Managing expat employees is a lot more complicated than managing employees within your office. In some ways, it’s even slightly more complicated than managing remote employees. Having someone from your team represent your company on the other side of the globe opens up many great opportunities for growth, but might also be challenging and difficult to manage without preparation and constant contact.
Before you tell your people to pack up and send them to their destinations, make sure you have taken all the necessary steps to ensure the whole expatriation process goes smoothly and efficiently.
1. Organize Everything On Your End
Create a comprehensive organizational system for the management of the employees you’re expatriating. You can use this template as the organizational foundation. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute to assure that everyone has the proper documents secured.
You’ll also want to look into hiring some temps or independent contractors to fill the gaps left behind by the employees you’re expatriating. If you need to bring in some new people, it’s better to bring them in a little bit beforehand. They’ll learn and be prepared by the time your longstanding employees travel.
2. Implement Cultural Training
Your expatriated employees are going to represent you overseas. You need them to be aware, respectful, and conscious of the culture they’re going to be participating in. This isn’t to say that your employees are likely to go off the handle as soon as they get off the plane – so many things that are considered perfectly normal in one place might be considered offensive in another. In America, it’s rude not to tip a server. In South Korea, servers find tips offensive. Make sure your employees know the difference. If they don’t, it might lead to some awkward blunders.
3. Locate Mentors, Sponsors, or Hosts
You can’t exactly ship an employee off to another country and expect them to fit right in. They’ll need to acclimate, and that process becomes much more comfortable when they have a designated individual they can rely on for assistance.
If you have other employees in that country, put them in contact with the employee you’re expatriating. If you don’t, you’ll need to find an associate or reliable contact nearby that can be trusted with giving the employee the necessary help.
4. Make Arrangements for Virtual Meetings or Conferences
If you’re sending the employee very far away, time zones might mess things up for everyone. When your early morning is their late night, it’s hard to find the time to communicate. Work from the beginning to make compromises on times where you can video conference, virtually meet with, or speak to the employee you’re expatriating. If the person is naturally a night owl, he or she might not mind arranging these meetings for midnight in their new time zone. Early risers may not mind settling for 6 AM.
5. Create a Running Knowledge Tab
You’re expatriating an employee so he or she can learn something. It’s a lot like sending them on an extended meditation retreat – when they come back out, you want them to be able to unlock the secrets of the universe. In this case, those secrets are the knowledge that will allow your business to expand and find greater success. Rather than waiting until the end to collect all that information, arrange for it to be collected piece by piece in small reports. When it comes time to discuss findings, it won’t feel overwhelming. Everyone will already have a little bit of a heads up.
6. Give them a Proper Welcome When They Return
Some expatriated employees choose to stay where they’re at, and if it’s beneficial to the company, there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people are only temporarily expatriated, and everything will feel different to the employee when they return. They’ll need to get used to the sun rising and setting at different times. If this employee is bilingual, they’ve probably been speaking a different language almost exclusively for the entire time they were gone.
Coming home might feel like culture shock, and you need to be prepared for that. Welcome them back with a few weeks of vacation time to see their family, get their affairs in order, and reset their circadian rhythm. When they’ve settled in, they’ll be even better at work than they were before.
It’s essential to plan, plan, and plan again when you’re doing something as major as expatriating an employee. As long as you stay on top of things and keep in constant contact, you’ll see all the success you ever wanted.
Michelle Arios is an experienced project manager and content creator from Sitecraft, a leader in equipment distribution. With her background in business management, Michelle is often found online, sharing her tips with small-to-medium businesses, helping them grow and reach new customers. Feel free to say “hello” to her on @MichelleArios.