Often when assignees and their families return from a year or two abroad, there’s an assumption repatriation will be an easy process. They’ve only been away for a year or two, so what could be difficult about it? What a lot of people don’t realize, though, is those returning from assignment may be in for quite a bit of reverse culture shock. So what difficulties do returning employees and their families struggle with most? Here are three issues your assignees might have to hurdle on their return to the United States.
Adjusting to workplace personnel changes
Depending on your industry and company size, a lot can change for an office in just six months. When employees go abroad, they’re sometimes on assignment for 1-2 years, leaving a lot of time for management to shift and new roles to open up. Upon an assignee’s return to the home office, be sure that they’ve been apprised of all differences in personnel—and this doesn’t mean only introducing them to their new cube-mate. Take the time to connect your returning assignee with new employees and explain their role in the company. It might be overwhelming for your employee to return to their old office to find they have a new boss, a new desk and a new PTO policy all at once, so don’t leave them high and dry.
Figuring out how to use new skills
People travel abroad to experience different cultures and learn new things—so it should be no surprise that employees might pick up a skill or two they would like to use back at home. These new talents might make the position they’re returning to feel a bit dated and not as relevant to their new skill set. Whether they want to flex their new language skills or get more involved in global marketing, employees returning from an assignment abroad often struggle with figuring out how to apply the skills they’ve learned while overseas to their role back at home. Help them overcome this issue by suggesting projects and team members they can work with in order to stay happy at the home office.
Reverse culture shock
When employees go abroad, they often miss the family, friends and culture of the United States. But once their assignment comes to an end and they’re back in the U.S., they can experience the same feelings of sadness and culture shock. When they return, they may notice that the food is spicier, the people are louder and the nights out are different back home than they were on their assignment. These feelings can make a returning assignee feel isolated, confused and overwhelmed.
Help employees deal with these feelings by asking them about their trip and connecting them with other people in the company who have lived abroad. Through sharing their experiences with other people and connecting with expats who have gone through this process, employees can learn how to cope better and adjust faster to life back in the United States.
Moving from one country to another, even if an assignee is coming back home, is never easy. Knowing which issues assignees face when dealing with repatriation can prepare you to help them through the adjustment process faster and more smoothly.
Think you have everything you need to help assignees through the relocation process? Check out our HR Manager’s Checklist to ensure you’re not forgetting anything!