Workplace inclusion joys and lows: from being thrown in the deep end to successful onboarding

Just two years into her Copenhagen adventure, Christina Collura has already endured the lows of ill-prepared employers and the highs of onboarding delight

About two years ago, Christina Collura left the hustle and bustle of New York City in the midst of the pandemic to pursue new horizons in Copenhagen.

Because her partner is Danish and everyone speaks English in Denmark, she thought that Copenhagen would be a perfect fit in terms of starting a new chapter in her life.

But things didn’t start off as smoothly as she had predicted. 

“I learned rather quickly that it’s very different being a tourist compared to actually living there and having to integrate into the system,” says Collura, a product designer with Too Good To Go. 

She had done her due diligence, reading a book about working in Denmark and discussing the topic with her Danish partner – though she may have missed the Internations Reports condemning Copenhagen as one of the world’s worst for making expats feel welcome. 

According to the report, Denmark ranks highly for its working culture, salary and job security, and work-life balance. 

But it also reveals that internationals find it difficult to settle and become socially connected. In the ‘Ease of Settling In’ category Denmark ranked 47th out of 52 countries.

From excitement to anxiety 
Despite being excited about her new job, Collura quickly discovered that something was amiss. 

Her colleagues were nice, but little was done to introduce her to the company, how they worked and what her tasks would be. 

Collura was thrown into the deep end from day one and, being unfamiliar with the flat work hierarchy in Denmark, she found herself confused and unsure of what her role was on the project she was assigned to.

“I remember on day three going into the office and really feeling confused and a bit anxious about it and speaking with the boss who had brought me into the company,” recalls Collura.

“Eventually at some point in the project, which lasted a month and a half, I just kind of started doing things hoping I was delivering enough for my team, but not knowing. It felt weird not understanding what my success criteria was or wondering if I was letting my teammates down?”

Her employer was aware that this was her first international job, and Collura feels that her experience would have been vastly improved had she had been given some kind of onboarding.

Even simple things – like the way Danes eat lunch together at work, for instance – was something she was unaware of and unaccustomed to. Colleagues speaking Danish when Collura was present didn’t help either.

Another challenge she encountered was a social aspect: the difficulty of making friends at work in Denmark. 

“Everybody that I worked with was great and friendly, much more so than a lot of people I worked with in New York. But it was like a mismatch. We were speaking the same language, but we were not speaking the same language,” she remembers.

After seven months of enduring this state of work limbo, Collura left the job. 

Too good not to stay
She eventually landed at her current position at Too Good To Go and her experience there was completely different. 

Before she even started, the company emailed her a list of all the onboarding activities she would be involved in. 

“It was like a night and day switch. And I remember thinking ‘Wow, this company is already thinking of all the onboarding things and I’m super excited about this. It was such a different experience and I felt included,” says Collura.

Every department held an onboarding meeting to provide an overview of what that department does. 

That provided faces to names and gave Collura insight into the departments’ function and when she might need to approach them for things.

She also got a tour of the building, got to meet people face to face and enjoyed a welcome breakfast with her new team.

She appreciated that she didn’t have to dive straight into work, but could sit down for a coffee and morning bun and bond with her new colleagues.

She contends that while Denmark has many positive aspects going for it, there are still things that she finds confusing.

“It’s understanding what your values are and finding a place that matches with that,” Collura maintains.

“The biggest thing I learned here as an expat is that things are not always greener on the other side. There are patches of green and yellow grass everywhere.” 

What is onboarding?

Phase 1: Preboarding. Once you’ve accepted your offer letter and you’re starting off day one at a new job, there’s a lot to learn

Phase 2: Being welcomed by new colleagues

Phase 3: Training

Phase 4: Transition to the new role