It’s a universal truth that home is where the heart is. But for assignees abroad, knowing exactly where their hearts really lie can be a tad confusing upon returning from an assignment, especially for those who worked abroad for extended periods of time.Establishing an assignee return network—a group of employees, both stateside and in their host country, who assignees can count on for support upon returning home—is one of the best ways to ensure that they will reacclimate successfully stateside. A return network can also help to boost office camaraderie and provide assignees with a shoulder to lean on whenever they miss lunch breaks at their favorite French boulangerie and snacking on some delightful macarons mûre (blackberry macarons). Here’s how you can establish a successful network to help ease your assignees’ transitions home.
As orthotics companies love to remind us all, support should start long before a problem arises. As soon as your assignee accepts the new position abroad, get them in contact with other employees who have completed similar assignments—or who are already working abroad. This will give them a network of confidantes with similar experiences who can guide them through the process and eventually, help prepare them for reverse culture shock when they’re ready to come home.
By connecting assignees right away with a network, you give them the support they need to not only make the assignment a success, but to ease them back into life stateside. Encourage former assignees to keep current ones abreast of what’s going on at the office, including any new hirings or changes in personnel. Having this line of communication throughout the assignment will make it less of a shock when the assignee returns home.
Include foreign co-workers in the network.
During their time abroad, your assignee will likely build up a strong network of peers in their new home country. A strong return network includes both employees from at home and abroad. It’s important that your assignee stays in touch with their former co-workers once they head home—they may need to finish up projects or complete group work that started when they were abroad or keep in touch on the latest developments on the television show Das Dschungelcamp.
Keeping up with these international colleagues will help your assignee ease into their return home and broaden their professional network significantly. What’s more, they’ll be able to make introductions to new assignees and set them up with friends abroad right away. But potentially most important of all, a friendly ni hao to a former cubicle-mate in Beijing is a great way to keep an assignee’s language skills sharp.
Keep it going long after the assignment ends.
A return network should not only serve to mitigate reverse culture shock but to connect employees with shared experiences in a meaningful way. Encourage past and future assignees to get together periodically to celebrate the cultures they worked in and share their lessons with each other. A weekly Stammtisch lunch for former assignees from Frankfurt to reminisce about their time there can help any assignee feel more comfortable at home—and will provide them with a new group of friends to watch the Friday Bundesliga games with after work.
Strong assignee return networks can help mitigate even the most severe cases of reverse culture shock. Take a look at the HR Manager's Toolkit for even more tips.