You might be wondering why your expatriate employees are taking this long to become productive compared to their outstanding performance in their home country. I am not talking about a forced overseas assignment. Most of the expatriate employees are excited and welcome the challenge when an opportunity is presented in a different land but the unknown culture, coworkers, the stress of being away from family members and even inability of spouse to adjust can distract them.
Considering an expatriate with a little care and support can help them ease their transition and become productive faster.
Here are a few thoughts that I would suggest to make your expat’s life as exciting as they expect it to be.
Help them settle down
Don’t rush or put pressure on an expat at least in the first couple of months. Every day would be a new experience filled with surprises in his new surroundings like new accommodation, new culture, food, language, new traffic rules and people at work. Give him enough time to adjust to his surroundings so he can focus on his job without any pressure.
Be a little flexible
The most stressful thing for an expatriate is being away from his family members and emotional difficulties resulting from this. Be a little flexible when he has to occasionally take some urgent personal calls at work to help him avoid feeling home sick during this transition time. Other than that inability of his spouse to adjust with the new country or spouse not being able to work can also make his life harder than expected. Help him figure out what can be done to make the situation better.
Introduce him to your cultural clues
It’s been 2 years now I moved to US and I am still learning unspoken clues when I interact with the people over here. Probably a friendly session that gives them a glance into the culture and etiquette. This would help him realize why people act the way they do. For example, people keep the door open for the person coming behind them as a gesture of respect. Which is not very common in India.
Assign a work buddy
A buddy can help him settle faster by addressing his questions about his new place. Everything inside and outside of the organization can be a total puzzle. For example, finding a transport if they don’t have a car, where to learn driving lessons, nearest grocery store, healthcare support, a little about the community he lives in etc.
Provide a continuous support
It would take at least one to two years for an expat to gradually adjust to the new place. A continuous support from his manager, coworkers and work buddy can help reduce this transition period and increase his productivity.
Help him develop friends at work
Build a community that bring expatriates and your normal employees together to help him mingle with them easily and build a bond with them. When people at work encourage and help each other that provide him an emotional assurance to help cope with problems and bring out his pleasant nature.
Other factors which one might want to consider is helping him be introduced to the policy changes in the organization from his home country to host country, having a single point of contact in HR in both countries, provide him sufficient training if there is any talent gap compared to host country etc.
Share your thoughts on how to handle an expatriate transition smoothly? How effective is expatriate during his stay and what do you think organizations should do?