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Four Reasons Expatriate Assignments End Badly

Today’s market is a global one. With internet exposure, ease of travel and multi-national product demand helping to drive growth in small and large businesses alike, it often becomes necessary for companies to make use of and appreciate a multicultural approach in everything from product development and advertising to sales strategies, communications techniques and even human resource management.

In fact, more and more companies are sending workers to other countries in an effort to capitalize on diverse perspectives, streamline processes and deliver added benefits for their top employees. Expatriate assignments can add value and prestige to an executive’s resume and can increase a company’s global presence. It seems like a win-win situation. But before your company ships someone out or hires an H-1B attorney to bring a worker in, consider four reasons why expatriate assignments might end badly for everyone involved:

Just because an employee is well qualified for the job doesn’t mean he or she is well qualified for the experience.

Living in a new city with a new job is an adjustment for anyone. Living in another country with a new job takes things to a whole new level. Frequently, companies don’t do their due diligence to ensure that the employees being considered for expatriate assignments can truly handle both a new job and a new cultural experience. It’s not hard to understand why: it’s far easier to assess a candidate’s qualifications for a job’s requirements than it is to assess his or her ability to assimilate and flourish in new environments.

Companies often forget about families.

Relocating someone abroad is far different than relocating them locally—for the company, for the employee and for his or her family. Spouses and children play an important part in the success or failure of expatriate assignments. When one of them is unhappy, it’s likely the employee will be, too, no matter how great an opportunity. To mitigate issues, companies should seek to understand the family dynamics of potential transfers and address any concerns from family members before an offer is extended.

There is not a clear benefit for both the person and the company.

Moving or accepting an employee from another country shouldn’t be about filling an immediate need nor should it be seen as a reward for top-level executives. Expat assignments are expensive for a business and taxing on a person. Thus, they should be considered as important investments and utilized only when there is a demonstrated benefit for both employer and employee. Doing otherwise risks disappointing one or both of you.

Repatriation is neglected.

Most expatriate assignments last two to five years. At the end of that time, it’s paramount that companies have a detailed plan to reintroduce the employee to his or her home country’s workplace. The goal is to increase knowledge capital across the workplace, both abroad and at home. To ensure that employees remain loyal to the company and continue to support and share their experience, companies must provide legitimate opportunities for them upon their return. Far too often businesses fail to consider how to retain employees in ways that are challenging and fulfilling once their assignments are completed.

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