How to Make Expatriate + Relocation = Success
By Sherman Pereira,
Crown Relocations, Regional Director – Central and Eastern Europe
A company based in the United States is opening a new branch in Russia and the time has come to staff the new location. This, of course, lands on the desk of the Director of Human Resources who now, among all his or her other tasks, has to find a way to relocate an employee and his family in a smooth enough way to ensure a continued level of high productivity.
But relocating to a new city can be one of the most stressful events a person will encounter in their lifetime. In fact, the Employee Relocation Council (ERC) ranks moving as third in life’s most stressful events, behind the death of a loved one and a divorce.
People being transferred by their company will find themselves feeling extremely vulnerable and in desperate need of support. Providing that support for the expat is key for any company, and utilizing all of the tools available, from inter-cultural training to orientation programs, can make the difference between a successful relocation and an unhappy worker.
There’s nothing more expensive (for a company) than a failed expatriate relocation. If the expat’s family is not happy and they want to go back home, the company is left having to find another employee to fill that position. It is vital important for corporations to have a relocated employee who is productive from the first day and is comfortable in his new environment.
In order to make an expat relocation successful, there are several steps that a business, the relocation company and the employee themselves need to take.
The first of these steps is a pre-visit by the employee to his or her new home for an initial feeling out process where the relocation company can begin a settling-in program.
Social and cultural aspects of the city are also helpful in this process, including housing, shopping and landmarks within the area. For Moscow, this would include general prices and locations of homes, what food markets are in the city, which medical facilities are recommended, schooling options and social activities for singles and families.
Other basic, but important, information provided at this initial visit can help make a future resident feel more at ease. With finances varying from country to country, learning the unit of currency, like the roubles in Russia, can help the expat adjust immediately. Also, a cost of living index with comparison process for groceries, transportation, accommodation, family life, entertainment and health helps provide the relocating family with a frame of reference for costs ranging from eggs and milk to car purchases and taxi fees to a movie ticket and a round of golf.
There are a number of key factors a company should consider before recruiting expatriates to ensure the success of the employment:
Immigration Policies undergo continuous changes. Start the visa and immigration procedure early – before the new employee arrives, and utilize professional help to ensure a smooth processing of documents.
Housing is one of the largest cost factors in expatriate employment. Budget housing and schooling allowances according to market rates using rental screens. Utilize the market knowledge of a Relocation Services providers for home searches.
Provide all expatriate employees and their spouses/partners and children with the critical information necessary to thrive, not just survive, in their new location. The skills needed to complete these tasks successfully are not innate. Cross-cultural training can provide the missing competencies and knowledge to fill the gap. One of the attractions of working overseas is being continually challenged by different experiences. Some of these will be good and some will be less than memorable. However, by preparing for all of the new occurrences that will undoubtedly unfold, an expat can lessen the surprise and minimize the unavoidable cultural shock.
When all is said and done, these tips and lessons lead to three important outcomes – an easier transition for the HR Manager, a more cost-effective way to relocate staff for a company, and most importantly, a successful employee.