RRI answers questions on global assignments

This month’s questions and answers

What are the most effective steps employers can take to overcome employee
and family resistance to a global assignment?

With security and family issues high on the list of concerns and the number of
dual career families significantly increasing, the most important step is to
provide a comprehensive policy and support it with the right services,
delivered in the right way.

An employee’s willingness to accept an assignment often corresponds with the
company’s ability to demonstrate the importance of global relocation – that it
is the company’s way of developing the next generation of leaders. Actions
speak louder than words when it comes to conveying this value and career
advancement potential, and it is the most effective means of building a lengthy
list of eager applicants.

Convincing the employee’s family requires early counselling and cultural
training; as a rule, the better you prepare them before the move, the better
the results will likely be. Performing a detailed needs assessment will help
you gauge each family’s unique concerns and develop a customised solution that
makes relocation more attractive, while offering personalised, on-the-ground
assistance and orientation tours in the new location will help them feel at
ease with the decision.

Complementing your core settling-in programme with a wide range of family
transition services – from spouse job counselling to school finding – can make
a big difference, increasing your chances of a successful assignment.

How are companies addressing the security issues that are inherent in
global relocation?

For your global assignees, security begins with cultural training and
emergency preparedness. Assignees who are thoroughly versed in the practices,
lifestyles and people of their destination country will be more comfortable
with their decision. They will have a keener eye for potentially dangerous
situations, how to avoid them, and how to react when faced with them. Some
companies are also establishing contingency plans for any unexpected problems
and issues that may arise.

Further, we are seeing an increased need among today’s managers to know
precisely where their global assignees are at any given time. That is where
essential ‘on assignment’ services make a difference, not only by providing a
lifeline to assignees, but also allowing home country managers to access online
status reports and run instant ‘roll calls’ for all of their assignees.

At what stage of a global assignment should repatriation planning begin?

A global relocation can be a sizable investment, but unless your company
maintains an effective repatriation plan, you may never realise the maximum
return. This means that even before an assignment begins, planning for its
conclusion should be under way.

Start by fostering an understanding of the ‘expatriate experience’ among
your home country management. One of the primary reasons cited for assignee
turnover is a perceived lack of appreciation and/or outlet for the
international business skills and cultural insight they have acquired. Even
while your employees are on assignment, their managers back home should be
thinking of the best ways to put their expertise to work.

As soon as your candidates are selected, have a comprehensive discussion of
their career paths, explaining how the skills they acquire will be put to use
upon return. The last thing you want to see is your valued assignee heading off
to a competitor, armed with years of international business knowledge for which
you have footed the bill. Keeping your assignees ‘plugged in’ throughout the
assignment not only helps relieve one of their most common fears – being ‘out
of sight and out of mind’ – but can also provide direction for the re-entry
plan.

Don’t forget that repatriation can carry as many cultural and logistical
issues as the initial move – assignees often have to buy a new home, get
children settled into a new school, and address a spouse or partner’s career
continuation. In some cases, particularly after long assignments, reverse
culture shock can occur. Methods to ease this transition – such as cultural
reorientation programmes – should be addressed during the initial planning
stages.

What are some of the most effective means of keeping an employee ‘plugged
in’ to the company during a global assignment?

While your employees will no doubt embrace the challenges that await them in
their new assignments, even the most adventurous will want to feel tethered to
the company during their stay in the destination country.

One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to keep your employees linked
to your corporate intranet, letting them access company news and developments,
or delivering custom messages through your relocation provider’s e-service
system. Companies may also wish to assign mentors who will remain in contact
with the assignee from time to time to keep them "in the loop." In
fact, the results of our recent Question of the Month survey indicate that an
increasing number of companies are assigning mentors and giving former
assignees the opportunity to become mentors.

A lot of companies have attempted to implement ‘global’ policies. Do
these work?

While global policies are growing in popularity, to be effective they must
be implemented in accordance with the local norms/practices of each of your
target destination and departure regions, and that requires local expertise.
One of our major clients has had great success with its global policy, which is
supported by service centres in each major region – the Americas, EMEA and
Asia-Pacific – to ensure timeliness, responsiveness across time zones, and the
most effective global counselling.

In our experience, global policies are best executed by providers who know
the client’s policy and have a global team of trained specialists who can offer
crucial ‘on the ground’ assistance and expertise to your assignees, and who are
also well-versed on policy, procedures and service performance metrics. This is
the only way to ensure consistency throughout the entire process.

Are there any instances in which it would be preferable to choose a local
hire over an expatriate?

The simple answer is, of course, yes. However, you can’t overlook the
importance of building global fluency among your employees. The value of a
global assignment is that it instils essential international business skills,
and companies that eliminate such opportunities risk depleting their pool of
global leaders. Look at the CVs of today’s CEOs and you will find that the
majority earned their leadership positions through consecutive global
assignments.

Author biographies

Pablo Colon
Director, global client services, RRI

Pablo oversees the development and worldwide management of RRI’s Global
Assignment Programs (GAP). He also interfaces with the company’s Service
Partner Alliance and Global Network Services groups to identify new and
innovative ways to deliver the best total solution to RRI’s global relocation
clients. Pablo is bilingual, has close to a decade of global relocation
experience and his international business career has encompassed assignments in
Costa Rica and the UK.

Diane Fitz-Gibbon
Director, client services, EMEA, RRI

Diane has more than two decades of global relocation experience, and in her
current role she works closely with clients being serviced out of RRI’s UK
operations centre to ensure the company continues to exceed its service and
cost-savings expectations. She also fosters synergy between members of the RRI
team on both sides of the Atlantic to increase client product knowledge. Before
joining RRI, Diane worked for Ernst & Young and British Petroleum.

Roxanne Pappas
Director, consulting services, RRI

An authority on global relocation, Roxanne provides RRI’s clients with comprehensive
consulting, research and information services to help them develop and
implement effective programmes. She has been a valued member of the RRI team
since 1990, has held a wide range of roles from account manager to director,
client services, and was instrumental in the establishment of RRI’s UK
operations. Roxanne speaks French, Spanish and Greek.

About the company

Relocation Resources Inter-national (RRI) is a global relocation company providing
complete, customised solutions to a wide range of corporations. The company has
built its reputation as the industry quality leader through its ability to
partner with clients to develop and administer the best total solution to their
employee relocation needs – solutions specifically tailored to meet each
client’s unique culture, objectives and budget.

Unique among relocation companies, RRI is independent and employee-owned,
with operation centres throughout the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific and more
than a quarter century of global relocation experience. Through its expert
staff, extensive global service network, in-house consulting services and
relocation finance groups, and state-of-the-art online programme management
tools, RRI offers clients one convenient stop for all their relocation needs.

For more information, call + 44 (0) 207 802 2563 or visit www.rriworld.com

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