Comprehensive support systems for inpatriates are just as
important as those for expatriates, says Simon Kent, and firms that fail to
recognise this pay the price
There are few areas of employment where the need for skills
has not led to inpatriation. Australian teachers populate the UK’s classrooms,
Spanish nurses stalk the corridors of the NHS, IT and financial companies do
battle on a global basis for the best in technical skills. To some extent,
inpatriation is simply expatriation from the opposite end – managing employees
as they enter your country rather than managing their journey overseas.
But according to Kevan Hawley, CEO of Expatriate Preparation
(World) and member of Overseas Moving Network International (OMNI), based in
Johannesburg, this view can lead to an underestimation of the support required
by inpats: "The problem we have with some companies is that they have the
view that living in our country is easy, so why go to any extra trouble? This
is a huge error and one of the reasons for the high statistics in failed
Lynda Brennan, senior consultant with Employment Conditions
Abroad (ECA), agrees: "Many companies will establish sophisticated support
programmes for people moving from the UK to Japan," she says, "but
they don’t offer that support for workers the other way round. That experience
is just as alien."
According to John Arcario, senior vice-president and general
manager of global relocation consultancy Cendant International Assignment
Services, based in Florida, relocations are becoming increasingly short term.
Companies tempt employees away from their homes for between six and 12 months
with sign-on bonuses and project completion rewards. "These employees
undergo intensive immersion programmes to understand the culture they are
entering," he notes. "And this is important, because if you have a
worker who is there for six months you can’t have them spending the first month
getting to know the place."
Short-term inpatriation can reduce the extent of support
required, but it does not do away with it. Both Brennan and Hawley are keen to
emphasise the importance of providing support for the worker’s spouse and
family, and securing accommodation. "Putting an employee in a serviced
apartment or giving them access to a relocation agent to help them through the
early days means the employee can concentrate on their work," notes
Manpreet Sidhu, resource manager for Europe at India-based
IT company Silverline Technologies, explains that an employee moving from
Bombay to New York should view the experience as simply "transferring
between offices". Behind this simple statement lies a raft of support
measures: "We provide free accommodation for at least seven days, with the
second 14 at half price," explains Sidhu. "If people cannot get
rented property in their own name with regard to bank references, Silverline
can take the property in its name. Employees do not need to take accommodation
until they are used to being in the new country," he adds.
Michael Thuleweit, managing director of Datamatics GmbH, an
IT personnel resourcing company based in Darmstadt, gives one example of an
ill-thought-out inpat project. An Indian worker came to Germany on the promise
of a job working on Java applications. After his arrival, however, the employer
decided that the opportunity no longer existed. The worker had to return home
since his visa allowed him to work only in those specific circumstances.
"Our advice is stay in your own country for as long as you can," says
Thuleweit, "but if you do need to make a move then do everything to make
the employee feel as good as possible – because they’re going to feel bad about
Inpatriation raises some particular challenges for HR
managers. "It is vital to develop an integrated HR plan, which recognises
the needs of the inpat while protecting the integrity of the local employee
reward system," says Andrew Finney, MD of relocation consultancy HCR
Countrywide Mobility, based in Basingstoke, UK.
Lynda Brennan notes that in the financial world, an employee
brought in from the US can be on twice the salary of his or her counterpart in
London. Helping them work together requires effective communication so local
workers understand precisely what value the inpat is bringing to the company.
In general, says Finney, companies offer inpats local terms
and conditions for equivalent employees, together with free housing and other
benefits. However, the European trend is towards providing fully local
contracts, which would end such advantages. This approach may reduce
remuneration differences, but Finney notes: "It is difficult to envisage
this working on a worldwide basis, given the greater economic, legislative and
cultural differences that exist." It could also make international moves a
less attractive proposition and certainly any company taking this step
unilaterally could face skill loss if talent continues to follow financial
However, Christophe Andreae, country manager in Switzerland
for IT resourcing specialists ComputerPeople, believes workers take inpat
assignments as a lifestyle choice rather than for purely financial reasons. A
computer specialist in Zurich, for example, enjoys lower living expenses than
in London and can easily reach many European attractions.
