The findings in Crossing Cultures: Unpacking the Expatriate Learning and Adjustment Process over Time are based on responses from 171 expatriates surveyed 30 days before leaving for their assignments and then nine more times over the first nine months of their international assignment. The respondents—nearly three-fourths of whom were men, and most of whom had a spouse and children moving with them—were from three multinational organizations. Their assignments spanned 38 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.
The study found that the expat’s psychological well-being, language fluency and training before relocation had a positive overall effect on adjusting in the first nine months of the international experience. The findings, the researchers wrote, underscore the importance of HR practitioners understanding the expat’s adjustment process. HR professionals must make sure their organization:
- Addresses the employee’s need to develop language fluency in the international assignment.
- Offers psychological screening to assess readiness for an international assignment, including an individual’s openness to having an international experience.
- Provides strong support before and during the assignment, including setting clear expectations about the employee’s role and performance and giving feedback and assistance.
- Proivdes the employee with a self-assessment tool prior to the international assignment to help set realistic expectations for adjuting to the host country.
- Provides a mentor in the host country. A former, current or more experienced expatriate to offer an insider’s perspective can be especially helpful; a host-country national who is a distinguished organizational leader also would be a good choice.
- Maintains a connection between the expatriate and the home-based organization.
Mentors, Support Team
Cynthia Biro, global co-head of Skills Village at PeopleTicker, an information provider based in the New York City area, found that mentors in the host country helped her when she opened offices in various international locations. In preparation, her employer arranged for expatriates in those countries to contact her about a month before she left the U.S. Once she was in the host country, each expat spent several hours, on different days, introducing Biro to the area, including showing her where to shop for food and taking her on tours of the city to expose her to various areas and to learn the city’s history, she noted in a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) discussion on LinkedIn.
“I cannot tell you how much it helped me in my management and expansion efforts whilst [I was] onsite. Everyone was much more approachable in the office, because we had ‘off time’ and ‘warm introductions’ beforehand. I highly suggest this strategy for others. I also had language classes, and they helped, but the introducing of expats prepared me best.”
At defense technology company Raytheon, a support team is assigned to an employee who accepts an international assignment, said Randa G. Newsome, vice president of HR and based in Waltham, Mass. The team includes a sponsor, an in-country supervisor and an HR point of contact and it remains active throughout the employee’s preparation, deployment and repatriation.
Source : www.shrm.org