Get Your Biering’s: Is leadership – and an inclusive culture – key to good onboarding?

Thanks for coffee! (photo: Pixabay)
October 22nd, 2021 5:00 am| by Signe Biering Nielsen
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I have recently been spending time with Danish companies talking about how they onboard internationals. Why the conversations? Because they – small and medium-sized companies in Denmark – are in dire need of specialist competencies, and the Danish workforce cannot deliver fully. 

Moreover, the internationals bring competencies to the table that enable companies to excel – powered by the insights and innovation that diverse talent delivers. 

Onboarding research
Recruiting ‘international talent’ is not without its challenges. A soft landing, a welcoming company and a broader environment that envelopes the international (and any family that comes with them) is critical to ensuring i) that they can successfully deliver the expertise and support the company’s productivity and innovation; and ii) that they stay. After all, recruiting someone from abroad is expensive, and companies need to get a return on their investment.

This is the reason why I, along with my partners – Dansk Industri, the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen Capacity, Business Region Aarhus, and TalentED Consultancy – have created a research project to look at how companies can onboard successfully. ODIS, a three-year project, has received 5.7 million kroner from Innovation Fund Denmark.

Bottling best practice 
While we all think we are able to recognise good onboarding – what exactly should it include? Why is it good? And can it be bottled? 

We’ve just started our research, and it is ongoing, but so far,we have found two key areas of interest: the critical role of leadership in the internationalisation of a company; and the role of an inclusive culture in ensuring successful onboarding and retention of foreign employees. 

Crucial questions
We would like to bottle onboarding when done well – but we are not ready to do so quite yet. 

Questions remain. We know leadership and inclusive culture to be important – but how important? And can we turn this knowledge into the tools companies can use to help them improve their onboarding? There are already a number of tools out there, so we want to i) develop tools that are needed based on our research findings; ii) complement and extend rather than reinvent the existing tools; iii) maybe even create tools that will give companies answers to questions they have not even thought of asking yet.

As a part of our research I would love to speak to you if you are: leading a company that wants to hire foreign talent; if you are involved in hiring internationals; or if you yourself are an international. 

Send me a message and let’s have coffee (or tea if you’d prefer).

Signe Biering Nielsen


After 20 years in the Danish diplomatic service, including stints in India, China and Israel as deputy ambassador, Signe Biering Nielsen is turning her diplomatic binoculars onto the (in her view) intriguing Danes. She is an executive advisor and coach with a focus on internationals in Denmark. See LinkedIn and Instagram for more details.

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