As the final stage in the overseas relocation process, repatriation is a critical, yet often forgotten, stage of the assignment cycle. With potentially high attrition rates among repatriated employees, a comprehensive repatriation policy is a vital tool in retaining key talent and maximizing valuable skills gained while on assignment.
Considering the high cost of assignments, it’s surprising that few companies have made progress in formalizing steps to improve repatriation policies and benefits. According to the Cartus 2014 Global Policy and Practices survey, 66% of responding companies do not offer formal Repatriation Integration programs. Ironically, respondents in the same survey rated repatriation highest among aspects of their relocation programs they most want to improve.
Many companies choose to deal with repatriation services on an ad hoc basis instead of implementing a firm policy. The length and location of assignments are often correlated to the extent of repatriation services offered. This approach is less than optimal since it’s always in an employer’s best interest to retain its most talented employees regardless of where they are returning home from. Recognizing that there is potential for reverse culture shock—regardless of regions—must without exception be taken into consideration, and repatriation services should always be offered, no matter the length of time away or the location.
Repatriation is more than simply “bringing someone back” to the same department or location as they were in previously. The expatriate assignment itself fundamentally changes the assignee and their family. The entire experience will have affected their quality of life, their aspirations, their motivations for working, and their overall psychology. Assignees return as more developed individuals and may not fit easily into their previous role. Repatriation, therefore, is more than placing assignees back into their former roles. Instead, it requires recognition that the employee’s profile has changed, and this new identity must be supported.
Many families struggle with reverse culture shock, especially when they’ve been abroad for a long time. Returning to a lifestyle that has become increasingly “foreign” because they’ve been away so long can result in considerable reverse culture shock for the whole family. It’s also increasingly common for companies to repatriate assignees to their home country, but not necessarily to their original location. This can cause considerable stress for all family members, since the country is familiar but their original location’s support infrastructure no longer exists for them. Setting up a household in a new city can be very challenging for all family members who are trying to re-establish themselves in their home country, without the familiarity of friends, extended family, former schools, or a return to the family’s former home.
Strengthening Links to Talent Management
For both employees and organizations to realize a positive result from global assignments, companies must take additional steps to develop, reward, and retain their talent. On the back end of the assignment, retention and tracking advancement are high on the list of strategies being considered.
According to the results of the Cartus 2013 Talent Management and the Changing Assignee Profile survey, the top three tasks considered for measuring the connections among the success of the assignment, the repatriation, and the employee’s advancement thereafter, were:
• Tracking post-assignment employee advancement (63%)
• Tracking post-assignment employee retention (57%)
• Developing a global talent pool for future assignments (56%)
To increase the ROI of global assignments, nearly half (49%) of survey respondents noted they are looking at repatriation approaches earlier in the process. Thirty-one percent are taking steps to focus on ensuring a suitable position for the employee post-assignment. If both the employee and the organization are to realize a positive impact from global assignments, companies must take additional steps to develop, reward, and retain their talent.
Best Practices in Repatriation
Recommendations for successful repatriation that many companies are putting into practice include:
• Mentors/sponsors at home location during duration of the assignment
• Career discussion—including repatriation—at the onset of the assignment
• More focused career discussions within 12 months of the end of the assignment. Repatriation discussions should happen within six months.
• Focused networking and HR/business conversations during home-leave trips
• Assistance for spouse/partner to find employment at home (providing they want to work on return)
• Repatriation assistance programs for family members
We’re also starting to see discussion on innovative approaches, such as retention bonuses rather than clawback repayment agreements.
Our Cartus Mobility Insights video on Repatriation—featuring Cartus Director of Intercultural, APAC, Jenny Castelino—may also be helpful to both employers and employees. Jenny is also the author of Family Keys to Expat Success, an article recently published in the October issue of MOBILITY Magazine.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, businesses are going global. The challenge for companies today is to ensure that employees have the ability to work on an international level.
More and more, companies are relocating staff either for developmental and expansion purposes or to fill a certain skill set not present in the local employee pool. Many midsize and large companies send professionals abroad, and most of them increase the number they have on assignment. However, according to a Jobvite survey, the greatest obstacle for 56% of recruiters is a lack of skilled or qualified candidates. Emerging markets are set to experience an influx of expatriates to fill the skill gaps in the local job markets. The only way to remain competitive in this global economy is to build a local talent pool with globally relevant skills.
Why Companies Send Employees Abroad
- Expansion into new and existing markets
- Development of top talent
- Streamline operations
- Develop new perspectives
- Become a trusted brand
- Sometimes, it’s cheaper to do business elsewhere
International assignments are expensive ventures, and they cost up to three times what the employee would earn annually at home. However, most US expats sent abroad return prematurely either due to job dissatisfaction or inability to adjust to the foreign country. In addition, those who serve their tenure do not perform as expected. It is therefore imperative that employees are prepared, trained, and managed to reap the full benefits of the investment.
Preparing Employees for International Assignments:
An international assignment usually begins long before the employee arrives at the host country:
The national flags are flying around the world
This is the assessment of the assignee’s family, culture, and understanding of the host cultures. The expat’s goals and concerns shape the family training session. Cultural intelligence tools such as Culture Wise can be used to assess their cultural tendencies against those of the host country. Exploration of information derived from such tools provides trainees with questions for the training session.
Training Employees for International Assignments
This increases the assignee’s knowledge of the host country. It includes aspectsof culture, societal values, business culture, and everyday living. This training reduces the risk of cultural misunderstandings and promotes cross cultural experience.
Host Manager and local Team Briefing
This is usually done face to face; however, if this is not possible it can be done online. The country host manager and the team with whom the international assignee will be working provide insight into the cultural values and norms. Aspects such as differences in management style and communication style are discussed.
Project Alignment Meeting
A project alignment meeting is held between the expat and host manager after parties have exchanged critical information. This is to discuss factors that may affect the success of the assignment, how to mitigate misunderstandings and mutual expectations of the assignee and manager. This includes aspects such as timelines, reporting strategies, and setting goals.
On Assignment Mentoring
The expat is exposed to new situations and experiences as soon as they arrive in the country. An assignee should be closely monitored and receive face-to-face coaching. Interactions between the expat and team members are observed. This coaching depends on the duration of the assignment and the assignee’s needs.
Systematic capture and dissemination of relevant documentation should be conducted. Lessons learned from the expat’s assignment are not only valuable to the expat but also to future expatriates and the organization as a whole. This helps the organization avoid repeating mistakes and over time to develop best practices.
How to Manage Expatriates:
Many organizations don’t know how to optimize the benefits of an expat assignment. Relocation packages which include cultural training are great. However, most companies don’t have the talent management mechanisms to truly leverage on these assignments. The following are critical to managing these assignments effectively:
Strong need and the right person: Before an organization makes the decision to send an employee abroad, there should be an indisputable need for the position that can’t be fulfilled by a local hire and the right fit should be identified.
Assign top notch mentors: While communication is important, it’s not enough for a successful assignment. To prevent the expat from feeling adrift, mentors should be appointed to oversee the expat.
Constant Contact: The assignee should regularly update the host, home sponsors, and other relevant stakeholders on the progress as well as new knowledge acquired.
Reintegration Plan: The employee should outline skills, qualifications, and insights achieved during the assignment and come up with a plan for incorporating them in the home office or the next assignment.
Should you need additional guidance on hiring and recruiting leaders in the Americas (Mexico, Latin America, Canada or the USA), please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
importance of expatriate training
Barbachano International Staff