Term Paper: Expatriate Repatriation Employees

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[. . .] These concepts demonstrate the problems associated with career transitions as well as repatriation outcomes for employees that must make the difficult transition back to work in their homeland.

European study by Brian F. Hurn provides another perspective regarding the repatriation process. His study demonstrates that in light of the continued importance of expatriate assignments in overseas organizations, the need for effective repatriate programs is greater than ever. In past years, human resource departments have not quite been able to successfully implement repatriation programs because of their time commitment and cost. According to Hurn (224), "The pressure for employment of locally-engaged staff, cutbacks in certain markets, and the requirement to ensure high quality staff stay with the organization on return, have now boosted the need for repatriation briefings for returning staff as much as pre-departure briefings for those going overseas on an assignment." It is also becoming critical that staff members that are selected for overseas assignments are trained in the culture and ideals of the host country, as well as the economy, health, and education. It has always been assumed that the person foreign to the host country will experience a form of culture shock upon arrival. Now it is being recognized that the person experiences similar feelings upon return to the homeland. This concept is known as reverse culture shock.

It is quite shocking to both the organization and the individual that their lives do not return to normal upon return to the home country. They often assume that their lives will be the same as when they left, as if they took an extended vacation in a foreign land. However, it is becoming increasingly common that persons experience feelings of distress upon their return: "Returnees expect to be able to move back into the community, renew friendships, re-establish both business and social contacts and fit easily into their former lifestyle. Reality may, in fact, be very different as they come back to a totally new environment which is neither the world they knew, nor the world they were expecting. Home does not really feel like home at all" (Hurn 225). In addition, many repatriates discover that most of their friends and family members are often uninterested in their experiences overseas, which may result in frustration and neglect. In the workplace, many repatriates may experience resentment from colleagues who may perceive their time away as an extended vacation in a foreign land without any responsibility to the home organization. Japanese repatriates experience similar feelings of resentment from colleagues upon their return to Japan. Such employees are labeled as kokusaijin, which designates that they are now considered international and that their loyalties to the homeland are somehow contaminated by their experiences in a foreign country (Hurn 225).

Upon return to the home organization, many employees feel that their role within the home organization is limited by their service overseas. They often feel left out of the loop and are faced with the idea that no real job exists for them. Furthermore, the job that they may be forced to accept can lack prestige and true responsibility. In their time overseas, the employee is often considered a significant presence in a foreign land with a variety of responsibilities and other duties. However, upon return, many employees experience a lack of interest from their colleagues in regards to overseas experiences, which results in frustration and feelings of low self-confidence since they perceive their time spend away as insignificant (Hurn 225). These feelings of poor self-esteem and low self-worth often result in the following patterns of behavior (Hurn 225):

Alienation - Feelings about the home culture are grounded in negativity. Employees often feel as if the home environment is not as pleasant as once remembered.

Reversion - Many employees experience denial when they return to their home environments since they do not believe that circumstances have changed, but in reality, the home culture has changed and so has the employee, who may possess fluency in a foreign language as well as exposure to other diverse cultures.

A primary problem that is encountered upon repatriation is that employees have experienced a significant amount of personal growth as a result of their time spent in another culture: "They have often operated with more responsibility, less impeded by the headquarters office, been freer in making decisions, and as a result of greater autonomy, have developed their confidence. In some cases they may have enjoyed a completely different lifestyle, possibly with a larger house, servants, even a chauffeur and an official car" (Hurn 225). This type of personal change can cause conflict with native environments and can impede future growth and self-confidence.

Employees that return to their homeland are often led to believe that upon return, life will return to normal. However this is not the case for many repatriates. Many experience the following perceptions regarding the process (Hurn 226):

do not need professional help with repatriation. I'm going home, therefore no problems!

Returning home will present no additional problems for friends and family members

All things will remain the same as before the move to another country

At home, things are more secure and more organized

People who live in the homeland are more efficient and courteous to each other

Finances will be much improved upon return to the homeland, where stability is a way of life

Friends will express a strong interest in learning about experiences abroad

The employer will certainly provide the employee with a promotion upon return as a reward for the job well done during the overseas assignment, including a substantial pay increase

Success will come as easily on the homefront as it was achieved abroad

Close friendships will continue where they left off before leaving for a foreign land

The organization providing employment will value the new skills, experiences, and contact and will seek out this information

In many instances, such expectations fail to materialize in true employment settings, as "Returnees often forget the limitations and imperfections of the environment and the people they have left behind in the home country (Hurn 226).

Employees are not the only persons that experience many hardships upon return to the native country. Children also encounter many problems in their transitions as well. It is often difficult for children to acclimate to the new culture, including many fads and trends that may not have been present overseas (Hurn 226). Furthermore, other differences may dominate, including different experiences that may hinder children from making new friends and adjusting to old ones. As a result, children are often stressed to the point that their only means of expression is through disruptive or withdrawn behavior at school (Hurn 226). These behaviors must be evaluated and action steps must be taken to ease the transition to the homeland as smoothly as possible.

An organization that sends a qualified employee on assignment in a foreign land should be perceptive to the fact that employees are very likely to experience transitional difficulties upon their return. Companies would be wise to take measures to retain these employees in order to sustain intellectual knowledge and competitive advantage. According to Hurn (226), "Companies, unless they are forced drastically to reduce staff, will be anxious to retain valued employees, and therefore HR departments, together with senior management, need to establish a credible policy on repatriation. It is most important that employees before leaving their own country to go overseas are aware of their long-term employment prospects, of what is likely to await them on return." One option for companies is to provide employees with a guarantee for secure employment upon return, but that the position may not coincide with the date of return (Hurn 226). Another option for companies to familiarize employees with the process is to conduct repatriation courses onsite. The course is typically designed by human resource officials, who base the content largely on individual experiences. In the United Kingdom, an example of a successful repatriation program is the course offered by The Centre for International Briefing, where the following classes are taught (Hurn 226):

Reverse culture shock - The psychological, emotional, and physical symptoms of treatment by others as a foreigner in a native country. This includes an introduction to the culture of the homeland.

Update on the UK - This course provides an overview of political, social, and economic changes in the home country, as well as the cost of living, personal security, law and order, and community affairs.

Business environment - This course discusses the changes that have been implemented in the organization in terms of policies and procedures and legislation.

Review of financial planning - This course provides information on taxation, financial planning, and investment opportunities for employees.

Schoolchildrens' education - This includes discussions on national curriculum, examinations, standards, schools, and entrance to universities.

Spouse issues - This provides assistance to spouses in terms of job searches, resumes,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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