Benefits of pre-departure training for expatriates

June 21, 2018

International human resources can be a complex and difficult area. Unprecedented political events and changes to the way we work, like hybrid working, may be impacting your multinational organisation.Still, you must continue to focus on increasingly mobile talent and the integration of people management processes to make doing business at a global scale a success.

If your organisation has staff on international assignment, we are sure you are aware of the difficulties of managing expatriate employees. Assignment failure due to expatriate challenges settling in to their new home or role is estimated to be in the region of 25-40%, costing US companies an estimated $2 billion a year. This is a worrying statistic, but there are ways to mitigate failure. By providing thorough pre-departure training for potential expatriates so they can better anticipate the problems that may lie ahead and plan for success.

Pre-departure training for expatriates is a broad term for a programme that briefs soon to be expatriates on what to expect when living and working abroad. Well delivered training allows employees to personalise learnings to anticipate and plan for challenges they and their family may face when they move abroad.

There are a range of benefits of a holistic training plan for expats as they settle in to their role abroad:

  1. Clear understanding of their role: employees who are sent abroad for the right reasons are likely to be most successful. Pre-assignment training that clearly lays out the primary goals of their assignment is likely to help employees meet expectations with greater ease.
  2. Better integration: the inability to settle into their new country is cited by most expatriate failures as a key reason for their return home. Therefore, detailed inter-cultural studies and sensitivity training is required to:
  3. -Provide a detailed overview of the cultural differences between home and host countries.
  4. -Develop emotional flexibility to accept unfamiliar behaviour and values are effective ways of doing things.
  5. -Help the expatriate to evoke a sense of respect towards the culture and norms of their host country and to enact change in a culturally sensitive way.
  6. Improved language skills: ideally pre-assignment training will offer the basics of the host country’s language to those moving abroad. Good host language skills improve an expatriate’s access to information once they move abroad and helps them to build connections, an essential element of expat success.
  7. Happy families: BGRS mobility trend survey shows the most common reason listed for expat failure is ‘family concerns’ including challenges relating to their partner settling in, children’s education, quality of life or support in the host country. Some of these can be alleviated by not forgetting the expatriate’s family when it comes to pre-assignment training.
  8. In-country coaching: pre-assignment training should also outline the in-country coaching an expat can expect. Receiving structured support from other expats, management and colleagues once they move, can significantly improve the overall success of their time working abroad.



To see true success, expatriate supports should be available at every stage of the assignment process:

  1. Pre-expatriation training: supporting the candidate and their family prior to the beginning of the international assignment. This period is crucial to setting an expatriate up for success. Preparation usually includes training in hard and soft skills as well as cultural awareness to prepare candidates for life in another country.
  2. During expatriation: the best organisations continue to support those on assignment. This can be through a mentorship programme with previous expats or to fill knowledge or skills gaps.
  3. During repatriation: often overlooked, moving back home can be a very challenging time for former expats. Offering support to reintegrate into the business and navigating the change that may have occurred since they left can reduce the chances of repatriate churn. 

The best pre-departure training is tailored to the specific needs of your organisation however there are some broad topics that are useful to include:

  • Cultural awareness training
  • Language training
  • Project alignment training

Discover more about what to include in your business’s pre-assignment training

However it is important that the support does not end once an employee leaves for assignment. Once they are overseas HR can support expats to ensure they have the best possible experience professionally and personally. 

Successful expatriate redeployment requires pre-departure expatriate training alongside 4 other success factors, see our blog on expat success factors to discover what they are.  You might also be interested in our insightful blog on reasons why expatriates fail.
Don’t forget your expatriate’s physical and mental wellbeing while abroad with international health insurance that meets their specific needs.