Tips to Prepare Employees for an International Assignment

International assignments have become a common strategy for businesses wanting to expand their reach and visibility in global markets. Relocating employees overseas has a whole host of benefits, for the organisation and also for the individual.

However, in order to ensure your assignment and projects go by successfully, you will need to undertake meticulous planning and preparation. This will protect not only the business but also the individuals who will be uprooting their lives to move to another country. Below are some essential tips to prepare your employees for their international assignments.

Cultural awareness and etiquette training

An important part of preparing your employees for an international assignment will be to train them in the cultural differences they can expect in the new country. Each country will have slightly, or sometimes significantly, different social norms and business etiquette. Teaching your employees of these differences can make it much easier for them to settle in and hit the ground running when they start working in the country.

There are various ways you can implement cultural awareness training before the employee starts their international assignment. You can find specific cultural training programmes on offer by many organisations that your employees can attend, as well as books, guides and publications that have helpful, detailed information. You can also utilise websites for expats that have practical tips for living and working in various countries.

Language lessons

Learning the local language will be another key part of preparing your employee for their international assignment. Even if the country uses English as a business language, learning the local language will help the employee to settle into their life and build better relationships.

Providing structured learning for your employee by way of lessons, either on-line or in-person, can be a great way of helping them to pick up the basics before they travel. You could also offer these to their family, if they will be travelling with a spouse and/or children. There are a number of language learning apps that can help to solidify their education, such as Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, which offer a flexible, interactive learning method.

Relocation support

Relocating to another country can be complex. You should make sure to offer plenty of support for your employees, to make the process as stress-free as possible. This should include assisting with applying for and attaining the necessary working and residency visas, as well as visas for any family who will be travelling with them.

You should also provide adequate support to help the employees find suitable accommodation. Many businesses will fund accommodation at least for the initial phase after the employee has relocated, which can help ease the pressure on them and mean they can focus on the work without worrying about housing.

You can also provide advice and guidance for other logistical relocation factors, such as finding a local bank account, tax rules, and transporting their personal items to their new home. If your employee is travelling with family, you can also provide support for them, such as finding suitable schooling options for children.

Health and wellbeing support

You should consider the healthcare provision in the country your employees will be moving to and decide whether it will be appropriate to provide international health insurance for the individual and their family. Many countries might have a requirement in the visa application for the individuals to have adequate health insurance.

Some countries might have universal healthcare, but it might be at a lower standard than what the employees are used to, in which case it might be suitable to provide access to private healthcare provision through health insurance. Private healthcare in most countries will be of good quality and provided to a good standard, with healthcare professionals who often speak multiple languages. This can make it easier for your employees to have peace of mind that their health will be looked after whilst they’re on the international assignment.

You should also consider how you will support your employees’ mental wellbeing while they’re abroad. Relocating can result in culture shock, homesickness, isolation, and low mood. It’s therefore essential that you are able to provide a support network for your employees and their families, to ensure their mental health is also looked after. This will ensure the assignment is a success for everyone involved.

Clear expectations and goals

It’s important that the employee knows exactly what will be expected of them throughout their international assignment. You should discuss with them what their goals will be and what will be expected of them before they travel. You should conduct project alignment meetings before the relocation, so you can set out the aims of the project, how the employee can work towards these goals, expected timelines, and how reporting will be done.

These meetings can also give anyone an opportunity to identify and discuss potential risks and challenges and come up with strategies to overcome them if they arise. There should be clear, defined roles amongst the project team. The employees who will be relocating should know what they are responsible for and who they can contact if and when they require further support. This will help to streamline the assignment and ensure it goes smoothly.

Open communication

At every point in the international assignment – pre-travel and once the employee has relocated – you should ensure there is space for open and honest communication. The employee should feel comfortable approaching the right people if and when they have a query or concern. The business, in turn, should ensure it is clear and open with information and details around the project.

You should ensure to regularly check in with your employees who are on assignment to ensure that they are happy with not only the work but also with their life in the new country. Make space for feedback and discussion when it is needed and ensure to address any comments that require further action.

Are you relocating employees abroad?

Expatriate Group is an expert in international healthcare. We provide international health insurance for expats all around the globe, including working abroad insurance specifically designed for corporate clients.

You can get a quote online today, view our plans, or contact us for more information.

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