Reducing The Repatriate Career Lag

“Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jnr

As the demand for globally experienced leadership continues to grow, many organisations recognise the importance of providing international opportunities to their employees. Not only is it a way of attracting, developing and retaining the most talented people in the market place but it can offer significant competitive advantage in how and where organisations do business.

However expatriate assignments don’t come cheap with average postings costing three to four times more than an employee’s salary back home. Given the scale of the investment, there is a critical need for organisations to not only carefully consider the initial opportunity, but also how they will leverage and integrate the experience of their repatriates upon their return. Failing to do so is both a missed opportunity for both individuals and organisations alike.

With industry statistics suggesting that up to 24% of returning employees leave their organisation within the first 12 months and up to 30% within the first 2 years of arriving home, is it any wonder that this loss of potential future leadership is of concern to many business leaders. Coupled with the fact that many who do remain often struggle to re-engage and meaningfully apply – let alone leverage – their experience, the impact can be even more costly.

With most repatriates citing loss of meaningful career opportunity as the number one reason for their departure, it is apparent that there is a misalignment between individual expectations and the organisational reality. Whilst it would be unrealistic to expect organisations to guarantee a certain type of role for expats upon their return, the value of transparent career discussions throughout each stage of the assignment can go along way to help with the transition ‘home’.

Whilst it is clear that there is a very real need for a more robust talent management process for managing expatriate careers, the recent 2016 Brookfield Global Mobility Trends Survey found that only 10% of organisations surveyed reported an alignment of the Global Mobility function with the wider talent agenda and actively engaged in workforce planning and people effectiveness. Furthermore only 23% of organisations had a specific process for engaging in career planning after an assignment had been accepted; and most were only re-engaging with an employee three to six months prior to their return.

As CEO’s and business leaders work to build greater alignment between their mobility practice and talent agendas, there is a strong need for pragmatic, forward thinking conversations that allow for both repatriates and organisations to translate their global experience with local relevance.

What follows are my three tips for managing repatriate careers:

1. Establish Career Partnerships: As with any successful partnership, a clear understanding of common goals, responsibilities and ownership are clearly communicated and established early. It is only when individuals and organisations truly understand each other’s objectives and ambitions that meaningful and purposeful plans can be enacted.

2. Formalise Career Development Plans: Not only does a formal development plan demonstrate commitment and value in the employee it also helps drive career ownership, motivation and engagement. It also affords both parties with the opportunity to remain informed, relevant and proactive in identifying mutually beneficial opportunities.

3. Build A Repatriate Induction Program: With most organisations, business units and teams undergoing regular change, it is dangerous to assume that a repatriate can simply ‘slot back in’ to the way things operate. Not only are there often significant ‘people changes’ to be navigated but also potential operational, regulatory and industry changes to be considered. Repatriates are returning to a different business and bringing with them newly acquired knowledge, skills and networks, all of which need to be recognised.

Repatriation has long been considered the problematic component of the expatriate lifecycle. However when organisations and individuals engage in meaningful career and leadership discussions from the outset, both parties stand to reap the benefits of international experience and global thinking long after the assignment has finished.

If you are interested in knowing more about my Building Globally Resilient Careers program or the Inysnc Network Group please don’t hesitate to get in touch below, or enter your details here.

If you are navigating an international move, or are part of an organisation that provides international opportunities to employees, I would love to hear your thoughts.