According to the 2015 InterNations Expat Insider Survey, the social challenges of expat relocation attribute to 5 of the top 6 problems for expat employees.
Businesses relocating employees can be well-versed in servicing the logistical needs of a move. The support for the social aspect of a relocation, especially with a holistic family view, can often be overlooked. Time and again, surveys have shown that it’s most likely the personal aspects of a relocation that will cause it to fail.
What is considered ‘social’?
Social challenges relates to everything outside of the assignment/role itself; logistical and administrative support offered, such as visa processing, housing and healthcare.
That is, anything that helps to minimise homesickness and isolation, with an aim to strengthen connections the employee’s family can make with life in their new city.
How to help expat employees
When it comes to expat relocation, a clear on-boarding process is key. Providing information about what to expect in terms of the office, culture, acknowledgement of the differences and difficulties they might experience is useful. Supporting the development of their professional network within the business as well as the industry as a whole will be welcomed.
Going a step further with supporting their social life—offering to provide information about how they might like to spend their free time in the early days, suggested itineraries for the weekend, current events and happenings in the city, encouragement to join a club or sporting team. All of these resources can easily be compiled and kept as a reference for any employee.
A welcome event, one including the spouse (and children) is a small gesture and yet often a missed opportunity. Consistency in such social involvement is also important—rather than just a one-off token event, a check-in every few weeks to ensure all is well goes a long way to building loyalty and engagement.
Include the relocated family
The spouse and children, if any, will also experience displacement and isolation. Given they’ll be left to their own devices while your employee is at work, it pays dividends to ensure they are looked after so your staff member can focus on work without worrying about their family.
Spouse career support along with similar itineraries or sharing other resources on how to maximise their time can go a long way. These can be outsourced easily—or can simply be compiled and maintained as documents.
Connecting the spouse, or indeed the employee, with likeminded spouses would be of benefit. Having a spouse connection program by asking if there is willingness to help support new employees and their families might get a surprisingly positive outcome.
Childcare and/or school search support for the children is key—the prospect of any system, let alone one in a new country, is daunting. Thus, a simple explanation and accompanying offer of support to navigate the system and/or source suitable resources would go a long way to offering peace of mind for the whole family.