Just as every assignee will have a unique experience living abroad, every assignee will have a unique experience coming home. A lot of people think the repatriation process is easy, but in fact, many assignees returning home find that reintegrating is even more difficult and stressful than moving abroad. In this short video, Kari Cinker a senior global mobility counselor at Plus shares that having reintegrated back to the U.S. herself after living abroad for several years, she can attest to the challenges of repatriation.
As everyone knows, assignments are not inexpensive. While many assignments may be driven by a business initiative or need, they are still an investment in talent where developmental opportunity can be maximized to improve skills, engagement and retention.
Per AIRINC's 2018 Mobility Outlook Survey, 56% of companies do not know whether retention among globally mobile employees is better or worse than it is for the broader employee workforce and 64% of programs do not track retention post-repatriation. Of the 44% of companies that do measure post-repat retention, 20% say the retention rate for repatriating employees is better than the retention rate for all employees and 28% say it’s worse.
Most companies start repatriation planning three to six months prior to the assignment end date. The 2017 KPMG GAPP survey revealed that 40% of programs do advance proactive repatriation planning and only 34% do post-assignment career succession planning. Only 25% of companies provide "repatriation counseling" as a core benefit suggesting that they are not understanding the degree of challenge repatriation brings, nor the value of the training to the employee and ultimately the organization. Lastly, only 6% of organizations felt that they manage the repatriation process well- so nearly all programs have room for improvement.
In all likelihood, your existing policy and practice address the physical aspects of bringing the employee and family home at the end of the assignment. As an example, your company likely provides long-term assignment return benefits like:
- Shipment of household goods
- Temporary accommodation
- Home-finding services back in the home location
- Departure assistance
- Repatriation allowance
One way to start improving the experience and retention rates is to consider and understand what your organization does to support repatriation. Some studies have shown that the retention of repatriated assignees is linked to their ability to identify, articulate and apply the new skills they have learned. With all this information on the experience of repatriation for employees, it would be well worth a mobility team’s time to reevaluate their policies and support on this topic.
Repatriation is often described a surprisingly more difficult than moving overseas. You may be returning home to a life that is familiar, but you and your family have changed. Many repatriates find it harder to fit in and are disappointed at the lack of interest that friends and family have in hearing about your expat experience. And, reverse culture shock often makes you question your society's own culture and values. Luckily, you are not alone in the repatriation process. Here are some articles to help you through repatriation.