As organisations continue to face the challenges of navigating increasing complexity, speed to market, and establishing a global reach, the need for a nimble global workforce has never been higher. Not only are organisations seeing it as a way to respond to market needs but also as a way of offering interesting and diverse career opportunities for their key people.

However all too often, organisations fail to reap the true benefits of this global experience due to the challenges associated with bringing their people ‘home’. For repatriates the number one frustration with their return is the lack of meaningful opportunity to leverage recently acquired skills and experience. Equally frustrating is the fact that the career benefits that they expected to see did not eventuate within their organisation. According to the latest ECA Managing Mobility report, 77% of organisations said that it was the limited available career opportunities available that proved to be a significant obstacle to managing successful repatriation.  Further report findings suggest that it is often implied that the assignment will have positive benefits for the assignee, which often creates unrealistic expectations and heightens frustrations when career progression does not eventuate.

It is essential therefore that clear expectations be outlined from the outset so as to effectively manage employee expectations and alleviate confusion.

How organisations regard the purpose of the assignment will most likely impact the way they view the subsequent career opportunities available upon return.  Is the purpose to primarily to fill a gap at an operational level or is it to develop individual knowledge and capability? While many organisations are increasingly using overseas assignments to further their talent objectives and build international management capability, there are still large proportions that use it to fill managerial and technical gaps, and some who use it for both. It is only in understanding the reason for the assignment that purposeful conversations can be had to uncover a clearer path of progression.

Career conversations need to commence at the beginning of the assignment and should seek to establish a strong partnership that fosters transparency, direction, and ownership. If individual ambitions and business opportunities are to be aligned and realised, subsequent conversations then need to be proactively planned for and scheduled throughout the assignment.

Key Considerations:

1. Make career pathways a part of the appointment process

While unpredictable or extended assignment timeframes can make it difficult to have a firm view on what carer progression opportunities will exist, it is important to acknowledge how the organisation regards the experience gained from the outset.

2. Plan for career conversations

Unfortunately for many expatriates the adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is all too real. As a result the authenticity, trust, and commitment between the repatriate and the organisation is broken. Regular career conversations that table opportunities and updates from the home office help to ensure that quality connection is maintained.

3. Formalise employee development plans

Not only does a formal development plan demonstrate commitment and value in the employee it also helps drive career ownership, motivation and engagement.

4. Build ‘bridging opportunities’

Provide opportunities that profile newly-acquired knowledge, skills, and networks in both assigned office and home base throughout the assignment and not just upon return to help to smooth the reintegration process, while also increasing ROI.

5. Create and build strategic networks

A key part of repatriation is reconnection. Individuals and organisations need to proactively support the building of relationships with internal stakeholders and sponsors, as well as broader networks in their home country, to support a timely and productive return.

6. Plan for re-induction

As a returning employee, the line manager and home office need to be ‘in sync’ with the capability and potential offered by the individual. Employees need to understand how to best showcase it and organisations need to understand how and where it will best fit.

7. Identify individual needs

Returning ‘home’ is difficult. Not only is it a career move but it is also a highly personal move. Understanding the needs of individuals (and their families) is imperative if employees are to return with confidence, purpose, and enthusiasm.

Creating opportunities for meaningful career conversations throughout the assignment — and not just several weeks or months before return — is the only way that organisations, repatriates and their families can navigate this pathway with confidence, clarity and purpose.