Prior to the Covid 19 pandemic employees traveling overseas faced a number of challenges that HR teams and management in their home country had to mitigate to avoid the significant cost of expat failure.
Preparation for overseas travel
Ideally employees should have some pre-departure training to make them aware of the culture and society they are moving to and your expectations around their assignment goals. This kind of training is often provided by enterprise businesses. Smaller businesses can find it more difficult to resource or formalise it, increasing the chances of culture shock.
Often used flippantly, culture shock is a recognised psychological difficulty suffered by people who find themselves in an unfamiliar place without an understanding of the culture or societal norms. Psychologists have identified several stages of culture shock starting with the honeymoon period and ending with acceptance of a new situation. However, if the symptoms were too severe, the concern for employers is the assignment may fail.
Support while on assignment
Even the most prepared employee is likely to have unforeseen difficulties during their time abroad. Whether personal or professional they are likely to require some kind of support during their time overseas. Many employers provide this in the form of confidential access to an expat assistance programme or practical support from human resources departments at home.
Research conducted by HSBC prior to the pandemic indicated that a third of expat employees worried about access to and quality of healthcare while they are on assignment. This figure is likely to have increased since then. As an employer you may have provided your expat employees with access to healthcare through a group international health insurance plan. But are there other options as we face into the challenges of expat assignments in a post Covid world?