Expatriate Success and Failure

3 March 2017

Executive Memorandum Re: Expatriate Success and Failure Under thriving globalization the success of expatriates is more crucial today than ever before. Even though exact expatriate failure rate is not available, it is essential that every expatriate succeeds on foreign assignment due to incurred cost for transfer, accommodation, salary, and trips home. Additional opportunity cost includes loss of future business and reputation in foreign community. The expatriate failure means either premature return or departure from organization shortly after arriving back.

The reasons behind early return are inability to adapt to new culture, family issues, and failure to adjust to a new workplace or find common ground with coworkers. The departure from the organization upon return are caused by failure to adjust to the changed work environment, different than expected position in company, as well as tempting offers from other organizations. Despite the severity of those problems almost all of them can be prevented and foreseen during selection and orientation processes.

Expatriate Success and Failure Essay Example

The company should look for expatriate that is first of all willing to work abroad, as well as displays human relation skills, has previous overseas experience and knowledge of languages, is open and able to adapt to new experiences. The family situation is should also be taken into account, expatriate should receive help in finding proper educational facility for children and workplace for spouse. After the selection process is complete the company has to provide clear and specific guidelines that grantee consistency in administration of expatriates.

During the orientation expatriate should receive cultural sensitivity training by being briefed on local history, policy, geography, climate, housing, schools and entertainment, as well as, customs, traditions and gender roles within the community. Language courses are required. The orientation should include simulations that will force the employee to face the cultural difference in unfamiliar setting in order to deal with emotional discomfort and solve the communication problem.

Finally repatriation of expatriate should include prior preparation for expatriate’s arrival back by selecting new position that suits the attained experience and expertise. Employee should be reintroduced to the staff and briefed on the changes in the company environment that took place during his absence. For quick assimilation he should be placed in a team of experienced staff. Every sign of dissatisfaction and lack of motivation should alarm management; the problems should be discussed and dealt with whithin the company. All above mentioned recommendations were gathered from various sources and personally analyzed.

Expatriate success and failure. The general definition of an expatriate is anyone who lives outside their native country. In business world it implies an employee who was sent on foreign assignment to manage operations in a different country. The need for expatriates is determined by the lack of qualified and experienced workers in the given country, or effort to provide international experience for talented employees. Some other reasons may include sustaining organizational culture, transferring knowledge and creating a human “link” between the headquarters and the foreign company.

Even though foreign assignments were always popular, the success of such is crucial for the companies today more than ever. In order to thrive under globalization, every company should establish an effective communication system between all of its units and be able to control operation and production across the vast distances. The understanding of cultural context, customs, traditions, beliefs and values in given company contributes to the productive business outcomes in a new country.

The success and failure of expatriate is defined by two variables, success during the assignment – which entails completion of all tasks and improvement in operation of the company as well as cooperation with local staff; and effective readjustment and reintegration within the organization upon return. The failure, therefore, includes premature return of expatriate, disappointing performance during the assignment and departure from the organization shortly after arrival. The damage caused by failed assignment is hard to calculate.

The incurred cost of transfer, accommodation, salary and trips home is mounted on top of opportunity cost of losing future business and reputation in a foreign community. Even though the failure rate of expatriates today is not specified (the last statistics is dated 1991) the success of every expatriate is essential to organization. What causes expatriates to quit their assignments? There are a number of reasons such as inability to adapt to new culture, family issues, and failure to adjust to a new workplace or find common ground with coworkers.

Even though culture is mostly invisible variable, it affects the human productivity in various ways – inability to fluently express ideas in foreign language or mare cultural misunderstanding can evoke feelings of frustration and desperation. Bringing family on foreign assignment raises many issues such as providing education for children and workplace for spouse that may occupy the mind of an expatriate causing lack of focus and quarrels in the family. Lastly, the difference in position and pay may distance local staff from expatriate and effect communication and team work. Toh & DeNisi, 2005) The early departure upon return from assignment is often caused by failure to adjust to the changed work environment, different than expected position in the company, as well as tempting offers from other companies. Despite the severity of these problems they can be prevented and foreseen beforehand. The effective selection, orientation, on-program support and repatriation will ensure the spike in expatriates’ success rate. Selection process.

Most companies concentrate mainly on expatriate’s orientation and training rather than selection process, even though selection of the candidate that is most suitable for the foreign assignment will ensure smooth and easy adaptation. There are a number of tests that are aimed at defining whether the employee is fit to work abroad; they examine human relation skills, ability to adapt, previous overseas experience, knowledge of the language, and openness to new experiences The primary factor being, of course, desire to work abroad.

