Hurn lists the most common expectations the expatriates have:
- I'm going home, no problems with adjusting to new culture.
- Everything will be basically the same as when I left.
- Everything is cleaner, better organized, safer and easier at home.
- People back home are more efficient and courteous.
- My friends will be keen to hear about my exciting experiences.
- My close friendships will pick up where they left off.
These expectations are developed long before they come back home, mostly during their international assignments. It is very important for the companies to get acquainted with these expectations before the expatriate returns home .
3.1.2 Work related changes
Many things have changed during the assignees stay abroad and that does not exclude the environment of their work. There is a possibility that some of the colleagues and managers have been fired, have retired or moved to another department. They can be the ones responsible for fulfilling the promises that were guaranteed when the repatriate accepted the international assignment.
Repatriates often feel that their international assignment had a negative career impact, that their reentry positions have less authority and are less satisfying than the positions they held abroad, and that their home organizations do not value their international experience .
3.1.3 Socio-cultural changes
It is not only the work environment that has changed during the international assignment but also the society and the friends. This can create a feeling of alienation for the repatriate. Even if they stayed connected to people and organizations they cared about via internet, Skype and social media, they shouldn’t forget that “being connected” does not necessarily mean “being involved”.
3.2 Cost of the repatriation failure
While some repatriate turnover is expected, in most cases, it is detrimental because it inflicts a costly expense in terms of time, money and human capital .
Also, since international assignees acquire valuable tacit knowledge and social capital during their assignments, opportunities for reverse knowledge transfer, organizational learning and global coordination are lost when the repatriate walks away (often even straight towards the competitor).
Finally, high turnover rates may have a negative impact on other employees—especially those designated as high potentials—from accepting an international assignment for fear that it may result in a negative career move.
3.3 Ways to avoid repatriation failure
Given the high cost of repatriation failure, it is in the best interest of companies to create an integrated repatriation program, which should include the following aspects:
3.3.1 Long term career path and growth opportunities
In a study of German expatriates (Stahl et al., 2002), expatriates indicated that they perceived a gap between the company’s stated internationalization goals and its HRM policies and practices.
Various career-development practices can assist companies in avoiding this dissatisfaction, including managing expatriates’ career expectations, providing career-path information, organizing participation in networking activities that allow expatriates to stay in touch with key people in the home organization. This should help to avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome.
3.3.2 An exciting re-entry job with international responsibilities
It is important to offer the repatriate a job which puts his global competencies to good use and which “involves a real, substantial value-added contribution to the company that will offer an opportunity for the employee to maintain visibility and credibility within the organization” .
It could be useful to ask the expat (prior to the return home) to submit a formal proposal to the company for making the best possible use of his or her newly acquired knowledge and skills.
Companies should also remember that returned expats have had first hand experience understanding different mind-sets and perspectives. They can be very effective in coordinating teams in which there are non-traditional as well as traditional employees.
3.3.3 Create a culture in which international experience is valued
Expatriates often feel underappreciated. Nobody cares. Nobody helps. This can be fixed by demonstrating respect for the competencies of the newly returned expatriate.
It is important that senior management acts as though the money they spend on expatriate assignments is not only a cost but also an investment, by demonstrating that it values international experience and that such experience will enhance one’s career advancement and prestige within the organization.
3.3.4. Assign a coach
As mentioned earlier, repatriation is a shock, mainly because expatriates do not expect this shock when going home. To attack the emotional challenges that come with seeing the home community or country back after living abroad, it is important to assign a personal coach to the expatriate. The coach can offer structure, perspective and guidance and can help identify those strategies that enable to repatriate successfully. A reverse culture shock can after all preoccupy the repatriate so completely that he cannot attain his former level of productivity for months.