For small businesses with global vision, expat employees may be part of your roadmap but what are the challenges you might expect to encounter when sending an employee overseas on assignment and how can you overcome them?
- Selection Process
Selecting the right employee for an expat assignment is critical to success for businesses of all sizes. For small businesses, the cost of expat failure may be particularly detrimental commercially and reputation-wise. In the past organisations relied on capability and role related skills to choose an appropriate candidate for an overseas assignment. Studies into expat failure show having a global mind-set and soft skills like confidence, flexibility and interpersonal skills are more important when it comes to achieving goals in new markets.
If your small business does not have the resources for a thorough expatriate selection process, consider outsourcing to a specialist recruitment consultant. Although it may seem expensive initially, when compared to the cost to the business of an expat returning early or not reaching the intended goal, it could be a sound investment.
- Expat compensation package
Many businesses are moving away from traditional expat compensation packages, opting for for local plus compensation instead. This is when financial compensation is linked to a typical salary for your role in your destination country with some additional benefits for expats.
As an small business don’t forget to highlight the other benefits this opportunity might provide to a potential candidate in terms of their career, experiencing life overseas or potentially paying reduced tax on their salary.
- Preparation for overseas travel
Most enterprise businesses provide pre-departure training for expats. Training courses contain cross-cultural awareness training, information about the host country and project alignment meetings. A HR manager in a small business, may not have the capacity to provide this kind of training in advance of an employee’s move overseas. However, it is worth considering sending the employee to outsourced pre-departure training tailored to the region they are moving to. This allows HR to focus on the project alignment element in-house which is tailored to specific business needs.
- Support while overseas
Even the most prepared or experienced expat is likely to have challenges during their time overseas. Everything may be going well professionally but personally they may struggle to settle into their new location or have family difficulties that they need support with. With limited resources, it may make most sense for you to focus on the work-related challenges your expat employee has.
For more personal issues, see if your international health insurance provides an expat assistance programme where employees can access counselling and wellbeing support to help cope with the unexpected on assignment.
There is no doubt that there are challenges for small businesses sending expats overseas. However, the changing nature of expat expectations and the availability of outsourced support is making it much more accessible.
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