Sending the right people
HR managers often send people abroad for the wrong reasons. More often than not, they send the wrong people! This is not because the said person lacks the necessary skills. Managers often send people who lack the ability to adjust to different customs and business
practices. In other words, sending people who are culturally illiterate can cost you a lot of money.
For instance, a senior manager at a U.S. automaker who was an expert at negotiating business deals was transferred to China to conduct similar deals. The man’s confrontational style offended the consensus-minded Chinese to the point where contractors and suppliers did not even speak to him directly. Moreover, the man was unwilling to change his ways. He was soon called back to the company’s home office, and his replacement was sent to China to undo the great damage he had done.
Make sure the expatriates are fully appraised of the challenges, issues and differences. The single most important part for an HR manager is to make sure the expatriates understand the living and working environment they are about to enter is exponentially different from their home country’s. Automaker Honda begins expatriate assignments with clear strategic objectives such as the development of a new car model. The assignees are asked to finish a survey to identify personal strengths and weaknesses related to the international assignments. Six months before the expatriate is expected to return, the company initiates a training process to locate a suitable job for the person. This includes a debriefing interview upon repatriation to be inclusive of the lessons learned from the international assignment.
Due to Honda’s integrated approach, nearly all of its expatriates consistently perform beyond expectations. Moreover, the turnover rate for returning expatriate is less than five percent. Most important, expatriates consistently achieve the key strategic objectives established at the beginning of each international assignment.