcome days © istockphoto / kupicoo

The first week is especially important for the work climate and future performance of new recruits. This is why it is advisable to properly structure the initiation phase. An “onboarding” process (in the sense of bringing someone aboard) helps ensure that foreign staff members:

  • are able to work autonomously
  • are culturally integrated into the company within a short time. That means that they get to know German work culture and identify with the corporate culture
  • are properly integrated into their team and develop a good relationship with their line manager and other colleagues

The onboarding process general starts at the signing of the work contract and ends at the earliest after the probation period and at the latest after one year. The important thing is that you should standardise tasks and processes. Checklists and guidelines can be helpful here, for example. That will save you time every time you take on a new recruit. In individual cases, it might be useful to foster awareness of diversity in the existing workforce by means of training courses. That will create a better understanding of intercultural collaboration at work.

You can acquire in-depth knowledge about planning and implementing an onboarding process by attending continuing education seminars for executives. You can also get advice from personnel management consultants.

Holding welcome days

Welcome days are a key, practical onboarding tool. The goal of a welcome day is to introduce new recruits to the work environment and their future tasks. The schedule for a first day of work could resemble this:

  • Welcoming speech: Welcome the new recruits and introduce their work colleagues.
  • Present the company: If you did not already present the company during your first interview with the staff member, now is a good opportunity to take a tour of the respective business divisions and departments.
  • Discuss tasks and introduce them to their post: Show your new staff members where they will be working and their equipment. Discuss pending tasks with them and what the next steps will be during the first few days. You might also discuss personnel matters that have not yet been settled once again.
  • Hand over the welcome pack: Put the most important information about the company that can help newcomers find their way around and serve as a reference together in a folder.

The “Living in Germany” section on the Qualified Professionals page of the Make it in Germany website also contains a number of topics of relevance to the first few days in Germany.

Example of best practice

Innogames GmbH integrated onboarding and welcome days into its concept of a corporate welcoming culture. In 2015, InnoGames was awarded the Success in Diversity award by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Read more about its successful concept.

Mentoring or integration officer?

Mentoring or integration officer? © istockphoto / PeopleImages

Mentoring programmes are an excellent means of providing support for newcomers to the company. You should think about setting up a mentoring programme in your company especially if you have no experience of recruiting workers from abroad. Employees from southern European countries, for example, appreciate having one specific person assigned to them who will look after them and help them even with personal problems.

Do you have experienced employees in your company who are well-acquainted with corporate and local structures, or who are immigrants themselves? They could act as mentors for the new workers. The important thing is that the mentors should be dedicated and motivated in their mentoring role. To ensure this, you can organise training courses for mentors on intercultural communication. Training courses which provide basic knowledge about the new recruit’s country of origin are recommended.

If organising a mentoring programme is too onerous for you, you can appoint an integration officer for your company. The integration officer works with the human resources manager to help new recruits in practical issues of everyday life in Germany and supports their professional development.

Example of best practice

Evopro systems engineering AG made use of an integration officer in their integration concept. Read more about their experience.

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