Training and Maintaining Expatriate Employees

Careful screening is just the first step in ensuring the foreign assignee’s success. The employee may then require special training, and the firm will also need special international human resource, management policies for compensating the firm’s overseas employees and for maintaining healthy labor relations.

Orienting and Training Employees on International assignment:

When it comes to providing the orientation and training required for success overseas, the practices of most US firms reflect more form than substance. Despite many companies’ claims, there seems to be relatively little or no systematic selection and training or assignments overseas. Company executives tend to agree that international business requires that employees be firmly grounded in the economics and practices of foreign countries. However, too few companies actually provide such training.

Required training

What sort of special training do overseas candidates need? One firm specializing in such programs prescribes a four step approach.

1) Level 1 training focuses on the impact of cultural differences and on raising trainees’ awareness of such differences and their impact on business outcomes.
2) Level 2 aims at getting participants understand how attitudes (negative and positive) are formed and how they influence behavior (For example, unfavorable stereotypes may subconsciously influence how a new manager responds to and treats his or her new foreign subordinates)
3) Level 3 training provides factual knowledge about the target country and
4) Level 4 provides skill building in areas like language and adjustment and adaptation skills.

Beyond these special training needs, managers abroad continue to need traditional skills oriented training and development. At many firms, including IBM, such development includes rotating assignments that permits overseas managers to grow professionally. IBM the firms also have management development centers around the world where executives can home their skills. And classroom programs (such as those at the London Business School or at INSTEAD in France) provide overseas executives the sorts of educational opportunities (to acquire MBAs, for instance) that similar stateside programs do for their US based.

In addition to honing these managers’ skills, international management development activities hopefully have other less tangible effects on the managers and their firms. For example, rotating assignment can help managers form bonds with colleagues around the world, and these can help the managers make cross border decisions more expeditiously Activities such as periodic seminars (in which the firm brings together managers from its global subsidiaries and steeps them for a week or two in the firm’s vales strategy and policies) are also useful. They can help provide consistency of purposes and thereby improve control, by building a unifying set of values, standards and corporate culture.

Trends in Expatriate Training

There are several trends in expatriate training and development. First, rather than providing only pre-departure cross cultural training, more firms are providing continuing in country cross cultural training during the early stages of an overseas assignment. Second, employers are using returning managers as resources to cultivate the global mind sets of their home office staff. For example, automotive equipment producer Bosch holds regular seminars. Here newly arrived returnees pass on their knowledge and experience to relocating mangers and their families.

With the more British citizens moving to India for jobs and business, the London based UK India Business Council (UKIBC) started cross cultural training program for prospective employees moving to India. Apart from understanding India, the participants were also given insights on how to deal with Indians while in India.

Some of the learning points included the following:

1) Greet with a smile, handshake and small talk.
2) Saying Namaste with a slight bow and palms together will be appreciated
3) Do not kiss women. Shake hands only if they offer it.
4) Always address colleagues with a title followed by the surname. Using a first name is seen as being very familiar
5) Don’t open gifts until giver has left the room.
6) Indians are not always punctual. So be patient and flexible
7) Indians may call on weekends for discussing business. Don’t be offended.