Repatriation – the big return home

REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK – THE LONG RETURN HOME

Assignees returning home often have a number of challenges, many of which they are ill prepared for.

The Economist identifies some of the challenges facing returning assignees that lead them to consider looking for new jobs:

  • They have a lower standard of living in their home country than on assignment
  • The assignees and their families have gained a global perspective that can alienate them from their professional and social circles
  • Their role may offer less independence and less visibility

CORPORATE HERO OR CORPORATE ZERO?

In addition to often fending for themselves during the repatriation process, assignees may also find the adjustment in their home office surprisingly difficult.  This is especially true if they have been abroad for a long time, and can be made yet worse if there was little or no communication with the home office during the assignment.

If left unsupported, the attrition rate for returning assignees will continue to rise.  Not only is an assignment expensive; the loss of their knowledge and experience is wasteful to the company and demoralising to the employee.

Assignees who return home unhappy, but with fresh international experience are very attractive to many other employers – including the organisation’s competition.

WHAT ORGANISATIONS CAN DO

Assignees often feel lost when they return home as if they no longer belong anywhere. They experience a significant disconnect between the reality of their home country and their nostalgic memories. This kind of mismatch frequently feeds stress, dissatisfaction and conflict. It is too easy to lay the blame at the employer’s door, and the new job search begins.

Organisations that want to maximise the return on the investment in an assignee need to present them a secure, well-defined position when they return home.  Ideally, they need to acknowledge the returnee’s achievements as well.

Employees returning to the same job – a common occurrence – after thriving more autonomously in a foreign environment will quickly turn into bored employees. Ambitious employees will soon become ex-employees.

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