In the Spotlight: Repatriation Training

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Sharon Nakpairat, Manager, Intercultural Services, has over 20 years’ experience in the intercultural industry, with over 10 years concentrated on working with expatriates going on assignments and returning home. She shares her valuable insight into the benefits of repatriation and reintegration training at the end of an assignment In the Spotlight.

Many organizations may be more familiar with the benefits of Intercultural Training when moving to a new country with unique traditions, culture, and business etiquette, but how is repatriation and reintegration training beneficial when expatriates are returning home?

Sharon: You’re right, many companies seem to lean toward providing intercultural training at the beginning of an assignment, and often leaders don’t see the inherent benefits of repatriation training at the end of an assignment; however, this is changing. Repatriation is evolving from an afterthought to a higher priority for companies that understand the benefits of developing their key talent. In addition to helping organizations see a greater return on their investment, many companies use repatriation training to provide closure or context for the international assignment.

The training can contribute to an employee quickly and effectively transitioning or returning to their home-country. It can also help employees and family members recognize and deal with challenges that may arise during the transition period. Most importantly, repatriation training incorporates strategies to help employees manage their careers, which research has shown is the the top issue concerning employees returning from an assignment. Using repatriation training to help plan how to best capitalize on the skills developed during the assignment is one of the most important pieces in the international talent management cycle. This focus is essential for employers who want to more closely align mobility with their talent management and succession planning processes.

What are some of the most challenging, and unexpected, difficulties repatriating employees can experience when returning to their home location?

Sharon: From the perspective of employees and their families, many are surprised to learn that “coming home” after an assignment overseas can be extremely difficult. Repatriation training can teach assignees about some of the normal emotional, logistical and personal challenges that come with returning home. We see so many individuals initially rejecting the notion that they need training. It’s common for employees to perceive repatriation training as therapy in disguise, but these ideas go away quickly. Once employees become involved in the training process they can see its value.

Repatriation training will help employees assess the skills needed to come home successfully and avoid unexpected reverse culture shock. It will also help them develop repatriation management strategies, design reintegration tactics, and set progress goals for the month after their return.

We consistently see employees only focusing on preparing for the logistical aspects of coming home, which involve a lot of moving parts. Repatriation training encourages employees and family members to think beyond those short-term concerns and reflect on what they have gained during their international assignment and how they can apply their experiences going forward.

How can repatriation training prepare employees for these unexpected challenges?

Sharon: Repatriation training focuses on creating an individualized action plan that can leverage the knowledge, awareness, and skills gained while on assignment, and translate it to the organization in the home country. Assignees begin to process and understand how their international assignment will be applied moving ahead. This is an important step especially for individuals who often complain that “no one at home understands the value and importance of their overseas experience.”

Taking the time to put their assignment in context allows participants to begin the process of discovering how they have changed, what they have learned and what pieces of the assignment they want to include in their lives when they return. Our programs focus on ways employees and their family members can apply their new competencies in both their personal and professional lives.

In your experience, what are a couple of key aspects of repatriation training which will achieve successful repatriation support?

Sharon: Timing is more important than employers often acknowledge.  Traditionally, repatriation training has been offered to assignees after they return home. However, we recommend, and have seen better results when the training is delivered before employees and family members return to their home country.

Being proactive is very important. Within the training and coaching field we have found that helping individuals deal with periods of dramatic change, such as repatriation, is more valuable when taking a proactive approach. We find that employees and family members who get a head start on their future will avoid many of the pitfalls of repatriating after an international assignment, such as common feelings of frustration or anger, and falsely set expectations.

To learn more about BGRS’s Intercultural Services and all the programs they offer to support the international assignment life-cycle, click here.

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