company relocating a key member of staff to its African or Middle East
operations needs to get the details right from the outset to ensure a smooth
transition. Alan Hosking reports
staff to a place of work in an African or Middle Eastern country where cultures
are very different from those they are used to must be done right with
precision as first impressions are everything. Get the assignment off to a bad
start and it’s just a matter of time – and money – before those same people
have to be repatriated at considerable expense to the company. Not to mention
loss of productivity and loss of revenue.
this reason, when considering relocating staff to Africa and the Middle East
where cultures differ substantially from those of Western, developed countries,
it is best to follow the outsourcing route and make use of one of the
specialist global relocation companies which have the infrastructure and
network to make relocation as seamless as possible. They have the capacity to
partner you through the whole relocation process, advising and supporting you
along the way in order for the assignment to be completed successfully.
of relocation companies vary and, like any case where you’re shopping for
services, it is important to take note of the old adage, Caveat Emptor – let
the buyer beware. Some provide more comprehensive services than others and you
pay for what you get. It is therefore important for HR executives planning an
international assignment for a member of staff to make full use of the services
of a company that can tailor its services to meet their specific needs.
can generally expect a good relocation company to provide assistance in four
Before the assignment is initiated
The actual relocation and initial entry into the country
Everyday living during the course of the assignment and
The repatriation at the conclusion of the assignment.
relocation companies offer a range of services and support which start well
before the expat has left for their assignment and end with their return to
their home country. It is advisable to call on their services well before the
assignee is even presented with an offer letter for the assignment, as the
relocation company will be able to advise on the contents of the letter which
should include details on compensation, allowances, vacation benefits, health
plans, shipment of personal effects, transportation, travel, tax, work permits,
housing/accommodation and repatriation at the end of the assignment.
can also be expected to provide reliable information regarding local conditions
relating to political activity, levels of crime and personal safety in the form
of what one company calls a City Location Evaluation Report.
should be able to comment on the advisability and safety of working in certain
countries backed up by current "on the ground" information regarding
cannot rely on newspaper reports only to determine whether a region is stable
or not. The recent suicide bombings in Israel, for example, need not mean that
the whole Middle East region is unsafe. By the same token, while it is
definitely not safe for white people to be sent to Zimbabwe in the light of
Mugabe’s open aggression and his complete disregard for any legal processes
which do not suit his political agenda, numerous other African states are quite
stable and getting on with life quite normally. National borders are generally
intact and must not be viewed merely as state lines where what’s happening in
one country is easily allowed to affect the stability of neighbouring countries.
HR managers agree that a high level of assignment failures can be attributed to
the unhappiness of the spouse and/or children for some or other reason, so
relocation of staff where families are involved is a bit more complicated, and
the interests of all family members no matter what their ages, should be
considered. One does not want to have a highly competent, highly skilled and
experienced executive wanting to bail out of an assignment because of
unhappiness in the home.
up-to-date information which affects family members is critical to the success
of the assignment. For instance, parents who have a natural concern for their
children’s schooling need to be given accurate information about appropriate
schooling options in order for them to be able to make informed decisions
regarding whether it is best to place children in boarding schools back home or
whether they can send them to a local school.
before the assignment is initiated includes legislation requirements and work
permit applications, orientation seminars and cultural training, structuring
expatriate salary and benefit packages, tax efficiency considerations for the
home and host country, medical care and medical insurance details, emergency
evacuations, and pre-schools and schools. Assistance during the actual
relocation and initial entry into the country includes travel and transport
arrangements, custom clearance of personal belongings, hotel accommodation,
finding a suitable residence, banking, personal security, vehicle lease or
purchase options and vehicle registration.
support provided to make everyday living more comfortable includes local home
rental or purchase, community information, entertainment options, places of
worship, doctors’ and hospital addresses and telephone numbers plus 24-hour
pharmacies. To smooth the arrival further therelocation company should be able
to help with home furnishings and/or referral to suitable interior decorators,
house maintenance referrals and installation of utilities.
information which can be invaluable is of recreational or sports club
facilities, domestic help recruitment, subscription to a satellite service
provider, Internet service provider, mobile phone company and/or how to get
hold of local or international newspapers and magazines.
the end of the assignment the expatriate should be given assistance with
winding up all matters such as the sale of the house and vehicles or conclusion
of house rental, cancellation of all subscriptions and arranging for final
payments, as well as shipment of all belongings back to home.
the light of a trend towards outsourcing a number of the HR functions, it seems
to make sense to take that route when undertaking the complex and risky process
of relocating valuable and talented staff to regions which do not necessarily
provide all the comforts and conveniences of the home country. By including a
partner in this process, one is going to save time and money, as well as ensure
a greater chance of the assignment being completed successfully.