Expatriate retention is an on-going challenge. It has been reported that 20% of returning expatriates leave their U.S. organizations within one year of returning and 74% did not expect to work for the same organization in three years. This rate of employee turnover results in a loss of knowledge, insight and creativity. This loss is critical for organizations hoping to develop global competence and has an even greater impact when the employee leaves to join a competitor.
Too often, returning expatriates have cultural insight and wisdom to offer but they return to organizations that are unprepared to listen. Through our numerous interviews with returning expatriates, we believe the two most important questions to ask are:
-What did you learn while you were living and working abroad? And
-How can our organization use what you learned?
Asking these simple questions can provide important insight for the organization and will likely help to increase the retention of valued employees.
Here are additional recommendations we make for increasing employee retention:
• Preparing employees for “re-entry” prior to departure from overseas and then again approximately three-six months after return will help normalize their experience. Reversed “culture shock” is a common, although unexpected phenomenon. While living overseas the individual has grown and changed in ways they may not be aware of and things at home have also changed.
• Provide logistic support for the move “home”. Even though they are returning to a familiar culture, things have changed during the time they have been away. Offering support for the transition back demonstrates the organization’s commitment to the employee and fosters organizational loyalty.
• Develop a strategic plan for placement of returning expatriates. It is important for the expatriate to return to a position that provides challenge congruent with the learning they have experienced internationally. The organization has invested in this individual’s learning so to return them to a position that does not maximize on that learning increases the possibility that they will no longer feel challenged—or valued. Providing the expatriate with a new position where he or she can utilize “lessons learned” make the job more satisfying and will benefit the organization by enhancing cross-cultural knowledge.
Tricia and her team at Collaborative Connection are available to work with individuals and/or your organization. We can:
- Review your current program and make recommendations
- Provide “Train the Trainer” services for your Human Resources Department
- Work with specific employees (individually or in a group) on any aspect of their reentry-retention challenges