Here are ten ways to successfully weave expats back into your community.
• Make sure you’re sending the right people abroad.Carefully assess who will be successful. Don’t just look at their technical skills; consider the employee and his family’s ability to adapt to a new culture.
• Clearly define the expat’s career goals before the overseas assignment begins and make sure the goals reflect your company’s overall objectives. If the purpose of overseas assignments, for example, is to give your company global reach, then view the trip as a stepping-stone toward that goal. Have a strong sense of where the assignment will lead next for the employee.
• Discuss the challenges of repatriation before the employee leaves. Let the expatriate know that coming home can be difficult, and stress the importance of staying connected to the home office.
• Create a mentor program. Assign mentors before employees go abroad so they’re involved from the start. The mentor should continue to help throughout the stay and for six months after employees return home. If possible, mentors should be previous expats who worked in the same region as the employees they are mentoring.
• Encourage expats to make regular visits to the home office through a home-leave policy. They can reconnect with colleagues and new employees, and help prevent feeling “out of sight, out of mind.” Help expats stay in the loop by including them in companywide e-mails and newsletters. Managers at home can serve as advocates by looking for job openings and mentioning their names in discussions.
• Understand and educate management on the challenges of repatriation. Recognize that when returning home, repats can experience reverse culture shock. Look for symptoms, which include boredom, withdrawal, feelings of frustration, and distancing from coworkers. Help repats by letting them know they’re not alone and their feelings are normal.
• Find positions and activities that use repats’ new skills. Allow them to act as mentors, put them on assignments in which they can interact with overseas colleagues, and encourage them to continue to learn a foreign language or join a community organization related to the country where they lived.
• Provide support to the entire family. Help the repat’s spouse find a new job, and offer counseling to the parents and children on readjusting to life after living abroad.
• Encourage repats to approach repatriation similarly to relocating overseas. Many people are well prepared for their move abroad and expect that life will be different. Repats should have a similar mind-set when they return home. They should approach it as another new adventure. Make sure that repats set realistic goals, are aware of changes in their home offices, and reflect on personal changes and new priorities.
• Once repats have returned home, offer a counseling program. Review their international experience and discuss the challenges of repatriation both personally and professionally. Discuss with the repats how their business has changed and how to capitalize on their global experience.
Sources: GMAC Global Relocation Services and Prudential Financial’s Relocation Services
Workforce, July 2002, pp. 40-44 — Subscribe Now!