A Guide to Managing Expatriate Employees in the Workplace

Having a multicultural workforce benefits companies. For this reason, more employers are outsourcing workers from other countries. Meanwhile, the U.S. is in-demand for its known career benefits, such as a wide range of job opportunities and employee career satisfaction.

The expatriate culture in the U.S. continuously grows, with over 28.5 million foreign nationals working in the country in 2019. They comprise 17% of the entire U.S. labor force, creating a more diverse workforce and consequently generating proven benefits for several companies.

However, having a diverse and inclusive workplace workforce also requires specific protocols and effective expatriate management to fully ensure that your foreign workers are at ease and do not encounter any hassle with their residence and employment.

Here are the proven benefits of expatriate employees and the management you need to ensure they are at their best!

expatriate employees, expatriate management

What is an Expatriate Employee?

Expatriates are employees temporarily or permanently working abroad. Their decision to work overseas may be personal or government-mandated.

Expatriates are primarily driven by employment, while immigrants are more commonly seeking permanent residence in another country. However, some expatriates who decide to stay in their host country for good may eventually be considered immigrants.

6 Reasons Why You Should Hire an Expat

1. Experience and expertise

Employing an expatriate brings in people with experience and expertise. These employees are a great source of the specific skill set you need but from an external perspective and an established network abroad for your possible expansion.

2. Global credibility

As you plan more for your company, you might see the need to hire additional team members. Expatriates are great options, especially if you’re looking for global expansion.

Scouting for expatriate employees means choosing the best candidate from a pool of international applicants who could be among their country’s best. With that, employing a highly qualified employee based on what you are looking for is already an assurance.

3. Unique perspective and approach

Foreign employees automatically bring a whole new perspective to your business based on their varied experiences and practices that they can apply when assessing your operations. Serving initially as external observers, they can provide improvements on operations, recommend more efficient tools, and lead more effective practices and structures.

You can quickly lose sight of the bigger picture since you are already highly familiar with the processes. So having an external perspective can generate ways to simplify things, reduce workload, and assess the clarity of your business-to-consumer messages.

4. More creative workforce

The expatriate experience generates increased creativity. They may initially feel a loss of confidence and increased anxiety due to unfamiliarity and inability to use their accustomed mental maps. However, these effects are short-term and reap more positive outcomes.

For instance, adjusting to a new environment increases expatriates’ cognitive flexibility. They start to broaden their interpretations of their environment and eventually produce original ideas by merging the culture and perspectives of their home and host countries.

5. Increased motivation and problem-solving skills

According to a series of studies, the idea of working abroad and coming out of one’s comfort zone increases workers’ productivity and motivation. It is a significant step in a person’s life that must not be taken lightly. Workers gain increased vigor in their foreign workplace, consequently increasing productivity.

Likewise, the need to adjust to a new environment creates improved cultural awareness and problem-solving skills. The initial language barrier also eliminates the employee’s accustomed speaking clues. As a result, they inevitably develop the skill of elaboration.

6. Aid in global expansion

Having foreign employees is a great start if you plan to expand your business internationally and penetrate markets abroad. It is particularly beneficial if you plan to grow in your expatriate employee’s home country.

Having a locale from that country serving as your employer lets you get an overview of the market and become acquainted with the local culture. This will consequently influence your strategies for expansion. In addition, your expatriate employee can take care of the language barrier and serve as your brand ambassador.

Management Best Practices for Expats

1. Choose the right person backed by a compelling purpose

Ensure that the position is apt for someone from abroad and that a locale from your home country cannot effectively take on the role. During the hiring process, ensure that the best candidate for the position has the following:

  • The skill set and knowledge needed
  • An open mind and the physical and emotional capacity to adapt to local culture 
  • Commitment to the job
  • Other benefits that the candidate may offer

These requirements will justify the costs of employment and the necessity for such jobs, typically asked for during the immigration process.

For your part, providing an adequate compensation package can complement these requirements and serve as another means to attract the best possible candidate. This package should include relocation costs to help the employee settle.

2. Prepare them for a different culture

Part of an effective expatriate management procedure is providing pre-deployment training to orient your employees on the culture, practices, language, and certain expectations they will encounter. The training can also include language learning, navigational orientation, services they can avail in your home country, and even possible risks to health and security.

3. Research risks posed to expats

You must research any possible risks or concerns with expatriate employment as an employer. Aside from the health and security orientation before deployment, it’s best to inform them of any possible gender or racial discrimination concerns. Note that discrimination cases are not exclusive within the workplace but can also happen anywhere.

If you deem your expatriate employee susceptible to these circumstances, orient them so they can socially and mentally prepare to address these cases, or you can seek legal assistance specializing in racial discrimination cases.

4. Welcome them warmly

Notify your team of the anticipated arrival of your expat employee and urge them to make the new employee feel welcomed by greeting or including them in social conversations. You can also set up a welcome party to introduce your new team member to the entire team.

In case the expat will report to the office, give them a tour around the workspace and encourage them to participate in social events. You can also assign someone to serve as their buddy until they fully settle in. A good buddy can be another expat employee since they can empathize with the situation and share the same experiences.

5. Provide mental and social support

A study reported that 89% of expats worldwide suffer from stress. This happens at their initial arrival because of an unfamiliar environment where they cannot use their mental maps. More than half of the worldwide expatriates said they need more mental health support and prefer holistic work-life balance, but only 30% have access to these.

As their temporary companions in a foreign land, you must ensure they are socially and mentally supported. Workplace mental health is essential so expat employees don’t feel isolated from the team and can be productive at work, which is why they are there.

6. Provide financial literacy training

Just as employing expatriate employees is an investment on your side, it is also the case with these employees who shed some amount to invest in working abroad for you.

Thus, it is not a wonder why around 30% of expatriates globally are stressed due to financial concerns. They worry about their personal and family finances, so this is another issue that needs holistic support. Doing so will ease their problems and make them more productive at work.

7. Set up open communication

Unfamiliarity may cause expats to struggle with opening up about their concerns. HR managers must assure these employees that the workplace is a safe space and initiate conversations to encourage them to raise any concerns they have. Let them know they can share any issues, even outside work, since external factors may still affect their performance.

8. Ensure smooth repatriation

The process of ensuring smooth repatriation starts with identifying the origin country of your employee, the nature and length of the overseas employment, the immigration process and requirements, and possibly the people who will be with them.

Prepare a comprehensive plan, timeline, and budget allocation for the entire process and start as soon as possible, as some steps may take time. Have comfortable accommodations for your expatriate employees and help them in onboarding.

If they bring some family members, discuss the agreed coverage of your assistance but ultimately ensure that they are all settled. 

A Diverse Workplace is a Worthy Investment

Expatriate employees bring in a great fusion of experience, expertise, creativity, motivation, and network that can significantly optimize your business operations.

However, hiring expatriates needs effective management that covers pre-deployment training, support in immigration procedures, adequate provision of basic needs upon arrival until their onboarding, and ongoing health and social support.

As the world becomes more vigilant on racial discrimination and other negative stereotypes, you must also provide mental support to your expatriate employees.

When things become more serious, avail legal services that can address racial discrimination. Contact Shegerian & Associates to ensure your expatriate investments are protected and at their best!

Manuela Varela

Relations Manager

Manuela Varela has been with Shegerian & Associates since August 2022. She is responsible for outreach and marketing on behalf of the firm and manages relationships between firms and referring attorneys. She is also responsible for developing business opportunities and affiliations. Manuela graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Economics and Political Science.