Plan ahead to ensure repatriation success

I discussed economy-driven changes in the use and components of global
assignments. This has had a direct impact on international HR departments, and
has driven three new imperatives: effective strategies for localisation, robust
mechanisms for repatriation, and talent management for global resiliency.

you took good notes on localisation strategies, you will now be wrestling with
the second step: repatriation of your overseas assignees. Repatriation is a key
component of any international assignment. In fact, it represents a continuing
yield on your expatriate investment – an investment, not an expense.

companies still strive to show some return on investment (ROI) for their
expats. I measure ROI in this area by looking at the success of placing the
repat back into the organisation in a meaningful role, leveraging that
individual’s global skills and competencies, and ensuring that they remain with
the firm.

how you calculate an ROI may be driven by how your organisation amortises large
capital expenditures. Because of the significant costs and the significant
impact expats have, I compare expats to capital investments. Similarly, an
amortisation of that investment can be applied to expatriates, giving you an
idea of your retention goals for your returning assignees.

you understand the importance of repatriation, you must plan for it.
Repatriation must start well before the assignee has ever darkened the door of
a Boeing 747. Anyone considering moving their family overseas should ask:
"What happens next?" It’s amazing how many companies don’t have the
answer to this simple question. Even worse, sometimes they know the answer, but
won’t tell the assignee.

establishing ownership of repatriation is critical. The expat must have the
lead – full stop. HR will certainly facilitate the process and will play a key
role, but the expat must own the journey. Their success in finding a great next
role in the organisation will be a direct reflection of how much effort that
person has put into the process.

the repat has started their new role, it is essential that the line manager
understands their responsibility. I have found that a short note from a senior
executive explaining the size of the investment for which this manager now will
be responsible, works wonders. This note will ensure the line manager is as
focused on retaining this investment as you are in HR.

never forget that potential future expats will always ‘check references’ with
repatriates. What will your repats say about your company’s assignment process?

and the subsequent retention of your global managers, is not administrative HR.
Repatriation has a strategic impact on the business, shows real dollars for the
organisation, and has a direct knock-on effect on your organisation’s global
resiliency. How you manage the repatriation process will make all the

Lance Richards, Senior director of international HR for Kelly Services and
adviser to SHRM

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