Schools wanting to compete for top international faculty need robust integration strategies

“Faculty willing to migrate to work for you are usually happy to relocate to work for your competitors”

Growing diversity has been a key objective in the business world for a few decades now, as international corporations realise bringing a mix of people to the table introduces fresh ideas and allows for continuous innovation.

It’s been no stranger to the higher education sector either, especially for institutions that teach business and management. From the executive level down to bachelor courses, having a diverse cohort of students and participants has been (rightly) deemed an important issue.

However, it’s also important that students experience diversity among their teachers as well as among their peers. Schools and universities can draw on a certain level of diverse talent within their own countries but a key way to introduce new perspectives and facilitate long-term improvements in teaching is to look for top faculty abroad.

Of course, hiring international faculty is one thing and retaining them is another.

Organisations that want to hang on to talented professors need to have robust integration strategies in place. Otherwise, staff may feel isolated in their new environment and decide to return to their country of origin or transfer to another institution where their needs will be met. Faculty willing to migrate to work for you are usually happy to relocate to work for your competitors.

In my role overseeing the resettlement of new international faculty recruits at NEOMA Business School, I have noticed it’s seldom in the workplace that professors experience a rough transition. This is because they’re surrounded by staff with whom they have much in common, including teaching subjects and research topics, making for a relatively quick and easy acclimatisation. They typically require more support in their private lives.

At NEOMA, we begin the induction process from the minute staff arrive in France. They are picked up at the airport by a bilingual driver and driven to a fully furnished apartment which we rent for them for a period of four months. We also provide basic utilities and food so they don’t spend the first 24 hours after landing dashing around the neighbourhood, looking for somewhere to purchase breakfast items or toilet rolls.

Occasionally, we need to provide additional assistance. In the past we have recruited staff with family members who have particular medical requirements. In these cases, we ensure their accommodation is fitted with any equipment they need and book an appointment with a bilingual doctor for soon after they are settled.

In the short-term, our goal is to help them set down roots. This, unsurprisingly, involves a lot of paperwork. NEOMA places a specialist integration team at the disposal of new international faculty and their families, who are able to help with setting up French bank accounts, school enrolment if the professor has any children, registration with a local doctor’s surgery and more. NEOMA even has agreements with some nurseries to facilitate placements.

But it’s not just administrative tasks. We don’t want our staff getting stressed out over their first commute to work or trip to the supermarket, so we offer guided tours of their neighbourhood, pointing out the locations of essential services like pharmacies and providing information on public transport networks.

In order for integration strategies to be effective long-term, they need to address the needs of the entire family unit. NEOMA provides a two-day seminar teaching new faculty and their spouses the basics of French language, after which they are invited on a tour of the city to put what they have learned to practical use – for example, in a trip to the marketplace in Rouen.

Language classes remain on offer to staff throughout their first year of tenure, and spouses have the option of learning through the online platform goFLUENT.

The family also has access to their dedicated integration team for the duration of their first year in France, and sometimes beyond. The team helps them find permanent accommodation for after their first four months and can also help the spouses of faculty re-start their careers.

Business schools and universities must be aware that staff recruitment is competitive and talented faculty will choose to migrate to institutions with well thought out integration strategies. I am proud of the care we provide for our new professors at NEOMA, but I also believe that we must always look for opportunities for improvement. After all, the chance to innovate is the reason why diversity is so valuable in the first place.

About the author: Nathalie Subtil is Academic Director at NEOMA Business School. Her duties include overseeing the resettlement of new international faculty recruits. Her teaching background is in accounting, auditing and corporate finance.