“What are two or three things our company can do to assure more successful international assignments to the US?”
This is a common question that many companies pose to me in the training needs analysis. Relocating employees is a huge expense and risk. Employees often do not see the entire cost in terms of dollars and risk to the company. Human resources teams and team leads I talk with to create training programs have a handle on these risks and bring in Authentic Journeys to help them mitigate this risk.
Every company has a different approach and is in a different stage of the process of creating a successful expat selection and assignment process. As many companies Authentic Journeys works with do not have a full time relocation specialist on staff, they often ask us what they can do to get the ball rolling before the training has even started. Authentic Journeys has suggested a few tips to encourage self-reliance.
HR or the team leads can create a guide answering the top five or six burning questions assignees have. These questions vary per team based on the kind of assignment. For shorter assignments of a few weeks to a few months, employees may be concerned about transportation, traffic rules, and driving in the US, what they should do if they are pulled over by a cop, how to cook food in a hotel room or get access to good, nutritious [Indian] food for example, while those relocating for longer terms (a few years or permanently) may be concerned how to settle a family in the local area, childcare, local resources, choosing a school for their child, and other related concerns.
Expat Relocation Strategy Tip 1: Assure Assignees understand HR policy
Authentic Journeys has trained over 500 Indians in various roles that have come to the US for various lengths of time. Common questions or concerns Indians onsite have emailed Authentic Journeys include conflict resolution, what constitutes sexual harassment in the US, reporting structure, decision making in the team or organization and other relationship based questions. It may also be helpful to educate employees on basic legalities of working in a company full time in the US as it applies to the situation. Issues such as confidentiality fall under this heading. Often HR in India and the US assume that these policies are the same, but as all policies are based on the local culture and law, and they do differ, it’s critical that those planning to visit the US onsite office for extended business reasons know these guidelines (and what happens if they are violated).
Expat Relocation Strategy Tip 1: Assign a Liaison for Employee Concerns
Employees have many concerns ranging from professional development to personal success and comfort living in a foreign country. Many of the professionals being relocated for long periods are in their late twenties or older, which means they do not get the same exposure to the US culture that internationals may get if they study in universities in the US, for example. In fact, the reality is that for many expat assignees non-work related cultural concerns rate higher than work-related cultural concerns. For that reason, many employees do not know where to go for advice, help or guidance. In some cases, Authentic Journeys stays on board on as-need basis for those assignees who want a safe space (a professional not related to the company or working full time in the company) to provide relocation coaching and cultural guidance. For those companies or teams that do not prefer this model, tips one and two above must be applied along with a dedicated person onsite or available virtually to help them as needed. It is better if the liaison assigned understand both cultures (with emphasis on the US culture and the company culture) to provide the best guidance.
To start the conversation about an expat relocation strategy for your team or company, contact us today for more information.
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