Tips for a Successful Program
InterExchange Career Training USA interns and trainees come away from their cultural exchange experience in the U.S. with advanced skills in their career fields, new friendships, and an expanded professional network. These successful experiences are due in large part to host employers like you who provide exceptional training.
While each business has a unique style and way of operating, there are some things great host employers have in common. So what makes a great host employer? Here’s a list of best practices for employers hosting international interns or trainees.
1. Provide an Orientation and a Company Handbook
A formal introduction to the company is necessary for participants to get familiar with the office environment and meet the staff they will be working with on a daily basis.
Familiarize the participant with office culture, how to use office equipment, how to handle emergencies and work-related injuries, and other information that will prepare them to be successful.
Include tips about the local area. Providing advice about the best local banks and shops or showing participants around town when they arrive will help them acclimate to their new environment more quickly.
Provide participants with access to information about the company and its policies if they have questions. They should understand their benefits as well, such as paid time off, sick days, or office perks.
2. Provide Professional-Level Assignments & Remain Sensitive to Participants’ Needs
Ensure that you are always providing challenging, professional-level tasks and responsibilities to your participants while also fully supporting them as they learn and have questions.
Not only will participants get more out of the experience, but your company will benefit as well.
The DS-7002 Training Internship Placement Plan serves as an additional resource for both you and your participants, as it details each of your roles and responsibilities and the training goals.
Many employers comment on how impressed they are with their participants’ behavior and ability to adapt. However, if your participants are having trouble, try to imagine yourself in a similar situation.
Your individual participant may require some extra attention or extra assistance. If you welcome participants properly, treat them fairly and communicate openly, the experience should be mutually enjoyable.
3. Provide Participants with a Clear Set of Guidelines
By presenting your expectations in a straightforward and honest manner, participants will be more aware of what they should and should not do. The first impression often sets the tone for the rest of the program.
Regular communication with participants will enhance the internship experience for everyone. The majority of misunderstandings arise from poor communication or a cultural difference.
In certain cultures, it is not appropriate for subordinates to address concerns with superiors, so it is important to create a communicative atmosphere.
If you notice participants are having a difficult time, take the first step and open the conversation. Listen to their concerns, and let them know that it is okay to discuss any issues or concerns they are experiencing.
Set schedules and deadlines for participants.
- Clear schedules and deadlines will help participants know what to expect and can help avoid misunderstandings about their expectations.
4. Explain HR Processes and Payroll
Participants will not necessarily understand how to fill in their W-4 forms or what U.S. taxes they will be paying.
If participants are being paid, we recommend you discuss all the on-boarding paperwork with them and let them know what to expect in their paycheck after taxes so that they have realistic expectations and can budget accordingly.
Check our Tax Resources Page for more information regarding Taxes.
Living in the U.S. is expensive and we would advise you to compensate interns, in some way, even if their program qualifies as an unpaid internship.
If you are unable to provide a full salary, consider offering a stipend, monthly or hourly wage, or help with transportation, housing, or meal benefits.
Trainees at any program length and interns who do programs longer than six months or whose programs do not meet the Department of Labor’s test for unpaid internships must be paid at least minimum wage.
As outlined in the InterExchange Host Agreement, compensation must meet any federal, state, and local laws applicable to the position.
Participants must be paid at least the amount required for similar employees under federal, state, and local minimum wage laws.
If minimum wages rise during the participant’s program, they must receive at least the new minimum wage amount as soon as new laws go into effect.
6. Be Prepared to Handle Culture Shock
Bringing international interns or trainees into your office can cause some degree of culture shock from both the participants and your regular employees. Here are some tips on navigating this and creating something positive out of the cultural differences:
Ask your participants about the standard business practices in their home country so you understand their perspective.
Ask your participants about their home culture and get to know them. This will make them more comfortable.
Check in on your participants to make sure that they are comfortable, happy, and adjusting to their new roles and the U.S. in general. Some participants might be apprehensive about bringing up concerns or suggestions without prompting.
When everything goes well, both the participants and your U.S. employees will benefit from the relationship, see new business perspectives, and learn about new cultures. Learn more about how to help the participants cope with culture shock.
7. Be Aware of Language Barriers
All interns and trainees are required to have English language proficiency to qualify for the program, but it’s important to keep in mind that communication in English takes some getting used to.
Many participants complete a J-1 Visa program because they are eager to practice and improve their English proficiency.
Be patient as they improve their skills, and be careful with idioms and slang, which take more time to learn and understand. Even native English speakers may take time to adjust.
If participants are reluctant to speak English upon first arriving, it is best to encourage them to practice using English as much as possible.
Participants who get into the habit of speaking in their native language tend to make slower progress. The more English the participants speak, the easier their time here will become. It may be difficult at first, but it is very important that participants challenge themselves to adapt to interacting in English to make the most of the exchange experience.
8. Integrate the Interns or Trainees into the Company
Activities encourage staff cohesion and provide an alternate setting for social interactions outside of the working environment. Group events also give participants a feeling for how people from the U.S. interact outside of work and give them a chance to educate you and your staff about different countries and cultures. These types of benefits have long been a secret of successful host employers everywhere.
- Include the intern in company activities and traditions, both in and out of the office. Some examples include office sports teams, group lunches, parties or picnics, or even a speaker series.
9. Provide Regular Evaluations
Particularly for longer training programs, evaluations (written or in person) allow you to touch base with the intern/trainee and assess the program and his or her performance.
- Weekly check-ins or one-on-ones are another way to track progress and provide feedback and guidance, and they also allow for a set time where participants can discuss any questions or concerns they may have.
10. Conduct an Exit Interview
Conducting an exit interview is a great way to gather feedback on participants’ experiences at your company so that you can improve the program for your future participants
It is also a great opportunity to assess what your participants have learned about U.S. business culture, as this may help to inform your practice if you move into a more global work environment.
11. Keep in Touch!
After interns and trainees return to their home countries and continue advancing their careers, you should stay in contact with them. Not only are you a great resource and reference for them as they develop professionally, but maintaining this connection will expand your global network in the future as well.
Questions about our Career Training USA program? Let us know or check out the Host Employer Handbook.
Next: Cultural Exchange »