"You tend not to see jealousy between contract and
permanent workers because you can’t compare the two," he adds. "The
consultant gets a different daily rate to the contractor, but that’s acceptable
because the permanent staff have other things to compensate them – such as more
opportunities within the firm and more management experience." John
Arcario notes that the remuneration package offered to inpats – geared to
project completion – also emphasises the temporary nature of the employee’s position
and the reason for their presence.
Arcario perceives companies being increasingly strategic
about who they move, in terms of skills and cultural identity, and how those
employees are managed during their relocation. For example, a company bringing
in a team of 50 workers from one country for a project may allow them to work
in a separate unit from the rest of the company, avoiding cultural problems
altogether. The primary reason for inpatriation here is project completion
rather than creating global employees.
Another employer may choose to create a team through
relocating individuals within Europe rather than bringing in experienced
workers from the US, where the cultural difference could present a barrier to
their effectiveness. In each case, the support package offered to the inpats
must meet their needs as well as the demands the company is making of them.
Hints & tips
- Do not underestimate the level of support required for one
individual employee. Inpatriation may entail a shorter assignment than
expatriation, but each individual must be given the support he or she requires.
- Metrius Europe, the networked economy business consultancy
from KPMG, carries out pre-employment tests to assess a candidate’s
appropriateness for inpatriation programmes. This includes studying the
candidate’s interests and social pastimes to see how this corresponds to
opportunities available at their destination.
- Be informed about visa and working permit legislation.
This is not only important in making sure the individual can work as you
require, but also for assessing the danger of poaching from other
organisations. In some countries, firms tempt inpats away from their original
employers, thereby avoiding the time and expense of recruiting and applying for
the necessary legal forms.
- Ensure the inpat has an effective and immediate role when
they arrive in their new location. Having a new inpat in the office who is not
perceived to be working productively may cause friction.
Case study: Novara Computer Services
Novara Computer Services is a New York-based provider of
comprehensive IT software development, training and ASP/ISP services. With 135
employees currently working for the company and another 165 inpats filed for,
it is building one of the largest staffs of highly skilled IT professionals in
the US and, according to executive vice-president Sumira Lund, already 99% of
the workforce have come from outside the US.
Novara’s strategy for inpat management starts before the
individual even arrives in the country. A specialist team interviews candidates
in situ within their own home country. Once hired, the company applies for the
necessary visas and permits and the employee receives a full cultural support
programme. This not only covers issues such as potential culture shock for the
employee, but also offers advice on communications with clients and how to
manage everyday domestic activities. Remuneration for the inpats is high and
employees enjoy full medical insurance, retirement plan contributions, three
weeks’ paid vacation and return flights home. Employees can even determine
their hourly earning rate through a specially designed salary calculator,
offering them the chance to determine how they are remunerated.
Lund explains that one reason for this extensive package is
to retain the employees they have invested time and money in bringing over to
the US. "Many of the top Fortune 500 companies do not bother getting visas
for their workers because it costs a lot of money," she explains. Such
poaching can occur when Novara’s own customer decides they want to make a
member of the contract staff a permanent employee. "Our customers often
approach employees and offer them a transfer because it is cheaper and easier
for them to do that than find their own people.
"There can be jealousy between the inpat and the local
worker," adds Lund, "but that depends on what they’re working on. If
they’re working on software development, for example, there aren’t that many
local people with the skills to work in that area so the problem isn’t so
Interestingly, part of the cultural training for inpats
provided by Novara actually covers instances where employees may feel these
kinds of pressure created by working alongside locals. "All candidates are
prepared and realise that someone they meet might not like them," explains
Lund. "Employees need to be given the confidence that their work is valued
and welcome so part of our training focuses on the psychological impact such a
move can have."
Need some advice on relocating employees from one part of
the world to another? The following sources may be useful:
- Cendant International Assignment Services www.cendantias.com
- ECA International www.ecainternational.com
- Relocation Resources Inc www.rriworld.com
- Overseas Moving Network International www.omnimoving.com
- Directmoving.com www.directmoving.com
- Move Intl www.moveintl.com
You can find more relocation-related articles on the
following Web site: www.personneltoday.com/features