Practices for a Successful Repatriation Program
As companies look to ensure the retention of key talent and recoup their investment in international assignments, focusing on repatriation is a critical element for success.
Designing a repatriation program that aligns to wider business and talent management objectives can improve a company’s overall return on mobility investment. Despite repatriation’s place at the end of the assignment lifecycle, a significant portion of ensuring its success focuses on work before and during the assignment, not just at the end.
Begin with the End in Mind
Design a Repatriation Policy
A repatriation policy should detail the types of support provided and align with the benefits offered in the existing international assignment policies. Additionally, it is important to ensure it outlines high level processes and roles and responsibilities for all stakeholders involved. Well-documented guidelines embedded in the existing assignment policies allows global mobility leaders to engage with potential assignees about the level of support they can expect to receive as their assignment draws to a close.
Set Assignments Up for Success
A successful repatriation starts with a successful assignment. Careful selection of potential candidates, along with an assessment of the assignee and any accompanying family members’ adaptability will ensure the best chance for success. In order for a company and its employees to gain the most value, integrating assignments and repatriation planning into employees’ overall career planning is also key. To track progress and clearly measure success along the way, it is advisable to set clear assignment objectives.
Establishing a home country and a host country mentor for each employee is also a good practice. With host country mentors, employees will have a formal partner to help them adapt to the new location and navigate local cultural and organizational nuances. Home country mentors can help employees maintain a connection to the home country. This will keep assignees abreast of important organizational changes, pave the way for post assignment networking and help smooth reintegration.
Policy benefits should also be adequate to ensure a smooth move to the new location. Including important benefits such as intercultural training, language training, education assistance and spouse/partner transition assistance will help assignees and their families do well in the new location.
Don’t Wait Till the End
Setting up opportunities for assignees to network during home country visits is another integral part of preparing for successful repatriations. Preserving relationships with colleagues, former managers and senior leadership allows assignees to stay visible and top of mind for hiring managers and job opportunities as their assignments come to an end.
Companies can also consider providing formal job identification assistance at the end of assignments. While often companies rely on providing informal networking assistance, BGRS’s 2016 Global Mobility Trends Survey found that 26% provide more formal assistance by mandating each department be responsible for locating new positions for the employees they send on assignment. The survey also found a correlation between providing this formal assistance and lower attrition outcomes.
Proactively tracking assignment end dates and starting repatriation discussions early is another key best practice. Starting repatriation discussions more than six months out offers an important advantage for companies and their employees. As assignments enter into their final year employees may start to be anxious about finding a new position post-assignment and will start looking early. Beginning career planning and general repatriation discussions early may help prevent employees from searching outside the company for employment prospects.
At the Time of Repatriation
Adequate support during repatriation is an important step in the overall assignment lifecycle. Companies should consider offering repatriation support beyond miscellaneous allowances and moving household goods back to the home country. Offering services such as outplacement assistance to help spouse/partners locate work and educational consultancy for families changing school systems will help families make the transition home smoother. Furthermore, home finding support and temporary accommodations will assure the logistical aspects of the move home are easier.
Reintegration training is also an element of effective repatriation programs. This training can mitigate the challenges of repatriation by proactively planning a successful reintegration both personally and professionally, as the assignee and their family transition home. They will learn how to leverage their newly acquired skills, international experience, networks and insights.
Create Integration Opportunities
Companies should also consider creating specific opportunities for assignees to integrate the skills and experiences garnered on assignment with their colleagues. Some examples of programs that will achieve these goals include:
- Leading informational sessions for colleagues
- Joining global cross functional initiatives that will leverage their global leadership experience
- Speaking to high potential employees about the advantages of gaining global leadership skills and leveraging developmental assignments
- Engaging returning assignees to participate in a formal mentor program for future assignees
Returning assignees are an important source of feedback for the global mobility function. Once back from assignment, they can provide perspective on global mobility policies, benefits and support. They can also provide information on supplier performance, as well as input on the processes throughout the assignment lifecycle. Formally incorporating both quantitative and qualitative feedback allows global mobility leaders to track trends and identify issues for continuous program improvement. It can also offer important insight into the perceived value of international assignments from an employee’s point of view.
Having a strong repatriation program helps protect a company’s mobility investment; however, building a strong program requires a strategy that begins not at the end of assignment, but at the beginning. Taking the time to assess and implement a repatriation program that encompasses planning even before employees go on assignment will create a better experience for the employees and add value to the business overall. The company not only retains their mobility investment but also benefits from growing the global talent pipeline, and the mobility program continues to benefit and grow from the feedback. In short, an effectively designed repatriation program ultimately supports the company’s wider talent and mobility objectives.