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5 Cornerstones of a Solid Expat Strategy

A sound expat strategy enables companies to expand their pool of talent and thereby increase global task-to-talent-match flexibility, develop cross-culturally savvy future managers, and increase the understanding and commitment within headquarters-subsidiary relations. This according to Dr. Joerg Bueechl, a professor of human resource management and an expert in the field of internationalization and expat strategies.

In a recent Ask the Expert interview, Dr. Bueechl explained the risks and opportunities relating to expat employees.

He shared what he considers to be the cornerstones of a solid expat strategy:

  1. Firstly, the expat strategy depends largely on how the company wants to position itself internationally. So, looking at whether the company strives to globalize or centralize is important: Does it implement similar processes, policies, and a unified culture around the globe or does it aim to localize, where it sets up locally appropriate processes, rules, and sub-cultures.

  2. Next, a company should send the right people for the right reasons. The right reasons cover the spectrum from addressing short-term business needs, such as knowledge-transfer, to medium-term strategic goals, such as developing talent, to long-term strategic goals, such as transferring and consolidating the corporate culture worldwide. The right people could include senior managers for high-level positions, young employees who try themselves at a first interim leadership position abroad before advancing their career at the headquarters, but also blue-collar workers who transfer technical knowledge. In any case, nothing is as important as sending assignees who are willing to go abroad and who are culturally literate.

  3. Another cornerstone is a sound cost-benefit evaluation. The costs of expatriation are extremely high, so too are the risks of expatriation failure. Therefore, each and every assignment does not only have to make sense, but should be financially plausible.

  4. Timely information and preparation are also essential. In big corporations, particularly, it happens quite frequently that the future assignee is being approached with the question of whether he or she could imagine going abroad for a couple of years with the result that relocation takes place only one or two months later. Relocation, training, and integration are pivotal for both the assignee and their family. This does not only include finding a new apartment, school, etc., but also getting in touch with a new circle of friends. For children, the integration efforts are usually the lowest, however the relocating spouse is often the person struggling most. Here, dual career programs and local clubs can help a lot with the integration journey.

  5. Many companies also offer the assignee two mentors, one in the host country and one in the home country, so that the assignee stays in touch with the current affairs in the headquarters and can start planning his or her repatriation process, including finding a new position, early enough.

Read Dr. Joerg Bueechl's complete Ask the Expert interview for further insights.

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