Expats Onboarding in the Host Company – Here’s your First 90 days Survival Pack!
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Over the last two decades in Human Resources, I have noticed that a lot of international talents were left frustrated by the process of moving to another country for work. I observed that the issues weren’t just financial, but pertained a lot to both the individuals and the company underestimating the challenges involved in moving to a new country.

Therefore, today I would like to draw on my experience and discuss some important practices for that critical period, the first 90-odd days, of an expat landing in a new country and beginning their onboarding process in the host company.

Be Thoroughly Prepared Before You Land

Increasingly, in this age of protectionism, many countries now require you, the expat, and your accompanying family to have active medical insurance before you arrive in the country. This is different from the travel insurance you may have used for vacations and needs to be negotiated with a local provider in the host country. Whether your company is processing this for you, or you are required to do so on your own, you also need to make sure you are aware of what is covered – are your children covered? What about planned or unplanned pregnancies?

On that subject matter, there is now a lot more paperwork and prerequisites required before visas and associated work permits are given out, with increasingly thorough information required. If your company is handling this for you, make sure you are kept in the loop so you avoid unnecessary delays. However, if you are required to manage the applications on your own, ensure you are aware of the full process. You may need the help of a specialized lawyer in this scenario, don’t hesitate to contact them.

You may also have to plan your own relocation, a shortcoming of lifestyle expatriation that many organisations have still not overcome. An issue many people have with selecting medium-to-long term accommodation is that they do not want to make such decisions based on photos alone. To get around it, a recent trend involves making short-term living arrangements via Airbnb or similar service, and then inspecting more appropriate housing in person. It makes a certain amount of sense, but you want to keep an eye on your budget, as good rentals may not come cheap.

Finally, make sure you have wrapped up all pending tasks and necessary paperwork before signing off!

The Move

It may seem just like an airplane journey but make no mistake, the move is frequently considered the most stressful time. That’s because of all the farewells and goodbyes, packing up and shipping of belongings. And don’t forget that while you are also spending time at the office on last-minute tasks, your spouse is at home managing the children and the packing. Generally, this means that by the time your plan lifts off, everyone is pretty exhausted and you may end up questioning your decision, worry about the unknown challenges ahead and fear for the future of your family.

In this situation, make sure you open up to your case handler from the Global Mobility team when they reach out to you. Talking about what you are feeling and experiencing with them will help them both meet your unique needs, and to guide you on the best way to manage stress. Often they will arrange an arrival service for you and give you a day or two off before you have to join the new workplace. Use this time to spend time with your family and help each other settle in properly.

Manage Expectations

You’ve landed, navigated immigration, moved into temporary living and started settling in. Now, it’s time to join work! You may find yourself settling in very quickly because the workplace and culture at the office give you a feeling of “being at home” fast.

That may not always be the case, however. There are a wide range of issues that can crop up, so your excitement needs to be tempered with a can-do attitude to learn new things. It really depends on the country you are in and how well you are prepared for the different cultures.

For instance, arriving in Switzerland is considered tougher because of the challenges associated with assimilating into Swiss culture later on. A move to Brazil would, for example, necessitate greater research into personal security. China has a culture revolving around work and you may find yourself working longer and engaging with colleagues far more than you bargained for. And did you forget that the host country’s native language is not English?

This not only means that you need to learn more about the host culture, but that your company needs to shoulder some responsibility for preparing you for such challenges – you may find that your company may sign you up later on for intercultural awareness training, spouse career coaching and host language training, all providing essential support not just for you but your spouse as well.

Don’t Neglect Your Family

It is natural to get swept away in the hubbub of new activities as you settle into a new work life, adjust to a new office culture and make new acquaintances. An unfortunate side effect of that is that you may forget that your spouse will be having an entirely different experience to yours. Their adjustment is tougher than yours and they can often find themselves feeling alone and left behind. Remember, while you are working they are the ones who will be ensuring your children’s schooling commences at earliest!

Providing emotional support to your spouse is critical in helping them adjust, especially if they are not always guaranteed work rights by the host country and have to put their own careers on pause. Language and cultural barriers can make it harder for them to do basic tasks (like choosing schools, setting up gym or sports club memberships) and builds up stress. Time zone differences can make it harder to contact friends and family back home and you both may feel the additional worry of not being in frequent correspondence with your own parents or close relatives and friends.

During this period of 90 days, you may be in frequent contact with the Global Mobility professional assigned to your case by the company. Their job is not just to get you up to productivity quickly, but to ensure a smooth transition for you and your spouse. They will be your guide and support during the entire assignment, not just the first 90 days so it is beneficial to form a good working relationship with them.

The initial period after your move will not follow a fixed path, some expat families face greater challenges than others, due to a variety of reasons. Whichever path your onboarding follows, remember to be in regular and detailed contact with your Global Mobility Manager, because as with most things in life, communication is key to success here.

Kind Regards,
Angie.

P.S. If you are looking for a more in-depth look at the expatriation cycle (from the pre assignment period to the first 90 days and beyond), The Global Mobility Workbook discusses it in much greater detail in the Expat Experience.



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