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Guide to Expatriate Education and Training

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

Do you ever need to relocate employees for international assignments? Here's how and why you should tailor your company's classes for expatriates.

  • Expatriate training programs are necessary to ensure effective communication in the international business realm.
  • Basic expatriate training should include aspects such as culture, laws and language. Many expat training courses focus on helping families establish housing, find the best education programs for their children, and more.
  • Some of the benefits of training an expat are that you can eliminate the waste of resources and ensure a great performance.

Expatriate education and training is necessary in a global marketplace to ensure effective communication and business success. Expatriate training programs within your company could include language courses, international business development or cultural communications – but don't leave out the most personal aspect of international assignments. Often, it's a family's inability to adapt that leads to initial assignment hiccups.

Focus your expatriates' training on business issues, certainly, but also provide information that involves your employees' spouses and children.

  1. Begin expatriates' training at the cultural level to emphasize communication and eliminate cultural missteps.
  2. Continue expatriate training and family education with comprehensive programs that offer support for the length of the assignment.
  3. Conclude courses for expatriates with repatriation training.

1. Provide cultural and business communication education for basic knowledge.

Basic expatriate training and development should focus on the country of assignment – its culture, language and laws. Provide education for expatriates that properly prepares them to conduct business on your company's behalf without any delays due to misunderstandings with international stakeholders.

2. Continue training expats while they are on assignment.

Most training for expatriate assignments will introduce an employee to their new station, but it's just as important to offer consistent, always-available support in case the expat has a question for the pros. Develop an expatriate training program with a professional consulting service that educates, trains and supports international business employees throughout their assignments abroad.

3. Identify courses for expatriates that offer repatriation training and support.

One of the most important classes for expatriates is often overlooked. Global business studies by the Society for Human Resources Management have concluded that nearly half of all expats leave their current company for a competitor at the completion of an international assignment.

  • Many expat training consulting companies help expatriates' families establish housing, find children's educational facilities, and start online degree programs for employees and their spouses. They also offer counseling and peer-support linking services, so before you sign on with a provider of expatriate education, ask if the package includes these services.

  • Provide links from your company's website for expatriates in need of support. Whether you link to your chosen expat training and consulting company or provide a discussion forum for expats and their families, show that you value your offsite employees and want their transition, assignment, and homecoming to be effortless and thoroughly supported.

Why expatriate training is important

These are some of the benefits of training your expatriates.

Less waste

According to BizFluent, if an expatriate is not properly trained, this will result in a waste of resources. Given that many of these projects often cost millions, an ill-prepared employee can cause a wide variety of issues. By ensuring the employee is trained properly, you reduce this risk.

Great performance 

A properly trained expatriate is also a better-performing one. Learning their duties in another country and/or language can make it difficult for the expatriate to fully understand and perform their duties. By ensuring they have been properly trained before they embark on their journey, you can also ensure that they are performing to the best of their abilities. 

Happy employees and families 

According to Allianz Care, while family matters may not seem to be an immediate issue, proper training can help the expatriates maintain a stable family unit. This is imperative, as having a stable, supportive family is one of the main ways expats are able to remain content and focus on their assignments.

Improved use of language

No matter how well the expat may speak a foreign language, practice makes perfect. Terms and phrases that they are not familiar with will likely be a major part of the job. By taking the time to train them on using the language of the location they will be living in, you'll better prepare them to not only complete their assignments, but to thrive in another country.

Seamless integration

No matter how intelligent the expat may be, there is always a learning curve for the expat as well as the company they work with. While the expat has to learn how to work with the new company and employees, acclimate to the new workplace culture, etc., the company must learn the best ways to train and work with the expat. Otherwise, the company will have to deal not only with the typical learning curve, but with the learning curve associated with relocating to a foreign country.

Reasonable cultural expectations

According to Chron, one of the greatest benefits of training expats is that it will allow you to manage their expectations beforehand in a controlled environment. Studies show that the most failed expat missions occur with American expats who going to the U.K. Although this seems surprising, it actually makes sense when you consider the vast cultural differences outside of linguistics. Cultural differences are some of the hardest issues for expats to deal with. Americans are more likely to believe that there is not much of a cultural difference between America and the U.K. compared to other foreign countries, which is likely one of the reasons American expats fail in the U.K. This is why it's so important to set reasonable expectations for the expat and prepare them for the new culture before they relocate.

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