Service efficiency
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Jun 28, 2024

How to be more compassionate when hiring international carers

Mark Topps shares tips on how to implement more compassionate hiring practices when hiring international team members in social care

Mark Topps
Mark Topps
Regional Business Manager

Table of contents

International recruitment in social care is increasingly becoming common practice. Last week, I attended an event on international recruitment in adult social care, hosted by Lifted Talent alongside a local care provider and authority. The event was extremely topical and touched on the challenges that come with hiring care assistants internationally. I felt empowered and informed after the discussion, so I wanted to share what I learned about this important topic.

Before I begin, I’d like to set some context with my own personal experience. I used to oversee a live-in care hub, and the stories from international staff about work and living conditions were horrific. I have never met a poor care provider, just bad con artists recruiting international workers for large amounts of money and then leaving them without a job or a home when they arrive in the UK.

My key takeaway from the event was that international recruitment involves thorough planning and a sustained commitment to allocate resources, offer ongoing training, and provide pastoral support. International recruitment is not something you can do half-heartedly.

We must remember the importance of compassionate recruitment, respect cultural differences, and strive to overcome cultural barriers. My top five things you can do to prevent this are:

Understand cultural differences

I am conscious that this is a broad headline title, but it is crucial that we do our homework before working with international recruits to better understand their culture. Someone in your organisation should map the countries from which you plan to recruit and then collate information such as work ethics, communication styles, and cultural preferences/traditions.

During the event, we heard from those who have begun recruiting internationally, and it was insightful to learn about the issues and challenges related to current team members, the people being supported, and the staff team coming from overseas. There was an emphasis on updating interview questions to ask both British and international applicants how they would encourage a positive multicultural environment.

As England becomes a more multicultural country, I recommend that your team undergo rigorous cultural awareness and sensitivity training. Not only will this ensure you have a compassionate and understanding team where misunderstandings are rare, but it will also demonstrate your dedication to fostering an inclusive culture.

Prepare for cultural differences

It is important to prepare and up-skill those involved in your organisation’s recruitment processes. You are likely to encounter different styles of CVs and applications. For example, in some countries, CVs include gender, marital status, pictures, and place of birth. Many international recruits may not have extensive work experience but will bring other valuable skills and qualities. Therefore, you should assess their potential ability and willingness to learn as good traits—this is where values-based interviewing comes in handy.

Interview processes may also differ due to cultural factors. For instance, in some cultures, maintaining eye contact is common, while in others, it is considered disrespectful. Body language may also vary, so it is important not to misinterpret their true meaning.

If you are interviewing online, be aware of time zone differences and internet delays.

Write clear job descriptions

Ensure that your job descriptions are clear and explain the role, responsibilities, and qualifications needed. You will need the job description for sponsorship licenses and cannot deviate from it, so having something clear and reflective is crucial. When reviewing the job description, make sure you use culturally appropriate language and words that resonate with international recruits so they can fully understand.

Utilise resources to support governance

Despite hiring internationally, the same legislation and governance apply, so you need to ensure you obtain the right documentation and identification. There are several options including:

  • Up-skilling those responsible for recruitment in your organisation so they are aware of and understand the legislation and nuances of documentation.
  • Utilising recruitment technology that can help meet global requirements. If this is the route you take, ensure the system is flexible enough to meet national and regulatory requirements.
  • Using an international recruitment agency; however, be cautious about which one you choose. There are several different agencies, both social care and non-social care based, but do your homework, as many agencies are set up to profit from organisations that do not understand the requirements. Lifted Talent is an organisation that can support international recruitment of candidates from abroad and those already in the UK whose current employer has lost their license or cannot offer them work.

Build positive support networks

International recruits will often be leaving their home country and family and friends behind, putting their trust in you. This change means they are losing their support network and will require you to create one for them. You should allocate someone within your team to be their “buddy” and/or have resources in the office to ensure that someone is available to support with questions, needs, and signposting. It’s important to schedule regular check-ins to make sure they have settled and are comfortable within their role and new chapter of their life.

Compassionate onboarding and inductions

Onboarding and induction both play integral roles in ensuring that your new hires feel supported and reassured about their new role with you. A thorough induction will be beneficial, and lessons learned from each hire will help improve future inductions. It’s also a good idea to network with other providers already recruiting internationally to see what they do as part of their inductions.

One highlighted challenge is cultural differences around meal preparation and awareness of utensils and appliances (remember, not all countries use microwaves, toasters, etc.). A good starting point for inductions would be to walk an international recruit through practicalities and common meal requests, for example:

  • How to make a cup of tea/coffee
  • How to make different types of eggs (e.g., poached, boiled, scrambled, or dippy)
  • How to make a bacon sandwich
  • Microwave meals and ensuring these are heated through
  • Food hygiene
  • Differences between a fridge and a freezer
  • Appliance awareness

Some other considerations for making onboarding thorough and supportive are:

  • Make sure the candidate is aware of bills in the UK, how they work, and the types. Many will not be familiar with different utility bills, rent vs. mortgages, etc.
  • Ensure you cover finances and show them a wage slip so they can understand tax and national insurance contributions.
  • Provide a practical driving session to support your new hire in understanding the highway code, especially traffic lights and roundabouts.
  • Provide a map of the local area, highlighting the local pharmacy and supermarket.
  • Offer equipment training and awareness.

If you are recruiting an international worker who is already in the UK, it’s also a good idea to find out why they want to leave their current sponsor or why their current sponsor has lost their license (if you can) so that you can ensure you meet their needs.

The above list is not exhaustive, and you should ensure you do your homework before engaging in international recruitment so that you understand the requirements and all the related processes such as sponsorships, reporting requirements, and more.

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