How to Prevent Failed Expat Assignments?

Learn How Your Organization Can Prevent Failed Expatriate Assignments

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to an expat assignment. On one side, you’re going to another country with a scenic view as your office backdrop, immersing in new cultures and exploring the city. But internally, it’s uprooting a family from their comfort zone, managing expectations, language barriers, and completing your work in a new country and culture.

The collective stress in settling in a new home and work environment are some of the main reasons expatriate assignments fail. Despite that, more employees are accepting the opportunity to work overseas. Furthermore, global companies are under pressure to produce a bulletproof blueprint on what makes a successful expat assignment. In this article, we will discuss some ways to prevent failed expat assignments.

Failed Expat Assignments are Expensive

More and more companies are expanding globally in search of new markets and profits – hence the need to hire expatriate employees. A failed expat assignment is when a company sends a highly qualified and highly paid specialists on a remote job, just to have them return prematurely or underperform according to the expectations of the organization. It also includes expats permanently staying overseas or dysfunction after their return. So, why is it so expensive? The cost to send an employee overseas includes their salary level, the size of the family, and the destination country. There are also moving costs, talent acquisition fees, school charges if there are dependent children, and much more. Plus, non-financial costs include the lack of productivity and the mental and emotional toll on the employee and family. These costs can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Why Do Expat Assignments Fail?

There are ample reasons as to why expat assignments fail. To minimize the risk of such failure, companies should select employees carefully. And it shouldn’t end there; companies should also prepare for their departure, offer ongoing support, and prepare for repatriation. These key factors ensure the wellbeing of the employees and a thriving expat assignment.

Five Ways You Can Prevent Failed Expat Assignments

So, as you can see above, there are many reasons why global mobility managers will want to ensure the success of an overseas work assignment. Here are three. Furthermore, it is also essential to take these preventive measures:

1. Find employees with the right soft skills

It is critical to find the right person for the job. Expats-to-be shouldn’t just have the hard skills but also soft skills like the openness to adapt and learn new things, independent thinking, and self-reliance. Furthermore, the employee should also be culturally flexible and agile. They should be able to recognize the best strategy to respond to cultural situations. It includes adapting to the country’s new culture without feeling deprived of one’s own and knowing how to compromise when necessary. Learning how to respond instead of reacting to new experiences can smooth our a lot of difficulties in your professional and private life.

Expat Assignments

2. Encourage a Recon Trip

Once you’ve selected your ideal candidate, it would be wise to send them to go check out their new host country. They should get a sense of the country, culture, and customs on their own. In some cases, the candidate or the candidate’s family may feel differently about their decision once they’ve seen the country. It may be disappointing if the candidate decides not to take up the assignment, but the company saves more, and it’s far less damaging than a failed expat assignment. It’s better to know now than later when it’s too late.

expat assignments

3. Choosing an Employee with a Supportive Family

As much as you are excited about your expat assignment, is your family onboard? It will be a challenge to convince your partner to quit their job, uproot the kids from their schools and social circle, and move to a new country. While it is true that family members also benefit from financial perks, they also struggle to adapt to their new home country. If you have kids, then it is essential to help them adapt to their environment by keeping them in the loop all the time. Also, your partner is sacrificing their career, social life, and establishing a new home as you’re settling in your new job.  Although it is a lot of work, having a family that understands that it is part of the journey helps prevent failed expat assignments.

How to Prevent Failed Expat Assignments

4. Ensure a Supportive Work Environment

Having a sound support system in your new work office will significantly help you in settling in professionally. The best-case scenario is when your new employer is well prepared for your arrival. Your employer or company should create an environment where you can ask questions and request for guidance during your first week. It will help you navigate your current environment quickly. Moreover, having a personal mentor or sponsor would be ideal. If you don’t have access to a mentor, be proactive, and find a mentor yourself, or talk to your HR. In some cases, your colleagues can help you, too, especially discussing cultural and corporate topics.

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5. Having Comprehensive Global Health Insurance

When it comes to moving to a new country, it is vital to have the right international health insurance coverage. Some companies do not provide adequate coverage, forcing employees to find their own insurance companies and policies. Part of a global mobility manager’s duty of care is to offer a comprehensive benefit plan. The plan should fully cover the expatriate employee and any dependents, even trailing dependents.

In other cases, if an employee has a pre-existing condition, then your company should secure a global health plan that will fully cover pre-existing conditions and not require medical underwriting. In essence, this can be a huge factor in your overseas employee’s success abroad. Nobody wants to see a claim that was denied by a substandard plan – so make sure you put in place a high-quality expat benefit plan. It is important to note that most policies have a waiting period for maternity leave and benefits. Not having enough information or adequate coverage will put a significant strain on the expat employee.

A Final Thought on Expat Assignment Success

All of the above measures can assist global mobility managers in preventing expatriate failure. But even if you and your expat employee do everything right, sometimes life abroad just doesn’t work out. As we all know, moving abroad is exciting, but it is not for everyone. All we can do is our best to make sure overseas assignments are as successful as possible.

Be prepared

When it comes to an expat assignment, companies and employees should be fully prepared. Organizations should examine the challenges facing global citizens and expats and offer the support they need. Expats-to-be should also be open to adapt to the challenges of expat life.