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Common pitfalls when relocating staff overseas – and how to avoid them

6 min read

30 March 2016

When it comes to expanding your business overseas, simply finding or transferring the right staff isn’t the only consideration. Relocating to a new country is a life-change for an employee, and supporting them through this process is vital in ensuring that they perform to the best of their ability, and stay in the role.

Having helped businesses place thousands of candidates in roles across the globe, we’ve seen the challenges with overseas recruitment, and the mistakes made by employers that can lead to an early exit. So here are the common pitfalls and how you can avoid them.

(1) Assumptions 

Just because an employee has worked overseas before, don’t assume that they’ll naturally slot into life at their new base. As we’re in aviation, we place many candidates – such as pilots and cabin crew – in different countries. It’s sometimes assumed by employers that the nature of the role means that the candidate will be well-versed in travelling and therefore won’t need much support when moving to a new role in a different country.

The same can be said for the oil and gas industry and some manufacturing businesses where relocation is the norm. However, every country comes with its own cultural considerations, language and way of living. Therefore the biggest mistake is assuming that just because an employee settled into a role in one country, that they’ll be able to do the same in another. 

(2) Forgetting the bigger picture 

When sending an employee overseas, it’s not just the individual that will be affected. It will change the lives of their entire family. So factors such as children’s schooling, language barriers and whether or not there is an expat community, will play a part in their decision. While a business may not necessarily need to arrange schooling for the employee’s children, they should certainly be on hand to provide some guidance on these matters. 

Read more articles about having staff overseas:

(3) Forgetting the little things 

While focussing on the bigger picture, business can fall foul of ignoring the small but crucial considerations when it comes to overseas hiring. The factors that commonly slip the net are: 

  • Availability of suitable accommodation in suitable areas;
  • Checking that the accommodation has everything that the employee needs from the get-go;
  • Transportation – not just to and from the airport, but how they’ll get to work on their first day! 
  • Healthcare provision and/or insurance to cover accidents and emergencies;
  • Local customs (dos and don’ts); and
  • Personal security, which is a key issue in many countries. 

We’ve seen employees arrive in their company apartment to find there is no bedding and no cooking utensils, because someone forget to sort this out.  It does not go down well! Employers can’t expect their staff to know (or arrange) any of the above.  It needs careful handling by the business.

(4) Not doing your research 

All of the above issues are often caused by one key error, a lack of research and preparation on the part of the employer. Just as businesses take their time to find the right candidate to place overseas, they should devote as much time to researching the country they will be placing their employee. This will help alleviate any concerns, and make for a smoother relocation. Without adequate research and preparation, employees can lose confidence before the move and get cold feet. They may even pull out of the role, which would cause and even bigger resourcing headache for the business.

Alternatively, the employee may make the move and feel dumped or isolated by the company and leave shortly afterwards. As well as preparing the employee, it’s up to businesses to check in on them and to ensure that they are settling in to their new location. 

So those are the pitfalls to avoid… now here’s what you can do to ensure a smooth relocation.

Put yourself in the employee’s shoes and mentally step through everything they might go through during their first week in country.  Write it up in a list – then turn this into a series of actions to arrange or check. Share this list with the employee, to boost their confidence in making the move – and act as a guide on what to expect. 

If possible, send someone to check all of these things in person (particularly if placing multiple people in the same location.) It is definitely worth it. If this isn’t possible, you can find a company to act as your local rep. 

While these actions take time, commitment and investment, it will be worth it in the long run when you have a committed, motivated and engaged employee who can help support and build your business outside the UK. 

Sam Sprules is a director at AeroProfessional.

Image: Shutterstock