How to Retain International Talent
HR Tips Geneva Brooks
As recruiters, we’ve all experienced the heartbreak of a newly hired employee leaving after only a short time. Sometimes we’re left wondering what happened, and other times it’s quite clear, but the resulting frustrations are almost always the same. As we scramble to restart the hiring process and find a replacement, we often ask ourselves: is there something we could have done differently?
For the European tech industry, finding and retaining talent from abroad has become one of the most pressing issues of the day. A recently published study put the current number of unfilled IT vacancies in Germany at 124,000 (up from 82,000 last year). This demand cannot be filled solely with European engineers, so recruiters must look increasingly to skilled developers outside the EU.
Honeypot helps companies connect with software developers from all over the world looking for their dream job in Europe, and this year the Honeypot Relocation team has helped to relocate over 60 developers. So how do we, as companies, make sure that the candidates we put time and effort into hiring actually stick around?
1. Fly them in
It’s important to start your retention strategy even before an offer has been made. One of the best ways to ensure that your new hire will be happy in their new city is to bring them there! Flying a candidate in for an in-person interview allows them the chance to not only experience your company culture in person, but also to experience life in their potential new home. It’s a great way to make sure they love it before making the final commitment.
We recommend flying in not only the candidate but the whole family whenever possible. As you’ll see below, buy-in from the family is critically important in ensuring that your new hire sticks around. The investment you make by bringing them in - especially for high level positions - will pay off when your new hire not only accepts your offer, but contributes to your success for years to come.
Once you’ve made your decision and extended an offer, what other barriers can you remove for your new hire?
2. Offer travel assistance
Helping with the headache of travel can be a huge relief! Many companies choose to book flights on behalf of their new employees, removing not only logistical but also financial hurdles.
Something as simple as checking details about the flight can ease so much of the stress related to moving. Are they travelling with family and need seats together? How much baggage do they need to check in? What about dietary restrictions, or extra leg room? Be sure to check each of these details in advance.
These are things new hires are often too busy to think of but appreciate immensely. The upfront cost is well worth it to create a great first experience.
3. Help with their housing
The housing situation in Berlin is undoubtedly tricky. Demand is high (and getting higher every day), and supply is constrained by building permits and city ordinances.
For tech talents relocating to Germany, the difficulty of finding an apartment in the first place is compounded by the fact that many available apartments are offered unfurnished. This is especially tough for those coming to Germany with a limited number of belongings. On the other end of the spectrum, however, moving with furniture also presents its own challenges such as shipping and storage.
For this reason, it’s important to take into account each employee’s individual needs to find the best initial housing solution:
- Is it a single person or a family?
- Are they shipping furniture or arriving with only a suitcase?
- Will there be children or pets accompanying them?
You may choose to set up an apartment building (owned by the company) that can house several new employees for a short period. For those not able to take advantage of this option, there is also the option to partner with local realtors to help find furnished short-term accommodations. This allows the new employee to settle in to their new city for a month or two while looking for a more permanent solution.
Bonus tip: Provide your new employees with information on resources such as eBay Kleinanzeigen where newly arrived employees can find discounted furniture to fill a new apartment.
4. Support their partner
The single biggest issue that international talents cite as a reason for leaving a new job (and sometimes leaving the country entirely) is an unhappy partner. The partner with a new job has somewhere exciting to go to every day, is constantly meeting new colleagues, and has a chance to get to know the new city. Meanwhile, the partner on a family reunification visa may be sitting at home feeling isolated in an unfamiliar new country where they don’t speak the language.
Companies can do a lot to ensure that talents stay with them by making an effort to support the entire family. This includes (but is of course not limited to):
Inviting the spouse to come along for the final interview in Berlin. As we discussed above, It’s important that both partners have a chance to see the new city and explore what the move will mean for each of their lives. If both partners are prepared for and happy with the move, it’s much more likely that your new hire will stay in town.
