How to Prepare Expatriates for Foreign Assignments
Sending employees to work abroad is a great way of ensuring quality work in an overseas enterprise. Preparing expatriates for foreign assignments is, therefore, crucial.
8 Tips for Preparing Expatriates for Foreign Assignments
Written by Global Expansion
10 | 11 | 20
Global Mobility |
6 minute read
Preparing expatriates for foreign assignments is a crucial undertaking for either expansion processes or short-term business travel. The challenge here is to ensure that the employees chosen to go work abroad do so successfully. Much of that effort will be produced by them, but even more important is for the wider company to provide support.
When moving and managing assets - in this case, your talented employees - you want to make sure that all that time and effort isn’t for nothing. You want to make sure the move is compliant and that workflows shared by your team and the expatriate employee are streamlined.
So what do you need to focus on? Here are eight tips for preparing expatriates for foreign assignments in a successful mobility project.
Preparation for expatriation is of utmost importance. This training needs to be well-researched, taking into consideration the potential challenges that employees and mobility teams might face. For example, identify:
Your potential challenges: For example, a specific country could require a specific tax set up for expatriates or business travelers. You’ll have to research the requirements that apply to your expatriation.
Strategies that help you deal with these issues: Some global organizations work with Professional Employer Organizations (PEO) in order to maintain compliance and work in line with cultural requirements. This is one potential solution that you might find appealing.
Areas for cultural training: Cultural expectations can be radically different in one country compared to another - while this may seem like the last thing to focus on, it’s worth spending time looking into cultural differences, just so no accidental faux pas are made.
The overarching goals of the assignment: An expatriation depends on all stakeholders having visibility and an understanding of the reasons for it.
Local language training: Even if the host country has a good rate of use for your language, it’s worth helping your employee get to grips with the basics.
2. Sourcing Immigration Support
Immigration and the requirements therein are obviously crucial. Border controls, regulatory environments and immigration law are therefore all things to contend with. Now, these can be daunting and confusing, but it’s imperative to fully prepare for them, as they’re some of the first barriers to overcoming when expatriating an employee for foreign assignments.
You need to make sure that you’re expatriation is in line with national and international immigration policy for both your home and host country. Similarly, visas and short-term or permanent residency applications need to be sent off for. Without these, alongside a considered approach towards global immigration, your overseas assignment won’t be able to continue.
3. Ensure Continued Communication
Without communication, there’s no expansion. Home and host teams need to be on top of carrying out frequent communications, so that data is acted upon and problems can be solved collaboratively.
Assignees need to be proactive in this and so too do home teams. Communication allows organizations to leverage what’s being learned and respond actively to specific events. On top of that, communication needs to be structured so the learnings and updates shared are easily tracked. Monthly meetings and weekly check-ins are good places to start.
4. Provide Support On The Ground
Alongside frequent communication, on-ground support also needs to be offered. This is a job for HR teams, who can help expats and their families (if applicable) adapt to their new surroundings. This kind of support covers:
Taxation is one thing to be aware of, as getting the process wrong can result in legal ramifications. Again, this is something a PEO can help support, as they can act as local Employers of Record, managing and deducting taxation at source - making sure your expatriate assignment is compliant in terms of taxation.
5. Undertake Project Alignment Meetings
Once the critical information regarding the expatriate employee’s assignment, residency, taxation and other requirements has been exchanged with the relevant stakeholders and/or authorities, it’s time for a project alignment meeting.
This meeting should be held between the employee, a host manager or host team and home team. In it, you should identify the potential causes of friction for the assignment and work to strategize mitigation techniques. Similarly, go over mutual expectations held by the home and host team so that visibility and transparency are also captured.
Overall, you’ll want to firmly pin down issues that may affect:
6. Invest in Knowledge Management
Any assignment knowledge generated needs to be properly disseminated to the relevant parties, quickly and efficiently. These lessons are not only worthwhile for future expatriates, but for the wider company itself and how it approaches global marketplaces.
When we ensure that learning is absorbed and spread across the whole enterprise, we help to reduce mistakes and delays in the future.
7. Provide Home and Host Sponsorship
As we’ve briefly discussed, having home and host teams managing the expatriate are important, but let’s cover that more in-depth.
Communication via email isn’t the best way to manage a remote employee. To make sure the expat doesn’t feel cut off from home office processes, create teams or ‘sponsors’ that oversee the experience and work of the employee.
Whether they be points of contact or mentors, these individuals (or wider teams) help to anchor an expat employee to the work in the home country, keeping them updated on any new developments. Both sides help to co-manage and resolve problems when they arise.
Sponsor individuals within the home country are best suited if they too have had experiences with expatriation, because a lot of this management is about empathy - not just looking for hitting the next performance goal. Expatriation is a difficult process, especially if the host country is a radically different place.
8. Take Into Account Domestic Duties
Another tip for preparing expatriates for overseas assignments is to make sure their family is supported.
Some expatriate employees have children and spouses, which sometimes do make an overseas assignment a lot more complex. These difficulties are usually hard to spot, as many employees will be reluctant to share them with employees, due to the size of the project and the personal nature of these difficulties.
It can be the case that the people most likely to be able to help are the last to know, so this is another thing that good communication can help with. From the home country team’s point-of-view, they need to inquire regularly about how the domestic side of the project is going.
It needs to be made clear that any issues in regards to this need to be made known, but also that no judgment will arise from those issues being aired. Expatriation is a tough process for a family and businesses need to be supportive. This kind of transparency will dramatically help the overseas assignment.
To discover more about overseas assignments and expansion, we’ve created a fantastic foundational guide that will help you when strategizing your next moves, be they domestic or international.
The Guide to Global Expansion
There’s a lot of different info out there on the web about taking your business abroad - or even just sending an employee overseas. To help cut through the noise, our detailed guide will help your business’ journey to expansion.
Inside, you’ll discover more on expansion methods, the crucial considerations and further information on PEO. Just click the link below to get your copy.