As a Human Resource Director there are many areas to take into consideration when beginning international posts for the organization. One needs to do research on the type of positions to be filled, the skills and knowledge needed in order to fill those assignments, methods of finding your talent, as well as the compensation and training needed to secure the success of those posts. Follow all of those tasks with the debriefing and support that is needed upon the return of the assignee and their family members to help with career path, knowledge transfer and just getting comfortable again in the home country. Although this sounds simple enough it is by far more involved and the support of HR can make a big difference between failure and success.
As defined by Dowling, Festing & Engle, pre-departure training is a set of training program provided before expatriate depart for their overseas assignment, designed to increase the success of expatriate's in their international assignments; training might include, cross cultural and language training, business etiquettes, etc.
The critical step after an employee has been selected for an international assignment; pre-departure training begins to ensure the expatriate's effectiveness and success abroad. The components of a pre-departure training cover the country of assignment, duration, purpose of the transfer and the provider of such programs (Mendenhall et al. 1987).
Mendenhall et al. (1987) distinguished three types of pre-departure training, information giving approaches, affective approaches which will address people's feelings and immersion approaches which are in-depth methods covering a broad range of topics and methods. Training is described as the process of altering employee behavior and attitudes to increase the probability of goal attainment (Hodgetts 1993).
PERFORMANCE OF EXPATRIATES
Managing performance of individual expatriate employees creates a challenge for multinational companies in the context of the traditional expatriate assignment cycle; this is due to the expatriate having to meet conflicting expectations of the home country management and subsidiary colleagues as well. Factors that need to be included are technical knowledge, personal (and family) adjustment to the differences in culture and environment (political and labor force stability and distance from home country) (Cascio, 2006; Oddou and Mendenhall, 2000).
Designing performance management systems for international assignees involves considering a number of key factors including: the impact of factors such as foreign exchange fluctuations on the performance of business operations (Black et al., 1999); insuring that there is a clear understanding of performance objectives of the assignee and ensuring that the appraisal is measured the same in varying countries and identifying the persons best placed to evaluate the performance of the assignee. The key to the success of managing the performance of expatriate is recognizing the need to adapt the appraisal system to account for the host context, and demonstrating the limitations of using standardized systems.
RECRUITING AND SELECTION STRATEGY
Recruitment and selection for the success of expatriate assignments and ability to enable international firms to compete in the global market is one of the most important elements of Human Resources.
According to Ronen (1989), there are five categories of attributes for successful expatriate assignments are job factors, relational dimensions, motivational state, family situations and language skill. Ronen believed that when these five selection attributes contributed to greater expatriate success when compared to the customary selection based solely on technical abilities.
Categories of Attributes of Expatriate Success
Job Factors Relational Dimensions Motivational State Family Situations Language Skills
Technical skills Tolerance for ambiguity Belief in the mission Willingness of spouse to live abroad Host country language
Familiarity with host country and headquarters operations Behavioral flexibility Congruence with career path Adaptive and supportive spouse Non-verbal communication
Managerial skills Non-judge mentalism Interest in overseas experience Stable marriage
Administrative competence Cultural empathy and low ethnocentrism Interest in specific host country culture
Interpersonal skills Willingness to acquire new patterns of behavior and attitudes
STAFFING ALTERNATIVES FOR MULTINATIONAL FIRMS
Some of the alternative forms of international assignments are short-term assignments, international business travelers, rotational assignments and international commuter assignments, and virtual assignments. Determination of which type of alternative form of international assignments organizations need to take into consideration the level of usage and identifying operational issues that may emerge in the context of managing these alternative forms on assignments.
Short-term assignments are the most popular form of a non-standard assignment, and the key characteristics that are associated with these types of assignments are the duration being longer than a business-trip but shorter than a year long, the assignee's family often remains in the home country, and the salary, pension and social security benefits are handled by the home country. Short-term assignments are used in MNCs for problem solving or skills transfer such as in implementing a project or establishing a new process or troubleshooting; for control purposes and for managerial development reasons. Advantages associated with short-term international assignments include increased flexibility, simplicity and cost effectiveness. Some disadvantages include taxation issues (in assignments over six month durations), potential for side-effects (marital problems and personal issues), failure to build effective relationships with local colleagues and customers and work visas and permits (Tahvaninen et al., 2005).
Another alternative form of an international assignment would be frequent flyer assignments, or international business travelers (IBT). The IBT has the advantage of not having to relocate the expatriate and their family to a foreign country. IBTs provide the advantage of face-to-face interaction in conducting business transactions without the requirement for the physical relocation. IBTs offer face-to-face interaction with subsidiary employees, without the need for the physical location and help to minimize interruptions to an individual's career and reduce cost to the multinational company.