Assisting the spouse with their job search. For most families these days, two incomes is no longer a luxury but rather a requirement. This is especially true in a new city where a family can incur additional expenses in the process of settling in. Apart from the monetary value, finding a job in a new city can also provide a sense of purpose and motivation, and a way to meet new people in an unfamiliar place.
Invite the spouse to company events. Especially for partners who have not yet found a job in the new city, moving to a new country can be an isolating experience. Extending an invitation to join company events and networking opportunities allows partners to feel included in your new hire’s excitement, and provides an essential tie to the new city that will help your new hire put down roots.
5. Consider their children
Finding a daycare for little ones presents yet another challenge for recently relocated families. Kita (short for Kindertagesstätte is the German system of daycare for children ages 3 to 5. It’s an invaluable aid to families with young children, allowing both parents to work and to leave the house during the day - an essential part of integrating into a new culture.
In Berlin in particular, and in many other German cities, Kita can be nearly as competitive as finding a university! In fact, many families begin their Kita search as soon as they learn they are expecting. The situation varies from district to district, but in Berlin it is especially difficult in trendy and young districts such as Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte.
Companies can go a long way in supporting newly arrived families by assisting with Kita search and providing guidance on options. In particular, finding suitable housing for young families can allow them better access to Kita programs in their neighborhood. It’s also helpful to make sure that families are aware of their legal rights and options when it comes to Kita.
6. Help them with their pets
Although less common than travelling with a partner and children, many people moving abroad also bring beloved pets to their new city. In these cases, it’s helpful to provide as much information as possible in advance to make sure this transition is a smooth one:
Candidates should be aware in advance of how animals travel on planes, as well as the risk they are taking by transporting their pets this way. Such a journey can be stressful for pets and in some cases can cause lasting traumas. Depending on the type of animal, there are various steps that can be taken to minimize dangers and keep your pet as comfortable as possible to ensure everyone arrives safely.
Candidates should also be well informed of what life will be like owning a pet in Germany. What are the regulations for registering a pet? Where is the closest emergency veterinarian? In many cities there is also a pet tax for certain breeds. As an employer, informing your new hire about these regulations in advance can help avoid unwanted surprises later on.
7. Go the extra mile
There are a few areas where you can really go above and beyond to make your new hire feel at home in their new city.
Does your new hire have furniture or other household items to ship? Why not take one more thing off their plate by providing a list of shipping companies that you know are reputable? You can also recommend a good storage facility to house their belongings while they look for a permanent home.
Help them to up a bank account once they arrive so there is no delay when it comes to the first paycheck. Several banks offer online banking and allow you to withdraw cash at local ATMs without fees. Some also offer a convenient local branch or English-speaking service.
Designate a German-speaking colleague to help out when small things come up. This is often as simple as helping your new hire to read a letter they’ve received from their health insurance or landlord, or helping to book an appointment over the phone.
8. Use the Buddy System
One of the best ways that you can support an international talent’s move to Germany is to put them in contact with another employee who has moved from abroad. They can share stories and support each other in their adventures. At Honeypot, we use the “buddy system,” assigning each new Honeypotter a “buddy” who is responsible for showing them around the office, introducing them to their new colleagues, answering questions, and checking in periodically to make sure they are happy.
Is this your first international hire? Let us know and Honeypot can help you put your new employee in touch with someone who has already made the leap at a similar company!
Investing a bit of time and energy into refining your onboarding process is key to making sure the talent you hire from abroad sticks around long-term. Even before an offer has been made, there are steps you can take to ensure that potential new employees will be happy in their new city, and that the entire family is onboard with the move. From the travel plans to the first days in their new home, it is critical to anticipate any potential needs and make the move as smooth and as painless as possible.
As German tech companies prepare to welcome international developers in ever-increasing numbers, we hope these tips will help you to create a lasting impression for your next hires.
Want to learn more about hiring internationally? Check out our guide to the German work permit!