[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to welcome Matthew Shore as a Guest Author. Matthew is Communications and Marketing Manager for Move One, a leading global relocation, moving and logistics firm serving Eastern Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa. He is an expat himself living in Budapest, Hungary, with his wife.]
It’s no secret that the stresses of international relocation on employees and their families can take their toll. The magnitude of its effects can be on par with divorce or a death in the family. Delivering the right support for employees and their families during the first critical months after their move may mean the difference between the success or failure of an assignment.
Focus on the Family
It is often the family of the assignee that experiences the most difficulty when relocating internationally. For example an accompanying spouse who has left his or her friends, family and other support networks to relocate can experience profound feelings of loss and displacement that can persist for long after arrival in the new location. Providing new expats with the means to become self-sufficient and thrive in their new environment is therefore vital for the success of an assignment.
Best Practices to Support Your Assignees
It’s normal and predictable for assignees and families to experience culture shock and other challenges when taking a new assignment. Targeted support for families on the ground at their new location helps to reduce their anxiety, speed up their sense of regaining control, and ensures a productive assignment. It is also good practice to offer support with the aim to keep morale high by offering services that address the full range of all family members’ needs, from orientation and cross-cultural training, to recreation, social integration, security and education, as well as employment options for the traveling spouse. This support falls under eight categories:
- Welcoming and orientation. Provide a point of contact for the newly arrived family. Offer information, contacts, destination resources, and welcome events. It is also beneficial to arrange repatriation workshops for departing families.
- Employment liaison. Finding purposeful work for spouses can be key to successful adjustment, and the provision of multiple employment resources should be made available. Maintaining contacts in the local economy, providing aid in exploring alternatives such as home-based business, and assistance in applying for functional training are all good practice, and help the non-working partner get the best out of life while overseas. In today’s economy, virtual assistants are an increasingly widespread option for professionals as well as administrative work in companies small and large.
- Education liaison. Most relocation companies provides information and contacts for local schools, but offering managed support programs for youths and childcare resources is also beneficial.
- Information and resource management. Making resources such as internet and intranet access is helpful in the interim period until home access is established, as well as literature and events in the local culture.
- Guidance and referral. Offering EAP services such as confidential counseling, as well as resources and referrals for such issues as divorce, spouse/child abuse, adoption, death, and mental health concerns. Be sure to use an EAP that is sensitive to cross-cultural issues, and is familiar with international assignments.
- Community liaison. Cultivate relationships with community and social organizations and local resources that can benefit expatriates.
- Events and cultural programming. Cultural events as well as informative programs and workshops on host-country culture help families to orient and adjust to the new culture.
- Crisis management and security liaison. Relaying security information to the community. This includes ensuring crisis preparedness, emergency evacuation information through alerts and seminars, as well as rebuilding the community after a crisis.
Tools such as our city guides, and our online magazine for expats in Budapest can go a long way to address some of these points, reassuring the new assignee and their family that life in the new destination isn’t going to be a total departure from their old life, and that they can and will ‘fit in’ with their new environment.
For me there is a personal angle, too. I moved to Budapest when my wife was offered an assignment here. I can assure you from my own experience, taking the time to ensure that expat families are made aware of the social options in their new city helps a great deal. For example, Move One recognizes that for non-working spouses of assignees – more-often-than-not female – finding a circle of friends quickly can make a world of difference. This is why we make a point of supporting local expat groups and schools with sponsorship and practical assistance as part of a commitment to the local expatriate communities where we operate. Of course, there is added value for us, in terms of brand awareness, to be visible in the local community, but we recognize the importance of supporting these organizations for the greater good of our clients.
There are many new online resources to help families with their moves as well. Are there any steps you have implemented for your assignees that have been particularly effective in helping them adjust? Please share them in the comments!
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