Meaghan Roland explains how managers and HR directors can successfully integrate new international team members.
With unprecedentedly high vacancy rates across the UK, many local authorities and care providers are filling the gaps with internationally qualified social workers, particularly from Australia, South Africa and the US. For new recruits, far from home, getting used to a new team and often a new style of working can sometimes be a daunting task. Below are tips on how to effectively integrate new international starters in order to get the best out of them from their first day onwards.
1 Ensure new recruits are up to speed on UK policy, systems and legislation, including service users’ rights. You may wish to use a formal trainer if necessary. Equip your new starters with all the tools of the trade – service directory, referral pathways, key contacts in other teams they’ll be working with.
2 Make sure your social workers know what to expect. Discuss with them the differences between work in their home country and in the UK – pitfalls to look out for, things they might not be expecting. Talk about the cultural differences they might encounter, as well as issues surrounding preferred procedure and best practice benchmarks.
3 Formalise their place in the team. International candidates are often used to a small and highly structured workforce, so make sure your new recruits are comfortable with all the details of their job role and reporting lines in order to instil confidence.
4 Introduce a buddy system. This can be extremely useful in providing a friendly go-to face during the initial acclimatisation period. Ideally the buddy would be a UK social worker or someone who’s worked in the UK for several years – and a peer will naturally be more approachable than a manager.
5 Give honest and constructive criticism. During supervision, don’t avoid or circumvent potential issues. Some international candidates are used to robust feedback sessions and may not respond to a “softly softly” approach.
6 Help with cultural adaptation. If your organisation has a social committee, tap into it. Facilitate social events if you can – remember, your existing team may well be the only people your new recruits know at first. It’s a good team building exercise – and happier people stay longer in their jobs and get better results.
Meaghan Roland is senior international consultant at health and social care recruitment company HCL International
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This article is published in the 16 September issue of Community Care magazine under the heading How to…integrate new recruits from overseas