HOW TO MANAGE INTERNATIONAL TEAMS COMING TO AUSTRALIA FOR PROJECT WORK – A FREE CHECKLIST
Are you a Project Manager or EA responsible for organising international employees or project teams coming to Australia?
Are you a Project Manager or EA responsible for managing international employees or project teams coming to Australia? While Australia provides a stunning backdrop that attracts many International workers and visitors, it’s critical to complete this checklist in a timely manner in order to successfully get your team here within your budget, and also have a huge benefit on the productivity and general well-being of your team while they’re here.
Before they’ve even set foot in Australia, there’s a whole bunch of items that need sorting out. Work Visas, Vaccinations, Accommodation, Expense and Travel Policy, What to pack. What do you need to make sure of?
WORK VISAS – WHAT DO YOU NEED?
Your number 1 priority and most important item on the checklist is to make sure the employee/s are legally able to come to Australia and work. Visas required depend on the individual circumstances. It’s best to start this process at least 3 months prior to their trip, as the process can include more than just compiling papers, for example sometimes medical certificates and scans are required. See here for the Australian Government’s “Visa Finder“ which helps you find the requirements depending on an individual’s circumstances.
EXPENSES AND TRAVEL – WHAT IS IT AND WHO DOES WHAT?
It’s important to be clear on what the employee is entitled to, and what they are responsible for organising when it comes to travel, accommodation, meals and other incidentals before they arrive. Things to consider in an expense policy include:-
Claiming expenses – What can employees claim for and how will this work? Will receipts be required? How often will expenses need to be submitted? (Weekly? Fortnightly? Monthly?)
Some companies put an expense policy in place that gives the employee a certain amount that is to cover all meals, phone and incidentals while away. This is often called a ‘per diem’ as it allocates a dollar amount ‘per day’ that will be given to the employee.
Per diems can be great as they help you budget well; save time and hassle on receipt processing; and gives the employee individual choice on how to spend their budget.
Others will choose to get employees to submit expenses for the following items and it’s best to have clear policies in place if you are choosing this method.
Flight bookings – What class are they allowed to fly? Who will book their flights? Are there any limits on carriers or booking systems that must be used?
Insurance – who covers travel insurance and how will this work?
Vaccinations and visas – who covers this expense and is responsible for arranging it?
Accommodation – (also see more detail below) – what is the employee responsible for? What are they allowed to book or not book? Are there recommendations if they are booking it themselves? Are their daily budget limits or a certain preferred hotel list they must use?
Other incidentals – how will these be covered?
Meals – how will meals be expensed and claimed? Will I have a per diem (daily amount paid for individual to organise their own meals and incidentals as described above). Is there a limit on how much I can spend per meal? (if individual meals are claimed)
Phone expenses – roaming charges these days if not organised can cost a small fortune! Make sure everyone knows what to do regarding this. Often it is actually cheaper to get people a local mobile phone and local sim card than have them work from local carriers. Vodafone is often cheaper at International roaming than other carriers so best to do your homework on this one.
ACCOMMODATION – WHERE WILL THEY STAY?
From experience managing International Project teams across the globe – I know for sure that each individual has very specific preferences about accommodation. For example, some people love staying in a hotel for the duration of their stay, while others find the lack of normality this forces upon them (for example, not having a kitchen or laundry) disruptive to general life balance and keeping to a healthy diet. Get this wrong and you’re off to a bad start that I have seen affect work performance for the first few weeks of a project, and in some circumstances across the entire project. Plan in advance – for busy cities like Sydney and Melbourne, and even Brisbane, you should be starting this process 6 months out (especially for larger teams) as the good accommodation gets booked up.
You need to make sure preferences are understood from team members. For project teams, I have always found it infinitely more efficient if the team stays in the same location or area because you can not only negotiate bulk discounts with an accommodation provider, and all team logistics become a lot easier to manage when everyone’s in the same place (including looking after their general wellbeing / health & safety). You might want to consider this especially for younger teams. If you’re just looking after individuals and not teams, this becomes much easier as you can cater to their personal preferences.
No matter where they stay, make sure each individual’s opinion is heard, and if you cannot meet all their needs, make sure they understand why well in advance of when they land.
Recommendations for accommodation include:
Hotels – find one that will offer bulk discounts for teams. Frequent travellers usually have a chain that is their preference because of the points they can collect from. Most people want a gym, spa and pool as standard when away, so look for hotels with these. Also consider location – how convenient is the hotel to work, and how close is it to restaurants and activity outside work? Most people prefer to commute to work if it means where they are actually staying is close to a decent choice of restaurants and shops.
There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a hotel in a foreign country in the middle of nowhere and eating the same thing for dinner every night for months on end.
Apartment accommodation – most cities and locations now have apartments available for rent in large complexes – this can be a great choice for individuals and especially people with partners and families who are making the visit with them.
Air Bnb – similarly, if you book far enough in advance, Air Bnb is a great option for project teams wanting to settle into a city more than just staying at a hotel. You may be surprised to find, especially younger team members are willing to share a house with each other if it means a more premium location and their own pool and home comforts, for example. This can work wonders for your budget as well as team morale.
TRAVELTO THEIR WORK LOCATION AND OUTSIDE WORK
You will need to be clear about how you expect your visitors to travel to work. Firstly make sure they know where they’re going! But also be clear –
If they are going to get public transport, do they know how to do this and can you provide them with the necessary info and passes? For example a Myki card in Melbourne, Opal card in Sydney or a Go card for Brisbane.
Or is it okay to get a taxi to work?
What are you willing to pay for outside of work? For example, if project teams have a car they will want to take this on weekend trips which can be pretty long in Australia. Are they okay to do this and will you pay petrol associated with it, for example?
Is your office wear casual or suits and boots? Whatever it is – it’s pretty important to give your incoming Internationals a heads up on what they need to pack – nothing worse than arriving and standing out for the wrong reasons because they’re dressed completely differently to everybody else!
Giving your staff a heads up on both the general climate is also a great thing to do as travelling Internationally between seasons can be a bit tricky – and somehow 20 degrees in Australia is definitely not the same 20 degrees as the UK, for example, in terms of what people wear.
DAY ONE – WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
These are the things to cover:
How do they get from the airport to their accommodation?
What time do they need to be in the office and how should they get there? Will everyone go as a team and at what time will they leave their accommodation?
Who will they ask for / meet at the office and are there any security passes and accesses required?
What is the internet password and systems access required? Can this be organised beforehand?
ONBOARDING – TEAM SESSION BEFORE YOU START
Now you’ve talked to everyone, they know the policies; so we’re all set, right? Wrong. It’s good to make people comfortable by having a formal onboarding session going through all of the above with the team together – even if this is virtually on skype. This gives individuals the opportunitiy to raise questions they may have gone away and thought about after your initial talks.
In addition to the Logistics of the project, it’s also a great opportunity for Project Managers to go through individual’s roles and responsibilities on the project – and even better to give non-project roles to individuals to help with the smooth running of the project on the ground and team bonding – so things like ‘Social Events organiser’; ‘Once a week team dinner organiser’; ‘Car Roster organiser’, as examples. If everyone has a role outside the work of the project (big or small) this helps individuals contribute and gel better as a team.
Welcome to Australia – nothing says welcome more than a thoughtful gift on arrival. These Welcome To Australia Gift Hampers were designed for such things and are a good choice – especially if you wanted to provide some nibbles for late-night International arrivals who haven’t had a chance to pop into the supermarket yet.
Also it’s great to include local tips to great restaurants and things to see – it’ll go down a treat to be sure. Make them feel good about their decision to come over.
What do you think? Had any experiences or advice you’d like to share?