Before the advent of the Internet, International business used to be the realm of only very large corporate entities. Rapid advances in communications made International business not only cheaper but faster as well. The Internet provides almost instantaneous communication anywhere in the world. These advances have led to the feasibility of smaller companies operating in the global market place. Cheaper airfares and laptops make doing business from a remote location practical and commonplace. It is not surprising that more and more moderate to small sized companies are choosing to do business and open branches in other countries. International business is no longer only for the super-giants.
In the past the Human Resource manager only had to prepare for a limited number of employees preparing to travel abroad, if at all. The frequency of international business has created a new title and position for the human resources manager. International Human Resources Management is a quickly growing field. Relocating and staffing an office abroad involves more than just getting the person a passport, booking a flight and handing them the company credit card. Whether the stay will be short or long, there are many considerations for the expatriate employee.
According to a survey conducted by Monster.com, close to 45% of all business are planning to conduct business abroad (Segal, 2002). The Global Marketplace has opened up many opportunities to expand into new and emerging markets. For this reason, the company has published this set of guidelines for both the employee and company planning to go abroad. This Guide covers issues which the employee and company will face when conducting business in foreign companies. Preparation is the key to the success of the international business venture.
Making the Relocation Experience Successful
The most difficult problems associated with relocation abroad are maintaining contact and relationships with the parent company. When a person goes abroad they are still part of the corporate culture. Relocating to a foreign country is a big investment and the company wishes to make the venture a success. The employee is making great sacrifices for the sake of the company and does not want them to be in vain. Both parties have a large amount of investment in the venture. Investments can be of the monetary type, however, there are many other investments such as emotional and security which are also a part of the process.
The first step in sending an employee abroad is to decide why it is necessary. Specific goals and objectives must be identified and made clear to both parties. These goals should be concrete. For instance, instead of saying, "To increase sales in Japan," they should read "To bring in 8 Japanese clients in the first six months after relocation generating $25,000.00 per client per year." Being specific about goals will help to prevent misunderstandings in the future. They also provide milestones to measure the success or failure of the endeavor. These goals should be written down and reviewed on a regular basis after the relocation.
Specific guidelines will be set according to the project. Detail is the key to success of the project. Details must be thought through and contingencies made for any foreseeable circumstances that might occur. Regular communication must be a part of the plan. This will not only improve the chances for success of the project, but will provide an extra sense of security for everyone involved. Country specific guidelines will be developed as well as specific guidelines for each project. Contingencies also need to be made in the case of a natural or manmade disaster while in the country
Providing for Basic Needs.
Of course the company wishing to relocate an employee will provide assistance in logistics such as buying a home, selling a home, finding housing in the new country, and other tasks associated with the move. In addition to these stresses, they will also be confronted with different languages, laws, and customs (International SOS, 2002). These factors can make the transition stressful and sometimes dangerous. The parent company must assure the employee that support will be provided for all of these issues by someone familiar with that particular country. Procedures for coping with these factors are a part of the transition program.
Safety of expatriates is the primary concern of the company. When going abroad many factors can threaten that safety from medical emergencies to legal difficulties to disasters. Because the person needing assistance will be in a different time zone, or perhaps on a different calendar day, assistance must be available at any time it is needed (International SOS, 2002). Several companies are available to the employee who offer these types of services anytime day or night. This specialized industry often can give better advice than the personnel department of the parent company. These companies will follow the specific guidelines set forth by the company, as discussed earlier for assisting in these situations (International SOS, 2002).
The less an employee has to worry about mundane problems, the better job they will be able to do. Company support pays off in the long run in terms of increased productivity and less lost time due to illness and stress-related problems. Knowing that they are not alone can make the experience positive for the employee, which in turn reaps many benefits for the company. Moving an employee abroad should resemble extending a hand, not cutting off an arm. The employee must feel that they are still part of the corporate culture. They should not feel as if they have been moved to the back desk in the utility closet.
When expatriates need medical assistance, they must feel that the care they receive is competent and adequate. It is frightening to have a serious medical emergency in a country where one speaks little or none of the local language. A translator can ease this stress, but even then there is always doubt about the information being conveyed. Medicine has very specific language and standard medical treatments can vary drastically from ones to which the employee is accustomed. A clinic or competent medical facility should be identified close to the employee's home or workplace prior to leaving for the trip (International SOS, 2002). In cases where large numbers of employees will be relocated, a company medical facility will be provided for use by company employees and their families. A nurse from the country of origin will be provided to assist in conveying medical terms and to provide quality control. It is the goal of the company to assure that employees are provided the best medical care possible in the new country.
Laws in other countries can be confusing and frightening. Differences in customs can make laws in foreign countries seem silly, but you are there nonetheless and are subject to those laws. Laws governing dress and etiquette can be especially confusing. International Lawyers will be provided to offer counsel to any expatriate needing clarification or assistance in the event that a situation develops. The employee should feel free to access this service as a question asked can save many headaches, hassles, and avoid unnecessary dangers as a result of a lack of knowledge. This service provider will be a part of the pre-planning stage and will give the employee a briefing on the major laws affecting their stay as well as answer any questions that the employee might have.
A plan for handling sudden legal issues will be a part of the contingency planning process (International SOS, 2002). An emergency plan can help the expatriate act in a way, which does not worsen the situation. Panic and hasty decisions can endanger the safety of an employee abroad and having a plan will help to minimize the risks.
This is one of the key issues to providing the safety of an expatriate and his family. If the employee finds themselves in an uncomfortable situation such as flights being cancelled or their lives being threatened, they should contact the U.S. embassy in their host country for advice and assistance (International SOS, 2002). The parent company will provide any support or services necessary in the situation, however, the local embassy is the most knowledgeable and able to assist in certain situations. They can inform the employee about how to get out of dangerous situations and keep them informed of trouble spots and travel warnings (International SOS, 2002). The safety of company assets is a concern. However, in all cases, company assets will and should never come before the safety of the employee. The employee and their family is the most valuable asset. Everything else is covered by insurance.
Medical concerns, legal concerns, and security issues may be the most important issues as far as safety is concerned. However these are not the only details which will need to be resolved. A list of details is available from the company and the employee should feel free to add to these lists any they can recommend. Among…