Managing International Assignments: A Guide for HR Managers and Employees
Expanding globally brings tremendous opportunities for growth. But sending employees abroad also comes with challenges. As an HR manager, you want to ensure a smooth transition so your employees can hit the ground running in their new location.
And as an employee, you want the relocation to go as seamlessly as possible so you can focus on your new role.
This guide covers key considerations for HR managers and employees to successfully manage international assignments.
For HR Managers
As an HR manager, you play a critical role in ensuring international assignments are a success. Here are some best practices when relocating employees globally:
Identify the Business Need
Before extending an international assignment offer, clearly identify the business need. Typical reasons include:
- Filling a skill gap
- Transferring knowledge
- Expanding to a new market
- Developing high-potential employees
Understanding the rationale will help determine the assignment length, position level, and candidate selection.
Choose the Right Candidate
Selecting the right person is crucial. Assess both technical qualifications and soft skills like adaptability, cultural sensitivity, and communication.
Look for signals of open-mindedness and flexibility during interviews. Ask questions like:
- How have you adapted to multicultural environments in the past?
- What challenges or frustrations have you faced abroad? How did you respond?
- How do you go about building relationships with colleagues from different backgrounds?
Check references thoroughly to confirm the candidate has the right experience and temperament to succeed.
Offer Cross-Cultural Training
Investing in cross-cultural training helps employees adapt faster once abroad. Training typically covers:
- Background on the host country culture
- Tips for communicating across cultures
- Guidance navigating daily life and etiquette
- Best practices for mingling with locals
- Stress management techniques
Employees walk away better prepared and more excited about the assignment. Partner with a relocation specialist like ARC Relocation to provide training.
Help with Visas and Immigration
Securing the proper work permits and visas is one of the most complex aspects of an international assignment. Requirements, paperwork, and processing times vary greatly by country.
To set your employees up for success, provide hands-on support with:
- Researching visa categories and documents needed. Categories may include work permits, work visas, and dependent visas for family members.
- Completing lengthy applications accurately to avoid delays. Mistakes can significantly slow down processing.
- Translating and authenticating necessary documents like bank records, medical history, police certificates, etc.
- Scheduling appointments and representing the employee in embassy meetings. Navigating bureaucracy is tricky.
- Covering visa fees and associated costs like document translations and health checks. These add up quickly.
- Tracking application status and troubleshooting issues if delays arise. Proactively communicating with authorities speeds things up.
- Coordinating timing with shipment of household goods and temporary accommodations. Visas need to be secured before departure.
Keep in mind that time frames range from two weeks for some work permits to six months or more for residency visas in places like Singapore. Research requirements early and account for the employee’s notice period.
Offer Relocation Services
Relocating is stressful enough without logistical headaches. Offer services like:
- Home finding trips
- Household goods shipping
- Temporary housing
- School search assistance for families
- Settling-in services
Work with ARC Relocation to coordinate end-to-end relocation services for a smooth employee move.
Provide Cultural Training for Family
An employee’s success often hinges on their family’s transition. Offer cultural training for spouses and kids covering topics like:
- Etiquette and customs
- Making friends abroad
- Maintaining mental wellness
- Finding a job for the spouse
This facilitates better adjustment and improves success rates.
Assign a Mentor
Connecting assignees with a home office mentor prevents “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome. The mentor can:
- Give visibility into promotions and department changes
- Offer advice for applying overseas experience
- Provide a sounding board on challenges
Schedule check-ins during home leaves too. This retains institutional knowledge.
Track Performance Consistently
Set clear expectations before departure and evaluate performance regularly. Account for cultural nuances when setting goals and metrics.
Schedule video check-ins to discuss successes, challenges, and additional support required. This prevents surprises come review time.
Plan a Smooth Repatriation
Start planning the return home well in advance. If not managed carefully, repatriation can spur turnover. Proactively take steps like:
- Solicit assignees’ job preferences
- Provide interview opportunities upon home leaves
- Offer career planning services and resume reviews
- Host a “welcome home” event for sharing insights
With preparation, you can retain and leverage talent that’s gained international expertise.
ARC Relocation can advise on repatriation best practices to keep global assignees engaged.
By investing upfront in selecting, preparing, and supporting employees, you significantly increase the odds of a successful international assignment.
Don’t hesitate to enlist help from a relocation specialist like ARC Relocation to handle the heavy lifting. Their expertise will pay dividends through engaged, productive global teams.
Receiving an offer to relocate internationally is incredibly exciting, but also challenging. Here are some tips to smooth your transition:
Understand the Assignment Terms
Review the details in your assignment letter thoroughly. Key points to look for:
- Location and duration
- Your role and responsibilities
- Salary, benefits, and incentives
- Relocation support provided
- Repatriation expectations
Don’t hesitate to ask questions to clarify anything that’s unclear. Getting aligned early prevents surprises later.
Discuss the Move with Family
Relocating affects your whole family. Have open conversations to understand everyone’s hopes and concerns. Topics to cover:
- Expected lifestyle abroad
- Schooling options if you have kids
- Career impacts for a working spouse
- Ways to stay connected to existing friends and family
Addressing concerns proactively eases the transition.
Embrace Cross-Cultural Training
Don’t underestimate the value of cultural training. It provides insights on:
- Etiquette and communication norms
- Building relationships with locals
- Daily life in your new home
- Managing stress and adjustment struggles
Arriving better prepared helps you adapt faster.
Learn the Local Language
Even basic language skills go a long way toward blending into the culture. Use resources like:
- Online lessons and mobile apps
- In-person or virtual tutoring
- Language meetups in your new hometown
- Labeling common items at home in the local language
Immerse yourself as much as possible before departure and after you arrive.
Network with Alumni
Connect with people in your company who have lived in your destination city before. They can share insider tips on things like:
- Housing and neighborhoods
- Schools and childcare
- Navigating transportation
- Where to shop for familiar foods and products from home
- Recruiting bilingual domestic help
Learning from others’ on-the-ground experience accelerates your adjustment.
Seek Out a Mentor
Ask your manager about pairing you with a home office mentor before you depart. Maintaining ties helps avoid feeling “out of sight, out of mind.” A mentor can advise you on things like:
- Promotion opportunities and organizational changes
- How to apply your overseas learnings
- Repatriation preparations
This ensures you stay connected to advance your career.
With preparation and a positive mindset, an international assignment can be a life-changing experience both professionally and personally. Immerse yourself in the culture and local community.
Maintaining an open and flexible attitude goes a long way toward adaptation and happiness in your new home country.
Don’t hesitate to use relocation specialists like ARC Relocation to help with transition details big and small. Their expertise will help you and your family settle in smoothly.