How to prepare an employee for a successful international assignment

With the globalization of business, opportunities, as well as challenges, the demand for expatriates for international locations, becomes a major requirement. The human resource officers need to find out the signals of potential international assignment failure, its significance on business as well as the long-term goals of an organization. Foreign assignments end up failing (identified as a premature return by the employee without completing the assignment ) due to many reasons which actually impact the settlement of the expatriates, for instance, selection method and criteria, earlier international experience, cross-cultural training, job factors, organizational socialization and many non-work parameters. (Black, et al., 1991).

The process of expatriate selection along with the training programs is a costly, time consuming as well as complex, particularly when the firm has to undertake taxes for its parent-company employee in both the locations (Deresky, 2011).  In the absence of an appropriate training program, along with an actual job preview, the employee may have a very hard time in adjusting to his/her new environment (Andreason, 2008). Thus it is necessary to train an employee well for the successful completion of a foreign assignment.


Causes for growing number of international assignment

Expatriation refers to a foreign job assignment for a specific period (Wang, 2008). Many companies who have succeeded in the national market have taken their business globally. This globalization of business is increasing the need for skilled expatriates for managing the business of the global firms (Olsen & Martins, 2009). According to a study, 80% of the medium and large-scale organizations have their employees in foreign countries, as well as 65% organizations are expecting it to rise. A study by Mercer (2008-2009) even reflected that the international assignments are rising. This hiked demand for international expatriate assignments has been due to the MNCs who have a desire to compete globally (Lockley, 2009).

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Factors affecting expatriate performance and reasons for the failure of expatriates

There is proof of resistance to foreign assignments in the traditional sources due to career, family as well as stress problems (Brown, 2008). From 1970 to the 1990's, the rate of expatriates failure ranged anywhere between 33% to 70%. The expatriates who finished their period of assignment of one or more years varied from 30% to 75% (Minter, 2008; Zeira & Banai, 1985). Most of the factors responsible for the failures were lack of selection standards, substance abuse and lack of appropriate training to the employees (Minter, 2008).

The families of the expatriates have been found as the most vital reason leading to expatriate failure or success For instance, the lack of a spouse/partner's contentment has been identified to be the most important reason for the failure of the foreign assignment, mainly in the dual-career families (Brown, 2008). . An expatriate's work involves managing new experiences, managing change and managing the challenges which result in stress. The common sources of stress, in this case, include unmet expectations, relationship strains and local pressures (Brown, 2008).

An employee who might have to handle a totally different way of life, as well as an unfamiliar business scenerio different from what he/she is used to in his /her parent country, can become significantly stressed out. Handling this stress may affect how well the expatriate adjusts and how well he feels about living along with working abroad. Research studies have reflected that those expatriates who are not able to adjust to the work and the life at the host country locations may perform poorly (Selmer & Leung, 2007).

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Andreason (2008) explored how the children and spouse of an expatriate are affected due to the international work assignment. Moreover, Andreason also highlights that the family of the employee may play a crucial factor in the success or the failure of an international expatriate. Thus, the managers of the MNCs must not only focus on training the expatriates, but also their family members in social behaviors, native languages, and cultural norms in order to prevent a culture shock and also to promote a smooth transition into the new country.


Techniques to ensure success of the international assignment

Overcoming the causes for the foreign assignment failure needs a dedication by the HR committee to choose as well as prepare the employees by using some of the methods for settlement in the foreign country. Some of the ways of reducing international assignment failure by providing assignment help are as follows


  1. Strategic Candidate Selection Procedure

The candidate selection process may be the most important challenge for the HR departments, as it is difficult to judge how anyone will behave and work once placed on a foreign assignment.  The candidates having language expertise, management skills, as well as previous assignments may have a better possibility of succeeding, and the evaluation remains a greater priority due to the cost of an incomplete assignment being very high. Many companies consider the prior project planning as a key to elevate the success of the assignment and also to avoid many of the causes for international project failures.

  1. Training

The cultural diversity between the expatriates home country with the place of assignment may pose as a major obstacle to a successful assignment.  By imparting training to the novice expatriate before the departure, a firm may ease the change and provide the employee with insights into areas like approach toward time management as well as project accomplishment, business mannerism, logistics, and language.

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  1. Assistance to the Expatriate and the Family

One of the most common problems of the expatriates is an absence of support for his family.  Thus, this aspect should be given a priority so that the expatriate assignments don't fail due to family problems and their inability to settle in the host country environment.


  1. Plan for Repatriation

If an executive who sent for a foreign assignment, is explained in detail about his repatriation set up , he may feel much more secure in his new position and knows that upon the completion of his assignment, he can expect an easy transition back to his home.



Thus it can be seen from the above points that how if each of the issues which hamper the success of an international assignment is handled then the chances of failure reduces greatly. It benefits both, the employees as well as the organization, if an employee is prepared well for an international assignment in advance. Proper assignment help provides proper guidance to employees and ensures successful work completion.


Author Bio:-  Aditya Singhal is the co-founder of Transtutors, a leading Online Education platform for college students. Having graduated from prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Delhi, Aditya has a personal interest in helping students.

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