Going ‘home’ – successful repatriation of international assignees

The need to support assignees as they begin international assignments is on the whole well understood and well provided for by the majority of global organisations, however, the topic of ‘going home’ is sometimes overlooked.

The need to support assignees as they begin international assignments is on the whole well understood and well provided for by the majority of global organisations, however, the topic of ‘going home’ is sometimes overlooked, but the process of repatriation isn’t always easy on the assignee and can result in costly repatriate attrition when you take into account the investment in an overseas assignment and loss of talent.The good news is that according to the UniGroup Relocation/RES Forum 2012 Global Mobility Survey 81 per cent of surveyed organisations have some form of repatriation process for long term assignees although only 53 per cent have a formal policy in place.Lack of repatriation process Some of the major issues arising from a lack of repatriation process can include:
  • Reverse culture shock – having become used to and engrained in the host location culture and way of life many expats will adjust so well that coming home requires readjustments.
  • Lack of career progression – an inability to use new skills, return to a job of similar or increased status and a frustration with lack of development can leave many assignees dis-satisfied on return home. According to the report the primary reason (64 per cent) for assignees leaving their organisation upon repatriation is ‘the lure of a better career opportunity available externally’.
  • Change in salary, benefits, and adjusting to the requirement to handle their own living cost expenses again.
  • Social re-entry – re-integrating into social groups (both personal and business) when you don’t recognise any changes in yourself or expect them in your peer group at home but where inevitably dynamics have shifted.
Formal repatriation policy If your organisation is looking at developing a formal repatriation policy here are some top areas to consider:
  • Communicate the repatriation process at the start of the assignment so that the assignee and their family understand what is going to happen and alleviate concerns over the end of the assignment.
  • Give notice of repatriation and plan early – this allows you, the assignee and their family plenty of time to prepare for successful repatriation. According to the report 27 per cent of organisations start planning  three to six months before a proposed repatriation date with 48 per cent planning to two to three months in advance.
  • Keep in touch throughout assignment – support the assignee in maintaining work connections at their home location, helping them keep up to date with what’s going on at the company, with their colleagues and vice versa. This will help reduce the impact of potential lack of business relationships on return.
  • Plan for reintegration, including:
  1. Repatriation debriefing - depending on how closely the employee has maintained their relationship with their home entity during assignment it may be required to formally debrief in planning reintegration. What new skills does the employee have, how have their career goals developed? What opportunities will the company need to provide to retain talent on return?
  2. Provide career support– According to the survey 49 per cent of respondents provide career support with a summary of relevant job opportunities available in the home country entity for employees to apply for whilst 44 per cent of organisations review experience and skills acquired by the employee during the assignment, and create a relevant role to maximise the return on investment of the assignment.
Assist with the repatriation processAssist with the repatriation process this could be in terms of one off financial support (76 per cent provide an allowance on repatriation. Either a percentage of salary, or a fixed amount) or Relocation Services, for example:
  • Tax Support – 93 per cent of respondents provide tax return support and a majority also provides tax briefings
  • Accommodation support - the vast majority (84 per cent) state that their organisation pays for temporary accommodation (majority up to 1 month) and 25 per cent provide house-hunting support to the whole family when required.
  • Education support - exactly a quarter of respondents provide school search assistance for the family of the assignee if required. It’s important to recognise the impact of reintegration into the education system on a successful repatriation for assignees children, take into consideration potential gaps in curriculums, social issues (such as culture or accents) as well as timing of school terms etc.
  • Cultural training – to help long term assignees prepare for reverse culture shock of reverting to their previous ways of life, even if they don’t think that they have changed much many long term assignees will adjust so well to a new culture that it becomes second nature, with their home country culture seeming alien on return.
  • Shipping / Removals - safely and timely return of an assignees belongings can reduce the stress of returning home and allow a family to settle quickly with familiar things around them – allowing them to feel ‘at home’.
  • Departure services – don’t forget things like terminating leases and utility contracts, managing check out inventories and the other tasks involved in leaving the host country.
  • Use the skills of the assignee to improve return on investment – what can they share, what can the organisation learn, what skills can they add to future roles
  • Provide on-going support – readjustment support/counselling
  • Support the spouse/family – as well as supporting your assignee in successfully repatriating it’s important to consider the impact on the family and the negative effect on an employee’s satisfaction and performance if the family does not re-integrate so well. We’ve already discussed education support but also consider some career support for working spouses and extending cultural training and on-going support to the whole family.
A good repatriation policy following a successful relocation can help improve your overall return on investment. To discuss the findings of the report or your plans for repatriation contact Bournes experienced relocation team at www.bournesrelocationsolutions.com or on 0845 070 2007.

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