Regardless of the reason, two major challenges face expatriate assignments: costs and family considerations. To overcome these issues, HR needs to design flexible expatriate assignments that match company needs, as well as those of the employee and their family.
Short Term Expatriate Assignment
Many companies are turning to short term expatriate assignments as an answer to cost and family issues. Employees work overseas for a fixed term, usually for a period of three months to one year, on an unaccompanied basis. Home leave allowances are an integral part of the assignment to enable regular trips back to the home country, or family visits to the host country. The benefit for the employee is that there is no need to uproot the entire family and relocate them overseas. The company makes considerable savings from the absence of costs associated with relocation like school fees, shipping of goods, vehicle transportation and furniture storage.
Long term Expatriate Assignments
This increasing trend in international working brings its own set of challenges with it. In essence, an employee makes regular (extended) business visits overseas and works remotely from the home country. This may mean virtual meetings and phone calls across time zones, so work life balance issues need to be managed carefully if such an assignment is to be successful. Frequent flyer arrangements require flexibility on the part of the company, the employee, and the employee's family, but certainly cause much less upheaval than a traditional expatriate posting.
No matter the duration of the posting, it is important to remember that family issues need to be at the heart of expatriate assignment design; family concerns is the number one reason for failed expatriate postings. Integrating support for both the employee and the spouse throughout the assignment duration, regardless of the spouse's location, is undoubtedly an essential element of the design of an expatriate assignment.
Amanda van Mulligen
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