In an article (The Right Way to Manage Expats) from way back in 1999 stated that "nearly 80% of midsize and large companies currently send professionals abroad—and 45% plan to increase the number they have on assignment." Twenty years later, according to a recent survey, Envoy 2019 Immigration Trends Report, those estimates remain the same with 4 out of 5 companies expecting foreign national headcount to either increase or remain the same.

That article points out that once expats are in place, executives back home usually are not inclined to coddle their well-paid representatives. "When people are issued first-class tickets on a luxury liner, they’re not supposed to complain about being at sea."

Then again, for many companies the return on investment (ROI) on too many assignments is horrific. If you are one of those companies, it might well be worth considering the experience that awaits these employees and what could be done to better support them in getting off on assignment, being on assignment, and in returning home from their assignment. Designing a win-win experience might be an ideal way of maximizing the return and positively impacting talent retention.  

This article explores five of the most common problems faced by expats:

  1. Having a hard time fitting in
  2. Struggling with the language barrier
  3. Solving their housing situation
  4. The challenges of money management
  5. Being lonely

There are a number of things that can be done in advance, during and after the assignment to alleviate some of these problems, from using candidate assessments, providing destination services, supporting language training, to assigning an assignment coach to support.  

Are you seeing any of these common problems impacting your expatriates and program? Are there other challenges that you are seeing that are creating larger impacts? What have you done recently to address any of these challenges?