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International Assignment Failure Before Assignment Commences

In a related article, we looked at the significant failure rates for international assignments, and the associated costs for a company of a failed assignment. Expatriate failure in this context refers to any delays, interruptions or premature ending of an assignment without meeting the planned business objectives.

There are steps that can be taken before the assignment begins that can help reduce the chances of international assignment failure, but first it is necessary to know the common reasons that an assignment may encounter difficulty pre-departure.

Common Reasons for International Assignment Failure: Before The Start of the Assignment

International assignment failure can occur due to employee reasons, company issues or host country challenges.

Pre-departure Drop Out by Employee

Employees assigned to a foreign country may have the intention to fulfill their role, but may be hindered by other factors.  Problems with health, family disruption or even second thoughts about working abroad can lead an employee to drop out.

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Delays in Starting the Assignment

Not every assignment goes as planned, and the official start date could be postponed for various reasons, adding to expense and preventing initiation of the assignment.  Common reasons for delay include immigration and work permit issues, employee moving logistics, lack of resources or infrastructure in the assignment location or a timeframe that was too aggressive.

Host Country Issues

Problems can arise at any time in the host country that may delay or prevent an assignment altogether.  Economic weakness, political disruptions and even security concerns may lead to cancellation of an assignment.

Changes in Assignment Objectives and Structure

Most international assignments have a guiding business objective, and if that changes for strategic reasons then the assignment may no longer fit the company’s goals.

Excessive and Unforeseen Expenses

If the assignment budget appears to have been set too low, management may need to reconsider the value of an assignment based on the specific ROI metrics being used.  More information an assignment ROI can be found here. 

Minimizing Pre-Start Expatriate Failure

Despite the fact that some international assignments will fair no matter what steps are taken, there are ways to minimize pre-start expatriate failures.  HR departments should have a planning and pre-departure checklist that include the following measures for each assignment.

Choosing the Right Candidate and Meeting Employee Needs

Successful candidates for assignment can be selected using certain criteria that add to the probability of assignment completion.  In particular, employees with previous international experience may be preferred, as well as those with minimal family issues or concerns.  Family issues are among the top reasons for international assignment failure, and may arise even before the assignment begins.

There should be a thorough evaluation of how to meet the employee’s needs while on assignment, including spousal support, home country benefit preservation, payroll structure and a clear repatriation plan.  These elements will give the employee a sense of company commitment and support, adding to their motivation to begin and complete the assignment.

Training and Orientation

Once selected, the employee (and their family in some cases) will need both training and logistical support to relocate.  The quality of training and orientation will have a direct impact on the level of culture shock, preparation for the position and adjustment to the posting.

Without this training element, an assignee may get ‘cold feet’ pre-departure as they begin to face the prospect of working abroad.  Proper orientation for spouses, partners and other family members will also help minimize any adverse reactions.

Host Country Research

In order to avoid delays or obstructions from immigration rules, the requirements and needed time frame for work visas should be known ahead of time.  This is especially true in countries that impose quotas or other limits on work permits, since denial is always a possibility.

Political climate, social biases and personal security should all be part of the country research during the pre-departure period, to that steps can be taken to account for problems in the host country

Planning Strategies to Handle Changes and Delays

Not every assignment will follow the planned time schedule, and HR will want to have a contingency plan in place if there are delays.  Simply adjusting the start date for an assignment does not constitute failure, and may be the best way to ensure all is in place to make the assignment a success.

How a GEO Employer of Record Can Prevent Early Expatriate Failures

A GEO employer of record is one way to prevent international assignment failure pre-departure.  As a legal entity already in place in the host country, the GEO can provide valuable insight and information for assignment requirements at a local level.

The GEO resource can prevent or mitigate a range of problems before the assignment commences, including:

  • Sharing specific rules and time frames for the work permit process
  • Sponsoring and facilitating work permits in the host country far in advance
  • Country related information related to politics, economy, culture and security
  • Obtaining visas for the ‘trailing spouse’ as an employee of the local entity
  • Overcoming cultural, language and legal barriers in the planning process
  • Assisting with obtaining resources, office space and other logistical items

These services are only a part of the GEO solution, and the local employer of record will also handle all assignment related tasks, such as running a compliant payroll, withholding of tax and benefit payments and meeting host country labor laws on contracts.  It is an attractive alternative when compared to the expense and complexity of setting up a foreign subsidiary simply to employ workers.

Get in touch to find out more about how an Employer of Record Solution can help your company mitigate International Assignment Failure

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