Many expatriate employees encounter problems that limit their contribution to the company when they return home. How can we explain these problems and how may a firm reduce the occurrence of such problems? A largely overlooked but critically important issue in the training and development of expatriate is to prepare them for re-entry into their own home country organization. Repatriation is defining as the activity of bringing the expatriate back to the home country.
When return at home, expatriates face an organization that doesn’t know what they have done for the last few years, doesn’t know how to use their new knowledge, and doesn’t particularly care. This ‘re-entry shock’ often occurs as people are less prepared for their return home to present problems of adjustment. There are many job-related and social factors which may cause re-entry problems for the repatriate. The prime job-related factors identify is career anxiety due to no post-assignment guarantee of employment.
Many firms were not able to offer jobs upon repatriation. Moreover, loss of visibility and isolation is a variable that cause problems for repatriates. For instance, a lack of information or the lack of contact with the home organization may increase the level of anxiety. Changes in the home workplace like merger or acquisition are usually accompanied by job shedding and can affect also the reintegration of the expatriate. Career anxiety is one moderating factor, but others may also lead to work adjustment problems.
The problem is that an international assignment is a condition for career progression for employees, but often there is no position for the repatriate and the re-entry position may be a less challenging job with reduced responsibility and status. This position gives the impression that experiences and skills the employee has acquired during the international assignment are devalued. The third factor is to coping with new role demands.
Often, the home country no considers the time passed in the foreign location and the significant changes in expatriate behavior. Then, repatriate has a negative perception of the help and support provided by employers during and after repatriation. The last factor is the lost of status and pay. For instance, in the foreign operation the expatriate was the key decision maker and when he re-entry is treated as another company executive. There are also many social factors that caused re-entry problems.
The first factor is the family adjustment. For instance each family member is experiencing their own readjustment problem; the family has also to adapt its lifestyle with its new income. Re-establishing social networks can also be difficult. For example, children can find re-entry difficult particularly if their past friends are in different levels at school to themselves, moved on to another location or made new friends. The repatriation can also have an effect in partner’s career.
To reduce the occurrence of problems that encounter expatriates and to maximize the benefits of international assignments, many firms design a repatriation program. A repatriation program can start up to six months prior to the return of the expatriate and up to six months after the expatriate returns home. This program can cover a number of topics like re-entry position and career path assistance, reverse culture shock, establishing networking opportunities, help in forming new social contacts, financial and tax assistance, etc.
Some multinational enterprises assign the expatriate a mentor who is usually in a more senior position than the expatriate and knows the expatriate personally. The mentor has to maintaining contact with the expatriate throughout the assignment, maintaining ensuring expatriates are kept up to date with developments in the home country, ensuring expatriates are retained in existing management development programs and assisting expatriates with the repatriation process and position.
Others avenues are explored, such a proactive repatriation strategies that consists to invite repatriates to assist in developing repatriations programs like managing expectations, career planning or reorientation programs for example. Repatriates have then a sense that they are not an under-utilized resource and that the firm recognizes they can make a valuable contribution to the expatriation process.