5 Essential Tips for Managing Expatriate Employees Working Abroad
Sending employees abroad has many benefits, but can be highly challenging. Prepare your expats and manage their assimilation process to ensure optimum results with these five tips.
Prepare them for the cultural differences
Though we all have a lot in common, we also have a lot of little differences that can make communication difficult. When you are assigning an expat employee to a new position or location, take the time to help them get acquainted with the nuances of that culture.
It’s not just the larger “culture shock” aspects like food or political climate. It’s the little things in the everyday interactions that you need to prepare them for. They have to be able to leave a good impression on their foreign coworkers and interact with the locals effectively and smoothly. Cover things like common expressions, gestures, table manners, and ways of showing respect. For example: who enters a room first? Who is the last to sit down? Is it rude to wave at someone in the street? Consider preparing some fact sheets for them to study.
Help them to learn the language
If your expat worker will be moving to a country whose language they don’t speak, and where no one or near no one speaks their language, you will have a communication crisis to solve. Of course, in most places around the world people can find some common ground. English is widely spoken in international business settings, at least to some degree.
So, workplace communication can be made to work somehow, but you want better than that. You want your employee to be able to fit into their new community and integrate into the company culture there. For this purpose, learning the local language is essential.
Provide them with language courses prior to departure and give them ample time to study. Make sure to inquire into their particular learning style in order to maximize the results. Will a plain old textbook be enough? Are they auditory learners and will do better with audiobooks and practice recordings? Can you connect them with a native speaker to make sure they can comfortably carry on a conversation?
Making an effort to learn the language demonstrates respect for the new colleagues and their culture. It also shows that both you and your employee are willing to adapt and put in the work to make the most of your circumstances. All of this will benefit your expats worker in both social and professional settings in their country of destination.
Outsource your legalities
If you don’t already have an established and developed office in the country you want to work in, consider entrusting the legal side of it all to a third-party expert. You focus on networking with new partners and supporting on-site employees. For the legal and technical processes, use a professional EOR service.
A good EOR (Employer of Record) basically represents your business to local talent and stakeholders. They take the responsibility of handling:
- Local HR tasks
- Tax obligations
- HR reports
- Compliance with local laws and regulations
- Compliance with local best practices
- Work permits
- The international hiring process
Provide them with a local contact
Prepare for the situations when you will not be available to your expatriate employees. This is especially important if they will be working in a different time zone. Make sure that there is someone in the local area or, even better, in the local office, that they can rely on.
Connecting your employee with a local mentor or buddy has three distinct benefits:
- They will have a go-to person who can support them with advice and practical help in their work tasks
- They will have a starting point for developing a local support network in and out of work
- It’s an excellent opportunity to foster networking between your different offices
Help them with socializing
In line with the above point, help your employees form meaningful social connections abroad. If they are uprooted and just put to work in their new country without any social safety net, they will become overwhelmed. Their confidence will likely suffer, they won’t be able to network properly, they won’t establish proper workplace communication, and their productivity will plummet.
So, motivate your remote worker with some help in making friends. It’s up to you as the one sending them abroad to make sure that they won’t be surrounded by intimidating strangers all day and then come back to an unfamiliar, lonely home every night.
Before they set out, work together to research social opportunities in their new area. Look for hobby groups and accessible social activities. If you have any acquaintances in the area, introduce them to ensure they have a social starting point and some moral support.