Corporate relocations are administratively and logistically demanding for employers. They also demand significant investment, resulting in growing expectations of return and organisational value.
Effective management of the relocation process will be critical to facilitate success of the move, enabling the employee to hit the ground running professionally and help to settle their family into the new environment.
Moving out of the country checklist: a starter for ten
Using a moving out of the country checklist can provide initial practical focus as part of project planning and should be built on to ensure all of the individual requirements of the specific project are met.
While this list is far from exhaustive, it gives an indication of the general, initial concerns for organisations preparing to deploy workers overseas on a long-term or permanent basis.
1. Carefully select overseas assignees
Candidate selection is a critical, preliminary stage in any relocation. This requires clarity in the objectives of the role and the professional, language and personal skills required to deliver on the objectives in a different culture.
The process should scrutinise both the professional credentials of potential candidates and their suitability on a personal, practical and psychological level.
In some cases an employee may be technically qualified for the assignment in question but has personal or family issues that may present obstacles, for example, where they have young children or even health problems that could increase the risk of assignment failure or early repatriation.
Furthermore, success at home does not necessarily translate into high performance overseas. It is therefore important to consider soft skills, such as flexibility, self-reliance and the ability to adapt, since these are qualities that point to the likelihood of success in a completely new and often challenging environment.
2. Establish the terms of the assignment
In order to effectively manage and arrange an overseas assignment, you will need to set out its terms. Needless to say, you will have already satisfied yourself of the basic nature of the assignment prior to selection of a suitable candidate, but having chosen the right person for the job, you will then need to iron out the finer detail.
This can include the exact duration of the assignment, whether the employee will be bringing family members with them, where they will live, what benefits will be required, how the employee will be taxed, whether the move will impact on their contract of employment, what costs you will each be responsible for and what will happen when the assignment comes to an end.
Once you have established the terms of the move, you will have the foundations from which you can build a successful assignment.
3. Provide any necessary training
Prior to the move you will next need to fully prepare your employees for their overseas assignment. As an employer you have a duty of care to ensure that overseas assignees understand the legislation and cultural differences in the country they will be travelling to and working in.
The nature and extent of this preparation may depend upon the type of assignment in question, although in most cases you will at least need to offer some information as to what to expect. This can include training on legal compliance and cultural differences and language skills.
Employers should also consider offering any cultural training and language courses to family members who will be accompanying the employee overseas.
4. Obtain any necessary visa permissions
Where you are looking to deploy workers overseas, whether this be on a short or long-term assignment, you will need to consider in advance the immigration permissions that will be required, such as obtaining the relevant work permits or visas on behalf of the employee and any family members that will also be relocating.
Options will be determined by a number of factors including the immigration rules and policy of the destination country, the nationality, circumstances and background of the employee and the nature of the role that will be performed following the relocation.
Work permits typically involve complex applications, with multiple stages, costs and there will usually be a requirement to attend a visa interview at the country’s Embassy.
Brexit is a further complication, and employers are being advised to review and prepare their practices in light of potential changes to the immigration rights of EU and the UK employees.
5. Carry out a pre-assignment health check
A pre-assignment health screening should be mandatory for all selected candidates.
You should always ensure that any overseas assignees are medically fit before deploying them to a new post abroad, and that they are up to date with all required vaccinations. Further, you must be satisfied that they are fit for the particular assignment in question and fully able to cope with the conditions of the country in question.
6. Provide comprehensive travel and medical insurance
In the event that an employee has an accident or falls ill during the course of their assignment, the provision of insurance will allow them to receive immediate and, where necessary, emergency treatment.
Further, in the unfortunate event of incident or illness, insurance cover can potentially cover the cost of medical bills, return flights and other associated costs that your organisation may otherwise have been liable for.
7. Put in place an ongoing support system
Successful overseas assignments not only depend on the individual assignee that you select but on the support they receive to reduce the risk of assignment failure.
Assignees can quickly feel isolated following relocation as a result of cultural and language barriers and separation from friends and family, particularly where there has been insufficient support during the transition. This can see the employee lose faith in the employer/employee relationship, causing potentially irreparable damage and even the loss of that employee to a competitor.
The employee’s family members should also be offered specific support on relocation, to assist with the administration of moving (eg school and home finding, registering with doctors) and orientation services to familiarise with the new environment and support settlement.
Proactive and ongoing support can markedly increase the success and impact of overseas assignments, create a more enriching employee experience and ensure successful retention of global talent.
8. Prepare for repatriation
Support should not only be offered throughout the entire overseas assignment lifecycle, it should also be offered following repatriation. As with preparing for departure, employers should look to assist employees with settling back into their old life.
This could mean practical support with finding accommodation and schooling and career progression and opportunities should be discussed in light of the employee’s international experience and enhanced insight into the organisation.
Take advice on your mobility programme
There are numerous benefits for both employers and employees in meeting the challenges of successful overseas assignments. For an employer this includes expansion into new markets, sourcing new industry knowledge and the development of key talent, while for employees this includes potential career progression, insight into new ways of working and the whole travel experience.
However, there are also risks involved, not least early repatriation, poor budget planning and failure to gain any real return on that investment. To minimise the risk of assignment failure, and to ensure the wellbeing of your employees, employers should examine the key challenges facing workers deployed overseas, and determine the best way to prepare, support and manage them during their time abroad.