5 Cost-effective Tips on Expatriate Management


A big part of managing expatriate assignments is about designing a competitive compensation and benefits package. Companies think they have got it all covered looking into the cost of living, tax liability and insurance plans when in fact, it is not just about the figures.

There are many non-material concerns to be tackled as well. The sooner the HR and managers acknowledge them, the sooner they will see their successful placement rate and talent retention go up. And, here is the big reveal – this needs not take a chunk out of your budget.



1. Relocation management as an add-on

There are 101 things to arrange before a relocation – packing and shipping, home and school search, immigration paperwork and more. Companies should take the troubles off their assignees’ shoulders. Why burn them out before the real work starts? Accessing an outsourced consulting in relocation management can make the difference and it needs not to be costly. 

Many companies will offer full relocation management support at a preferential rate if you administer some other part of the program with them. Companies such as Ernst & Young and PWC are known to administer the entire expat relocation in-house. While providing their key tax services, they also sometime can offer relocation management in the bundle. We can expect more companies to offer this kind of arrangement in the tax, finance and insurance services. It might be worth asking your current providers.

2. It’s not just about the assignee

The issue of “trailing spouses” have well been documented but many companies choose to brush them off with the excuse that they will be able to find a job in the host country. That cannot be further from the truth. According to Permits Foundation’s International Survey Summary Report, only 35% of spouses and partners were employed during their other half’s expatriation, a sharp decline from 90% before the assignment. 

With rising dual-career couples today, companies can no longer afford to ignore the importance of spousal support if they want to fill their need for mobile talent. In the same report, nearly 25% of international staff had previously turned down an assignment or terminated an assignment early because of concerns about their partner’s employment or career. Similarly, a Cartus study in 2014 revealed that 76% of the respondents cited family or personal circumstances as the top reason for refusal.

What are some low-cost solutions you can consider? Build strategic partnerships with associations that already have the spousal support in place. NetExpat and New York Local Expatriate Spouse Association, for example, offer career counselling, networking opportunities and various job search tools.

3. Make the assignee part of the pack

Being sent on an assignment doesn’t make an assignee a lone wolf. To maintain productivity, team synergy and employee satisfaction, the assignee has to find a sense of belonging.

Getting acquainted with a new team and set of processes can be intimidating. That is where clearly-defined job scope, standard operating procedures and good communication between the offices come in. For a start, a direct superior and a mentor should be already assigned to the employee. The team in the host country should have set up an orientation, briefing of tasks as well as any necessary tools, such as a working terminal, upon his arrival.

Lastly, the assignee should be given clear instructions about his relationship with the headquarters in the home country. Questions that should be answered in your process include: 

  • Where is his payroll being handled?
  • How can he stay connected with his team in the home country?
  • Who is monitoring and evaluating his performance and assignment?

4. Small investments, big gains

It must be noted that depending on the destination, the “loss” for the expat varies. For instance, in hardship locations, you could be exposing the assignee to some health and safety issues; in countries where another language is spoken, you could be taking away their ease of communication.

These fundamentals are integral to the expat’s day-to-day life. More companies are realising that accessories such as language classes, international health insurance and culture orientation are just small, one-off investments to make for the success of a long-term assignment. 

5. Map out goals together every step of the way

Travel opportunities are often sought-after in the workplace, as many regard overseas assignments as a chance to prove themselves and advance their career. Sadly, Ernst & Young’s 2013 Global Mobility Effectiveness Survey found that there was no change to their position after their assignment for 41% of expatriates. Unsurprisingly, 16% of employees resigned within the first two years after an overseas assignment.

Is the expats’ performance falling below par or are companies simply not tracking? According to the same survey conducted in 2015, only 46% of over 200 respondents said that they are tracking whether the assignee has met or exceed their Key Performance Indicators during their assignment.

Other than the “reward” not living up to expectations, there are also other reasons to an expat’s exit. They include loss of expat perks, missing life abroad, and difficulty in transitioning back to their work or living environment. Read more about re-entry shocks here.

A review with the employee after the repatriation is necessary to identify their challenges and needs. The company can either step in to help resolve them or make an alternative arrangement that works for both parties. If the employee would like to be stationed overseas permanently, it may be a better solution than losing a capable talent entirely.

With increasing global mobility of talents, companies are constantly looking into cost-cutting measures and neglecting elements such as welfare, performance tracking and repatriation strategies. Given the time and money that goes into developing talents, wouldn’t it be a greater loss if they left with all the experience?

With the help of some expatriate management techniques, employers can make the whole program a breeze, and not necessarily at a high cost. Hear from leading HR and global mobility experts themselves in our interviews with them!


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