A new language, foreign cultures and mentalities, a different way of working with a varying range of tasks and responsibilities, an unusual climate, a new time zone, and often no direct contact with one's own family and friends: for every foreign nurse, a job in a German clinic or retirement home means a change of life since many new requirements must be met at once. Because of this, foreign employees should already receive comprehensive training on the local way of working and living during the recruitment phase. Most professional programs focus on this. However, despite good preparation, the first weeks of arrival often establish whether the employee feels comfortable and wants to stay in Germany. Therefore, it is important to make the first few days and weeks of caregivers' stay as easy as possible. We have put together six tips to help you prepare your own staff and integrate new colleagues.
1. Sensitize Long-Term Personnel
Foreign employees may experience rejection from the existing personnel - especially if the team is unprepared. This can quickly give rise to fears of contact: some employees may fear a deterioration in their own working conditions, others may have concerns about communication or the quality of work. The fear of lower pay can also play a role. It is therefore advisable to inform all employees involved in advance of the increase in the number of colleagues. Employers should explain to employees the reasons for hiring foreign employees, the comparability of training and work experience, and the same pay scale structure. It is also helpful to inform employees about the forthcoming integration procedure or even to involve them in the process. For example, experienced employees can act as practical trainers.
2. Common Accommodation Facilitates Start
It is advisable to employ at least two caregivers with similar backgrounds and to initially house them together. The common native language and regular exchange make many hurdles easier to overcome, providing security and support. Housing should be as close to the workplace as possible, preferably within walking distance. Many facilities have staff residences, which offer ideal accommodation for the initial phase of acclimatisation. Some employers also rent shared flats for their foreign employees, which should be furnished and equipped with cooking utensils if possible. Ideally there should even be a washing machine. However, one of the most important prerequisites for guaranteeing the well-being of new employees is Internet access. This should be available from day one because most immigrants need the exchange with their families back home to better process the impressions of the first weeks.
3. Enough Time to Settle In
Time is a critical factor in the first weeks of acclimatization. Employers should initially minimize time pressures and give new employees breaks to process the new impressions. These are necessary for orientation, as the many changes in the lives of the new employees can also result in delays in their absorption capacity - especially if they are working abroad for the first time. Ideally, the employer should plan the new workers for the first two to three months so that they can unhurriedly familiarise themselves. The adaptation process can usually be significantly shortened for people who get settled in quickly.
4. Timetable for the First Three Days
Below you will find recommendations for the first few days of acclimatisation of foreign workers:
Day 1: Let them get settled in
- Pick them up from the airport/train station personally
- Welcome breakfast/dinner/lunch
- Familiarize them with their housing
- Give information material
Day 2: City and workplace tour
- Show them their surroundings, including supermarkets, local transit, ATMs, pharmacies, etc.
- Introduction of the workplace: tour of the facility, the stations, canteen
- Hand over keys and work clothes
- Support in dealing with local authorities (registration of address, etc.)
Day 3: Introduction to the team and station
- Welcome/team reception
- Tour through the entire station, including material storage, kitchen, etc.
- Organizational matters: initial training plan, workflows, operational rules
- Introduction to all important contact persons within the company
Day 4: Give new employees the day off to take care of the necessary bureaucratic procedures (e.g. registration of address), furnish their home, explore their surroundings, and reflect on their first few days.
Starting on Day 5: Initial instruction and training, including obligatory documentation
5. Support from Leaders and Mentors
In the first two months there should be a weekly meeting between the new caregiver and the ward management to discuss the progress of the training and to find out if and where there are still difficulties. When different cultures come into conflict, things never go smoothly. Thus, it also makes sense to determine which communication channels the nurse should take in the event of disagreements. Fundamentally, a new employee should always have the possibility of a confidential conversation with his or her superior. For all questions about the work and procedures in the facility, it is helpful to make a partner available to the foreign caregiver. A colleague who fulfills similar tasks can act as a mentor, for example, and the newcomer always has a contact person who has been around for a long time at his or her disposal who knows their way around. Ideally, there are already foreign employees in the company who have faced similar challenges on arrival and can give tips - perhaps there is even a mentor of the same nation or mother tongue.
6. Promote a Sense of Belonging
In addition to the personal introduction of the new employee to the entire team, immediate involvement in events at the clinic or senior citizens' facility is beneficial to strengthen the feeling of belonging. Supervisors should motivate teams with new employees to take them to company events or to do something together after work. It is also very helpful for foreign workers to undergo internal training right from the start and thus learn something in the group. Ideally, employers should support foreign professionals with learning materials to improve their German, organise cross-clinic cultural meetings between foreign nurses or establish contact with organisations that can help with integration, such as church communities and local (sports) clubs.
Laura Esnaola has been with Care With Care from the very beginning. The international programme for recruiting foreign care specialists offers employers in the healthcare sector global personnel solutions, while accommodating medical nursing staff from abroad who are looking to start a career in Europe. Through Care With Care, Laura Esnaola places nursing staff, primarily from the Philippines, while advising personnel decision-makers from clinics, senior care and rehabilitation facilities on the successful integration of employees in order to strengthen intercultural understanding and communication. This ensures that employees remain with the companies long-term. In addition to her activities as Managing Director of Care.com Europe GmbH and Head of Care With Care, Laura Esnaola is involved in charitable projects worldwide and makes the occasional appearance as a violinist.