Commuter and Rotational Assignments have grown over recent years (Scullion and Collings, 2006c). This type of alternative international assignment is defined as one where an assignee commutes from their home base to another country to a post in another country, generally on a weekly or bi-weekly basis (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2005). This is a common type of assignment for oilrigs.
Global Virtual Teams is an assignment which members are geographically dispersed and coordinate their work predominantly with electronic information and communication technologies. This trend in international assignments became more popular in the late 1990s due to the growth of the internet and other technologies. Global virtual teams do not relocate to a host location but have the responsibility to manage international staff from the home base (Dowling and Welch, 2004) and generally lead to jointly achieved outcomes involving a degree of intercultural interactions.
MENTORING SYSTEM FOR INTERNATIONAL ASSIGNMENTS
Given the difficulties of an employee assignment abroad, re-entry for expatriates and their families need help to readjust back into their lives in the home country Two of the most important issues are career planning and reverse culture shock. The mentoring system that should be offered by multinational firms should include According to eHow Contributor, Kimberly Turtenwald, (2014) expatriates are individuals who leave their home country to work in another, and the amount of mentoring that will be needed varies depending on each expatriate. Organizations need to insure that the mentors that are selected are well experienced within the company and committed to making the transition work for both the expatriate and the company.
The first step is to have the mentor help prepare the expatriate for life in another country by training with the cultural and language differences, the mentor should start preparations at least a year before the assignment begins for an easier transition into the new life and work environment. The second step would be for the mentor to assist with getting the expatriate moved into the new country, the mentor will help with finding a place to live, learning the customs and traditions that will be followed while living in the new country. The mentor will help the expatriate to fit into the business and society which they will now live.
The mentoring program should require frequent support for the expatriate so that they are comfortable with their surroundings and be available for questions. Multiple trips to the home country should also be part of the program so that expatriates and their family members are able to 'stay in touch' with the business, friends and family. These trips will allow expatriate and their family to stay engaged in changes with the company and with society as well.
Upon the completion of the assignment, there should be debriefings to discuss the assignment tasks, lessons that have been learned, help with transitioning back into the home country, discussions on where the expatriate envisions their position within the company and what direction they would like to take their career. The mentoring program is not complete until the expatriate is comfortable being back home and is transitioned successfully back into their job with the home country. The mentoring program has to be one that is supportive both by the mentor and the company, requires frequent and clear communications by all parties, assists with cultural and language differences, and so much more. It is one that starts way before the actual assignment and does not end until the expatriate is 100% comfortable with the return to the home country.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
The definition of return on investment (ROI) is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio. In this case the return would be the organizations ability to retain the expatriate and the ability to transfer the knowledge transfer from the international assignments throughout the company. This would involve ensuring that the expatriate is supported prior to the assignment, during preparation, while the assignment is taking place, upon completion and return of the individual and possibly family members as well in to the home country and the ability to transfer the knowledge of the expatriate and retain them within the company.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (2014) the investment that is required in sending employees on international assignments can be substantial; however, many organizations are unclear on the benefits. An organization has to have a clear understanding of the return, before they can determine how effective their expatriate program to their overall talent management strategy. In a study done by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Cranfield School of Management called PwC Saratoga, they measured the benefits and cost of different types of international assignments, involving both short-term assignments and extended periods in overseas operations, as well as analyzing differences between developmental and business-driven assignments. Their research went beyond traditional boundaries of focusing simply on current expatriates, by assessing the careers of individuals whose assignments ended three years prior to the study. It was found in this study that 2 out of the 9 organizations that participated had a formalized repatriation process that focused on preparing the assignee for the next role within the organization, which are essential in having the full return on investment by the organization.
Throughout the research for this paper I have come to realize that there are many parts toan expatriate program and that the success of such a program is highly depended upon the support, policies and procedures, legal knowledge, respect and communications between the home country, host country and expatriates. Everyone's involvement is extremely important from the time an organization determines the need for the expatriate assignment, preparation of the individual both cultural training and language barriers, settling into the new country location, duration of the assignment, preparation on return, transference of knowledge, and guiding the expatriate in their future position.
The most important aspects that I have found regardless of what stage of the expatriate programs of an organization there needs to be a high-level of support from Human Resources and management both locally and globally, as well as a clear understanding of the return that the organization is striving with the international assignments and their success. A clear and frequent communication, training, mentoring, retention policies and procedures are key factors along with the support from the organization.
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