Last updated 16 August 2016

Retaining your Repatriated Talents


Some say there is no place like home but coming home may not be as easy as it sounds. Many companies devote significant budgets towards deploying their employees on global mobility programmes to widen their international exposure. However, companies still face a relatively high risk of their returning talents leaving the company shortly after their return home. This is largely because many global organisations seem to underestimate the struggles their international assignees and their families have with “repatriation blues” and the sheer importance of facilitating a smooth transition home.  



According to the 2016 Global Mobility Trends research conducted by Brookfield Global Relocation Services, 12 per cent of repatriates choose to leave their company a few years after they return from international assignments. The Global Relocation Trends Survey issued by GMAC Global Relocation Services and the National Foreign Trade Council estimates that 23 per cent of repatriating employees leave their company in the first year. While these figures are similar to the overall attrition rate for companies they remain a concern given the inordinate cost of international assignments. Clearly, companies would want a higher return on investments from their international assignees by leveraging on the skill-sets and experience that they have gained overseas but they will first need to be more attentive to the other end of the move – helping their talents adjust to home. 

Tip 1: Plan assignments thoroughly together with the international assignee and align them to the business’ and assignee’s objectives.

To maximise success, international assignment plans should be designed in such a way such that it clearly spells out what the business wants to achieve and what the international assignee can gain out of the international experience. By doing so, the business will have a better idea on the value that it can gain out of its investment on each international assignee and the expatriate can be reassured that the knowledge and skills that they have gained abroad will be relevant and valued to the company giving them ample career development opportunities.

This plan should, however, remain flexible given the dynamism of the economy and possible changes in direction that the international assignee would like to pursue in their career. Leaders could engage with the repatriate to listen to their experiences on what they can offer with the new skill-sets, exposure and knowledge gained. It is essential to ensure that the repatriate is given sufficient time to settle into a comfortable and meaningful position in the company upon their return.

Tip 2: Pair each international assignee to a successful repatriate

Set aside a budget to implement a short-term mentorship programme to match returning international assignees with repatriates who were assigned to the same host country as the assignee. Before the assignee returns for their host country, the mentor can provide advice on the administrative procedures that the international assignee will have to go through or even give tips on surviving in a foreign country. The mentor can also counsel the international assignee on the career development opportunities available following their own repatriation to give the new international assignee an idea of what to expect at the end of their assignment. Because many repatriated talents find it hard to connect with friends again at home, the mentor can also serve as an informal source of networks back home for both the assignee and their families.

Tip 3: Recognise that international assignees and their family need support in readjusting to their home culture

Ensure that international assignees do not feel alienated from home from day one of their expatriation by providing them with regular updates of news from their home country, these could include a complimentary subscription to their favourite local news publication. When it is time for international assignees to return home, provide repatriation cultural training to not only the returning employee but also to their families to raise awareness and provide tools, such as daily living practicalities, for the adaptation process. Executive coaching and other professional services, such as culture-specific management training, language or driving lessons can help ease the reverse cultural shock, allowing international assignees to settle back home more easily and retaining their talent.


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