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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti
Economic development.

Employing newcomers

This page provides you with the tools and contacts to help your newcomer employee settle into the city.

History shows many employees (especially migrant newcomers) are initially happy, but after a couple of months they begin to question their move  - often as their spouse and children struggle to make friends and/or find work. That's why it's critical to take an ongoing approach to settling your staff and their family before, during and after their arrival.

Welcoming your newcomer employee

Take the time to talk with your new employee. If they are a migrant newcomer, be sure to ask about their family, their country, why they came to New Zealand. This will serve two purposes: it communicates that you care and are interested; and it will help you appreciate the significant move the newcomer has just made.

Before your employee even arrives in the city, ask how they are coming to Dunedin -  by road or by air? Do they need a ride from the airport, or to be met as they drive into town? Ideally, you would welcome them personally, but a senior staff member would also be appropriate and make the new employee feel welcome.

Take the time to learn how to say "hello" or "welcome" in a migrant newcomer's own language. It's as simple as a Google search and will guarantee you a big smile (or some amusement on their part, if your pronunciation is marginal).

Providing written material in support of verbal instructions is a good idea. There is a lot of information to take in and having written notes to fall back on will put your new employee at ease.

Pair the new employee up with a mentor or "buddy". If an employee is new to New Zealand, ideally the buddy will be of the same ethnicity and a peer in the workplace. In smaller workplaces, this will not be possible, and a friendly person of the same seniority will be appropriate.

Tailored induction programme

All new staff need an induction and newcomer migrants require a little more, recognising they are starting in both a new job and a new country.An employer induction checklist is a good way to ensure you cover off all the small points, as well as the obvious bigger points.

Consider including your new employee's family in some of the induction programme. It may be for an evening meal with colleagues or a tour of the workplace later in the first week.

Make sure the employee and their workplace buddy have time together, as they may be more comfortable asking a peer some of their many questions, rather than feeling like they are taking up your time.

Special tips for the first two weeks

Not surprisingly, migrant newcomers may be distracted by the logistics associated with setting up home in a new country: finding accommodation, buying a car, finding schools for the children, dealing with utility companies, opening bank accounts, getting an IRD number, finding a doctor and dentist - the list goes on.

A simple and powerful gesture is to provide the employee with, for instance, four half days off during the first two weeks of work. The employee can use this time to get sorted and, therefore, settle more quickly and be more productive.

In addition, you can also provide flexibility around working hours in the first month. Offer them longer lunch hours, to take care of home-related logistics.

Providing a detailed plan of the first two weeks of work - meetings, inductions, visits, etc - will help the employee feel less anxious about their first days in the job. They can see what is on when and be prepared for each day's activities in advance. Ideally, you could provide this calendar before they arrive on the first morning.

For senior staff, consider a period of paid accommodation and use of a company car, while they get settled.

Be aware employees "particularly migrant newcomers" may be in a tight cash position upon first arriving in Dunedin. You could pay their first pay packet in advance. If possible, have removal costs invoiced to your company directly, rather than reimburse the employee.

The workplace buddy is a valuable connection - someone who is friendly and comfortable to take the newcomer under their wing and answer their questions. Those questions may be work-related, but may also be about life in Dunedin and New Zealand.

English language courses

For newcomer migrants, settling into a new country is a stressful experience and that stress can be compounded if they find the language more challenging than anticipated.

"Kiwi English" is different to UK or American-taught English and New Zealanders tend to speak very fast. If you can slow your speech down, it will be appreciated by anyone new to the country. Don't underestimate the difference confidence in English can make to people - it will allow them to understand people more readily and speak with more confidence when interacting with colleagues and friends.

There are several options to assist newcomer migrants with improving their English language and these are covered on the DCC newcomer website.

The Tertiary Education Commission has funding to assist with workplace literacy.

Tools for helping new employees fit in to the team

There are five simple actions you can encourage your team to do that will help a new employee feel welcome:

  • Introduce themselves to the new person.
  • Ask them to check the new employee knows how Dunedin works. e.g. have they worked out which day is rubbish day, do they know where the parks are, have they made it to the farmers' market yet.
  • Recommend good professionals, such as dentists, lawyers, accountants.
  • Enquire about the new employee's interests and if anyone in the team has a shared interest put them in touch.
  • Ask them how they - and their family are doing.

Celebrations during the year and end-of-year functions are good opportunities for people to relax and mingle together. If these are not already family events, consider including families where possible.

Familiarising your team with the newcomer's culture

Spending some time becoming familiar with your migrant newcomer's culture is a good investment. For instance, being able to welcome the person in their own language makes a lasting and positive impression on their first day.

The Cultural Detective website is a good source of information on other cultures. There is a cost associated with the service, but the information provided is extensive and of a high quality.

Training and development company Free Spirit can come to your workplace and run workshops on cross-cultural awareness and communications.

The Otago Chamber of Commerce 03 479 0801 and the Otago Southland Employers Association 0508 656 757 can also advise on options for cultural awareness training.

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