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The Art of Coming Home by Craig Storti

This article was inspired by Craig Storti's The Art of Coming Home . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.

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How to Help Expatriate Employees Readjust to the Workplace

“Surely the greater risk to the organization is not the expat who doesn’t work out overseas – and is normally reabsorbed into the company back home – but the successful expat who comes home only to become the frustrated returnee who then leaves the company altogether.”

While everyone realizes that expatriates will face a culture shock when they enter a new country, we often fail to take into account the shock involved in returning to one’s native land. Companies need to offer resources to help expats readjust upon reentry.

Approximately 64% of returning American expatriates associated reentry with serious culture shock. Change is especially hard on teenagers, as only 7% of teenage expats reported feeling comfortable with people of the same age in the U.S. Family members, fellow workers and friends will all be affected by the return of expatriates. With globalization, there are more returnees than ever before.

While companies will spend on average about $250,000 a year on overseas employees, they aren’t willing to continue to invest in expats once they return home. Approximately 25% of these employees will leave their company upon returning home. About 74% of returnees report that they don’t expect to keep working for the same company within a year. Currently, only 28% of companies offer their returnees repatriation programs.

Expatriates often have more autonomous and responsible jobs overseas, just to come home and find themselves powerless again. Some may return home to see that their company doesn’t offer jobs anymore that fit their original profile. Having to redefine what is “home” can be tough on returnees. They often have to catch up on what they missed while they were away and feel like strangers with old friends and colleagues.

By offering each other emotional support, fellow expats are the perfect people to help returnees readjust. A difficult reentry is normal and may take several months before an expat is fully adjusted. Presenting expats with a welcoming workplace is essential. An expatriate’s colleagues may feel threatened by the experiences they have had overseas, and adjusting to new employees is also difficult for a returnee.

Within two years, 40% of returning expatriates leave their parent companies. By helping expats with career planning and placing them in jobs with the same degree of autonomy and responsibility as their overseas job, you can help keep unhappy returnees. Reserve senior management positions for former expatriates. Keep expats in the loop by assigning them mentors to mediate communications when they travel overseas. Approximately 69% of companies don’t offer mentors.

By helping expatriates and their families readjust to life in their native country, you and your company will better retain valuable employees and make the most out of your investment in them. Always value the experiences of expats and effectively reincorporate them into your business at home. In the long run, your repatriation program will benefit both the employee and the corporation.


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