Unfortunately, there is a poor pool of applicants for foreign assignments (Brown, 2006) The reasons most employees are unwilling to relocate are mostly family related such as spouse’s career and children’s’ education as well as reluctance to lower their standard of living by moving into third world country. Therefore, during the interviewing of potential employees the companies should favor applicants that are willing to go on foreign assignment that will expand the choice for the managers when deciding which employee is most fit for the specific foreign assignment.

After the selection process is complete the company has to provide clear and specific guidelines that grantee consistency in administration of expatriates. Among other things company’s expatriate policy should discuss in depth key issues such as reimbursement and expense procedures, benefits and compensation packages, on-program assistance and support upon completion of assignment. Another useful, even though expensive practice is sending a candidate to the explorative trip to the host country to be introduced to workplace and local customs in order to make final decision. Graduate Institute of Human Resources) Orientation. The pre-departure orientation should start months before the actual departure. The employee should receive cultural sensitivity training by being briefed on local history, policy, geography, climate, housing, schools and entertainment, as well as, customs, traditions and gender roles within the community. The language training is a requirement since it has been observed willingness to use host language has greater impact on success rather than actual level of fluency (Beitler, 2002).

The orientation should include simulations that will force the employee to face the cultural difference in unfamiliar setting in order to deal with emotional discomfort and solve the communication problem. “Work related attitudes such as productivity, dependability, pace, frequency of breaks, meeting interruptions and deadlines vary greatly from culture to culture. Trainees must also be alerted to possible negative attitudes towards nationality, race, or gender. ” (Beitler, 2002 ) During Assignment.

First month after arrival proves to be the toughest because expatriate not only is adjusting to new workplace but new country as well. Figuring out trivial things like where to shop and how to rent a movie might become extensive workload, especially if expatriate is with family. Expatriates face substantial uncertainty regarding their new role in the organization when they first arrive in their new location. They must figure out how things work and what is the best way to approach problems that they may encounter.

Any information the expatriates gain regarding the new job, the organization, and the larger cultural environment will help them learn what to expect, how to interpret various stimuli they encounter day-today, and what the appropriate behavior is in a given situation. (Toh & DeNisi, 2005) The assimilation in the workplace takes long time that’s why a local “buddy” that will introduce expatriate to new team as well as guide him through the process needs to be assigned.

Local mentor will help to build first connections in host country as well as have a constant support till adjustment period is over. Moreover, all local staff should be briefed on the arrival of expatriate as well, and informed about expatriate’s native culture, customs and history to make his arrival at least expected. If expatriate is facing more complicated problems, there should be an assigned person within the organization in his home country that he will be able to contact in case of emergency or to tackle larger concerns. It might turn out that during the assignment expatriate becomes homesick or burned out. In order to avoid it, company should be able to offer one or few, depending on the length of assignment, trips home as well as paid vocational leaves for expatriate and his family for temporarily change of location and rest. This serves the purpose of refreshing and renewing expatriate’s strength after visiting friends and family home and temporarily relief from the host country environment, especially if it’s a country with lower living standard than in the native.

Repatriation. Despite assignment being completed upon return, the danger of failure is still daunting. Expatriate and the experience he/she gained on the assignment are one of the company’s most valuable assets. If expatriate decides to leave the company shortly after arrival – all resources, effort and support during the assignment will be wasted. The company will virtually lose thousands of invested dollars. Especially, if the employee will leave for the competition, which will give them advantage by his provided experience and expertise.

The reason why some expatriates leave the company shortly after the completion of assignments is inability to readjust to changed overtime company environment, lower position offered upon return and better conditions and pay promised by competition. The preparation for expatriate’s return should start months prior to his arrival. The HR manager should figure out the new placement and salary of returned employee that will account for international experience and successful completion of assignment.

Since foreign assignments can take up to five years it’s obvious that company will be endure many changes by the time of return. So expatriate needs to be reintroduced to new staff, placed in a new team and closely followed and supported during the first few months. Any sign of dissatisfaction or lack of motivation should alarm the management and expatriate should be offered to discuss the existing problem and referred to either management or therapy depending on the nature of the problem. Conclusion.

Despite complexity and difficulty of foreign assignments, there are a growing number of companies that have successful expatriate support system which helps employees throughout the assignment period. Organizations have gained more expertise in training employees to become successful expatriates; the orientation programs are more extensive and inclusive rather than non-existent or at best ad hoc as before. Expatriate in need will have a network of support within the host company as well as the headquarters.

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