In it for the long haul: how to welcome international faculty members

Business Schools that want to attract the most talented professors from around the world need to have robust integration strategies in place. NEOMA Business School’s Nathalie Subtil outlines how to welcome new recruits during their first few days and lay the foundations for their long-term retention over their first year

International faculty have become a coveted resource in the business and higher education community, as institutions aim for diversity in staff as well as students. This is not to suggest that domestic talent pools are drying up – far from it – but sourcing expertise from around the world can offer new perspectives which lead to long-term innovation and improvements in teaching.

However, Business Schools that want to attract the most talented professors need to have robust integration strategies in place, as this softens the change experienced by staff when they relocate to a new country.

Without proper procedures to acclimatise them to their surroundings, new recruits can fall prey to feelings of alienation as they grapple with a lack of understanding of the local language, culture or infrastructure – which affects everything from opening a bank account to navigating bus routes.

If such feelings are allowed to fester, the end result is that the professor will either return to their home country or transfer to another institution where their needs will be met. Business Schools must remember that if faculty are willing to emigrate to work for you, they will also be prepared to do the same for your competitors.

The following suggestions are drawn from my current role of overseeing the resettlement of new recruits at NEOMA Business School (NEOMA). I hope that they can provide a jumping off point for other institutions that are creating or reviewing their welcome procedures.

Softening the plunge

Acclimating to a new workplace full of faculty who study, teach and research similar topics is usually the easiest part of moving to a new country. Departmental and institutional events also provide opportunities for staff to get to know one another. Problems are more likely to occur in a professor’s private life, caused by everyday activities that most people don’t consider. In particular, international recruits’ partners and children can add to the difficulties they may have in adjusting to life in a new country.

Imagine yourself on a plane which has just touched down in a new country. Your place of work is guaranteed, but what other thoughts might go through your head? Where will you live? How will you set up a bank account? Where are the nearest hospitals? Where will your children go to school? What will your partner’s career look like?

At NEOMA, we begin the welcome process as soon as new recruits touch down. We ensure that they are picked up at the airport by a bilingual driver and taken to fully furnished accommodation which we have rented for them for the first four months of their stay. Utilities are all provided as part of the package and we also include food and household supplies so they are not rushing around within the first 24 hours looking for somewhere to buy breakfast.

Sometimes, additional needs must be considered. For instance, if the new professor or one of their family has medical requirements, we make sure their new home is furnished with essential equipment and an appointment is booked with a doctor who speaks their language ahead of their arrival.

We also don’t want our staff getting lost and stressed on their first commute into work, or trip to the shops. As part of the integration process, we provide detailed tours of their neighbourhood that provides key details like the location of supermarkets, pharmacies and schools, as well as public transport information.

Ensuring long-term integration and happiness

It’s all well and good making sure the first week goes smoothly, but what about the first year? Business Schools aiming for long-term retention of international faculty need to help set the foundations for them to build a life in their new country.

NEOMA’s resettlement strategy places a specialist integration team at each new faculty member’s disposal. These teams provide them with support in arranging everything from bank appointments with bilingual advisors to school registration for a professor’s children. Spouses and partners should not be forgotten about either, as they can be left stranded with nothing to do and little understanding of a new language and culture.

In order to be effective, approaches to settling new international faculty must be holistic and address the entire family unit. This is why our integration teams also provide French language lessons for staff and their partners, as well as job search services for partners seeking to restart their careers in France. City tours, involving trips to local markets, are also offered, to help immerse families in the local culture.

Although we arrange for accommodation for international faculty recruits for the first four months of their stay, this provision does come to an end. However, we make housing search services available to lessen the pressure on the family to find more permanent lodgings. The integration team stays assigned to the household throughout the professor’s first year and sometimes for longer.

We are aware that in the competitive business and higher education landscape, Schools must always look to improve their integration practices. But, as someone who was formerly in the same boat as many of our new international recruits, I am proud of the comprehensive and holistic care we provide. The first year living in a foreign country is the most challenging time for a professor and their family, and by remaining present in their lives, we are able to provide tailored care to suit their needs.

By welcoming new international faculty from the point of their arrival in the country, we aim to provide them with as easy a transition to living and working in their new country as possible and give ourselves the best chance of retaining talented professors in the long term.

Nathalie Subtil is Academic Director at NEOMA Business School. Her duties include overseeing the resettlement of new international faculty recruits. Her teaching background is in accounting, auditing and corporate finance.

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