Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tip of the Day: Understand the Rules of Engagement Before Accepting a Job Abroad

Many expats wish they’d had more support from their employers when they were making the transition to their new home countries, Lloyds Bank has reported. 

A quarter of Britons working overseas did not receive any help meeting the costs of relocation and a quarter had no assistance in finding a house, Lloyds also said. 

Lloyd's polled 1,039 British expats in thirteen of the most popular destinations, including Australia, Canada, Spain, the US, France and the UAE. The results also uncovered a lack of support for parents who have to find schools for their children. 

"Nearly three quarters (69%) of international assignees didn’t receive schooling assistance or guidance from their employers, even though choosing an international school is an important decision for expat parents," said a spokeswoman. 

One of the most common reasons for an expat returning early from an assignment, according to the 2013 Brookfield Global Relocation Trends, is a family issue, which was cited by 23% of respondents. 

COMMENT: The Lloyds poll also found that 63% of expats received no assistance with language training from their employer, and 58% were not invited to any social or networking events arranged by their employer. 
According to a survey by Global Visas, published in May 2013, revealed that roughly 30% of expats end up returning to their native land "short-of-tour." 

The top five explanations given by those polled, who were allowed to choose multiple reasons for their return home "short-of-tour," revealed:

62% Financial problems;

47% Homesickness;

39% Visa expiration;

27% Lack of social interaction. 

Having spent a career in the US Foreign Service from which I retired, worked for one international organization (the International Development Bank) for roughly ten years and spent a number of short, foreign assignments for a variety of Fortune 500 organizations, I must honestly acknowledge that it is my impression that public sector organizations do a FAR BETTER JOB in terms of relocating, immersing, training and transitioning expats abroad than do private companies.

Part of the reason for this differentiation is because public sector organizations have been supporting expats abroad for a much longer period of time than have corporations, who in many cases have only been supporting their employees abroad for a much shorter period of time.

Pure and simple, the reason that many companies do not devote sufficient funds to the expat experience is largely because of short-term planning, motivated by short-sightedness to save corporate funds, rather than long-term investment designed to achieve international success.

Given the large number of expats who have traveled from their home base to serve as an "employed expat abroad," only for 30% to return home "short of tour," I urge the following tips:

1. Thoroughly research and vet international companies who offer employment opportunities abroad;

2.  Ferret out studies by international companies who conduct surveys on the satisfaction level of expats who are working abroad. Some of the largest and most respected international HR companies include Mercer Consulting, Towers Watson, Buck Consultants, Aon Hewitt and Hay Group;

3. Have an attorney specializing in international HR review your proposed contract with any company that might offer you a job abroad;

4. If you have accessed my daily blog entitled STAYING SAFE ABROAD before, you must realize that criminal threats and terrorist threats are a frequent occurrence worldwide. See: http://stayingsafeabroad.blogspot.com;

5. All expats should ask their HR department for a complete breakdown of their income (base pay, overtime, differential for hardship assignments) as well as allowances, airfreight, household effects, income tax benefits, VAT and sales tax, etc.) BEFORE formally accepting a position;

6. Request a separate agreement from your employer on security services that will be provided to you while you are abroad that includes:
  • Will you be provided hazard duty compensation?;
  • Will you receive a hardship differential?;
  • Will you be provided cost of living increases;
  • What are the types of security services you are afforded while traveling in vehicular convoys?;
  • Under which circumstances you will be afforded fully-armored or partially armored vehicles?;
  • What security services/hardware and modifications will be provided to you at your residence?
  • Is international medical treatment and evacuation coverage provided to you? Is there a cost for such coverage?
  • How   frequently are you provided “home leave” or trips back home?
  • What if you are injured while working? Who will pay for your job-related injuries?
7. Will your employer pay for the education of your minor children, considering that international schools often dwarf educational costs you enjoy at home?

8. Will you and your spouse be provided language training at no cost to you?  Total number of hours?

9. If you are being assigned to a high-risk destination, exactly what security training will you be provided at no cost to you? What courses will you be provided? What are the total number of training hours?

10. How will your employer reimburse you for licenses, taxes and fees you may incur while establishing your presence in your new country?

11. What services will your employer pay for in terms of finding and securing a new residence? Does your employer have minimum residential security guidelines for the threat level of your destination? Explain.

These are just some of the services you want to flush out before you accept an expat position with any organization abroad.

If you have questions that are not addressed above, please send me an email: