Tag Archives: Relocation

Expatriate Orientation – Why, What, When?

Jennifer Stein – Global Tax Network

When individuals relocate, they are bombarded with many changes at once. You may hear the phrase: So much to do, so little time. They may be tempted to skip part or all of the relocation process. Here we’ll discuss three questions related to orientation meetings.

  • Why do we need to provide international assignees with orientation meetings?
  • What should be covered during the orientation meetings with an international assignee?
  • When should this information be provided to the international assignee?

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Tips For A Successful International Relocation

Matthew Shore – Move One Relocations

[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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How Big Must Your Relocation Provider Really Be?

edit-Alan Biz Mug Shot 1The Forum recently received a great question via our “Ask the Expert” feature:

“We are a “young” international and domestic relocation management company but our staff has many collective years of experience in the industry. We are having a hard time breaking into the corporate market.  It seems that HR Departments do not want to give us the opportunity to present our services.  How can a small company like ours work itself into the international employee relocation market within a corporation?”

We can truly empathize with this situation, which is one we’ve often seen.  This is especially true in today’s economic environment of slashed budgets and significantly reduced transfer and assignment volume.  Overworked and highly stressed company staff are unlikely to spend precious time, now, to hear about services they’re not currently using.

The reader suggested that the “big” global relocation service firms receive a better reception from prospective clients than do the smaller and newly established firms.  In our experience, this is basically true.  The reader also stated that many of the smaller firms have a stronger service orientation and can be much more responsive and flexible than the big well-established providers.  Indeed, we have seen cases of this too.  It’s possible to demonstrate that smaller firms made up of seasoned experts, but with lower operating overhead and more flexible processes, can be quite cost competitive while providing high quality services as well.

So why are the small firms having difficulty “breaking in”?  What is it that the big firms offer as “competitive advantage”, often successfully, that the small firms do not?

Big firms have a large footprint.

They can point to wholly owned offices and affiliate relationships in a wide array of countries.  This can be a huge issue for corporations that want to have local touch points for their employees and direct knowledge of local environments readily available.  The small firms often don’t have such a geographic footprint and might not be sure how to establish one.

Big firms have globally experienced staff.

Frequently, their staff come from a variety of countries, have lived and worked in multiple countries and speak a number of languages.  They also frequently have individuals with prior international assignment policy development and program management experience on their teams.  This engenders great credibility in the eyes of the corporate buyer.

Big firms leverage their extensive experience.

 They have managed programs covering multitudes of assignees across a variety of countries and industries.  The corporate buyer is far more impressed with stories about “been there, done that” than with honest admissions of “haven’t been there, haven’t done that — yet”.  Corporations tend to be risk adverse and shy away from “being the guinea pig on whose dime the new service provider learns the business”.

Big firms have technology.

They offer sophisticated state-of-the-art, web-enabled capabilities for projecting total assignment costs, managing reimbursements, communicating with clients and their transferees, interacting online with data providers, providing country-specific information, and tracking and reporting expenses.  Many smaller firms do not have such (expensive) technology and, occasionally, cannot demonstrate expertise in managing the complex requirements of expense management and tracking across multiple countries and pay-points.

Big firms have strong relationships with key service providers.

They know and work with a variety of firms providing assignment cost of living and housing data, international tax experts, destination country employment counsel, cultural and language training firms, etc.  These pre-existing working relationships mean single point of contact and seamless service provision that is extremely attractive to corporate clients.

Big firms invest in polished marketing campaigns.

They advertise, host and sponsor conferences, deliver keynote presentations, conduct webinars, host booths at SHRM and ERC conferences, develop highly polished web sites, publish surveys and articles, etc.  This does not, of course, make the big firms better at providing services but, at the end of the day, polished marketing does impress prospective clients and creates name recognition.

Big firms have the advantage of name recognition.

 Finally, there is the cliché that no procurement professional was ever fired for hiring a well-known “big name” even if there was a service breakdown later. Let’s face it, in many corporations there is a built in bias toward hiring only name firms and avoiding the perceived risk (accurate or not) of hiring unknowns.

So what can a small/new firm do?

Emphasize responsiveness, service orientation and flexibility.

Probably the two most critical attributes in which to excel and compete are outstanding service and price.  Responsiveness, flexibility and competence are critical in what, I think we would all agree, is a service industry, after all.

Build internal international expertise.

This should be done via hiring highly experienced, preferably well-known, and globally networked staff and through education such as the SHRM GPHR and ERC GMS programs.  Travel and learn from first-hand experience about assignee destinations around the world.  External consultants also can be quite helpful in this area.

Invest in technology.

The ability to project and track costs, communicate with management, transferees and other services providers, e.g. the client’s international tax firm, and manage data is critically necessary.

Develop and nurture relationships with complimentary service providers.

This must include in-country providers and data, immigration, tax, language training and cultural training firms, among others.

Create name recognition through a well-focused and professional marketing campaign.

Demonstrate how the firm should be perceived as a trusted advisor and capable service provider. Create a public presence in the industry.

Delight your current clients and enlist them as your champions

When courting new business, make use of recommendations and testimonials from satisfied clients.  Ask your clients for leads and to make “warm” introductions.  Word-of-mouth recommendations are priceless.

Direct business development efforts towards smaller firms.

They tend not to have the budget for, and less of a bias toward, the big firms. It’s also relatively well known that the big firms don’t give their best attention to small accounts. Go where there IS business AND less competition.

Implement a “Blue Ocean” strategy.

There are many capable providers of  global mobility services, large and small.  The market, especially in the current economic scene, may actually be over-supplied with providers.  Competition is fierce.  We would suggest that small firms specifically target prospects whose mobility needs – geographically and transfer types – best match the firm’s geographic footprint and operational strengths.  Approach those firms that are not being approached by the multitudes of providers.

Seek out the advice and counsel of those with depth of experience and expertise.

We believe that seeking guidance and mentoring from experts can be quite worthwhile.  Professionals with prior “in-house” corporate experience, as buyers of external global mobility services, across a variety of industries are especially valuable.

We again thank the reader who submitted the question.  Now we invite our readers to share their views.  Please let use know your thoughts via comments on this post.

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