As the demand for leaders with a global mindset continues to grow, the prospect of living and working abroad continues to remain a valuable opportunity for businesses and individuals alike. However all too often the benefits fail to materialise for both parties due to the difficulties experienced in navigating the return journey ‘home’.

For organisations these difficulties often result in the departure of key talent, which represents an enormous loss in ROI with knowledge, experience and relationships walking out the door; and for individuals the lack of opportunity to reconnect purposefully on both a professional and personal front is at the heart of disengagement and frustration.

Positioning repatriation at the front of the global talent mobility cycle is critical if we are to ensure employees and their families return confidently. The Brookfield ‘2016 Global Mobility Trends Survey’ recently found that only 10% of organisations surveyed reported that the role of the global mobility function was aligned with the wider talent agenda and actively engaged in workforce planning and people effectiveness.

There is no doubt that this disconnection is hurting both businesses and individuals. As organisations recognise and actively work to build a pipeline of future leaders with global experience, how they support and integrate the personal and professional needs of an individual during the return phase will ultimately determine how strong their pipeline remains.

Successful expats grow not only their core business knowledge and skillset whilst away but also their personal perspectives. More often than not they return with different attitudes and views looking at the world through a different lens. Ultimately they return different people. To assume that they can and will simply ‘slot back in’ is a dangerous assumption.

Just as the journey home invariably requires individuals to cross often multiple time zones, so to does the repatriation journey. To reduce the lag time associated with these zones, organisations need to ensure that their repatriation planning pays attention to each area that individuals find themselves having to navigate.

The 6 zones of repatriation

1. Physical:

Regarded as the base line of support, most organisations are well equipped to manage this ‘zone’ effectively through partnerships with outsourced mobility partners and interim accommodation providers. However, ensuring that this component is not just part of the initial assignment phase but also the homeward bound journey is essential.

2. Financial:

Given that most people don’t move in tandem with the financial or tax year, offering tailored financial guidance is critical to helping individuals and their families kickstart their lives back home.  With foreign bank accounts, navigating compliance formalities and simply shifting finances home all require timely advice.

3. Business:

With significant business changes — be it in structure or people — often occurring, a ‘re-boarding’ process is strongly advised that also reflects any key market, political or relationship changes that may impact the way in which the employee may carry out their role.

4. Career:

For repatriates the number one frustration with their return is the lack of meaningful opportunity to leverage recently acquired knowledge, skills and experience. While robust career planning should occur prior to the assignment commencing so that realistic expectations are established, it is vital that career planning is also made an integral part of the returning phase.

5. Social:

It is not uncommon for individuals to experience and enjoy the connection of a tight knit expat community whilst off shore. For many, returning home is an intensely isolating experience that can significantly impact the level of fulfilment and engagement in the work place. Welcome home events, internal mentor programs and repatriate networks that include spouses and children are proven strategies to help support social reintegration.

6. Emotional:

While stress and anxiety are a well-known side effect of any move, it is often most under-estimated on the journey home. When the so-called familiar no longer feels that way, the emotional impact can be overwhelming. Understanding some of the key triggers and the subsequent support offerings should be a critical part of any employee wellbeing program.