Creating an efficient relocation process and seamless transition for your new employee is in the best interest of all parties. While relocation can be an exciting opportunity, the reality is that moving is always stressful – adding an international aspect only adds to the stress. A strong global mobility program helps to ensure the administrative and legal details are taken care of so your employees can focus on their work.
Obviously covering airfare and moving expenses are part of the deal, but the most effective programs go far beyond that. Below are some best practices and things to keep in mind as you develop or enhance your program.
Visas and Permits
Research the details about what is needed for the employee to obtain a visa and work authorization to work in the country they’re moving to. Navigating immigration, visas and work authorization can be complicated, and the documentation can be overwhelming, so you’ll want to engage a consultant or hire an attorney to coordinate the details. If the employee has family who will be traveling with them, the consultant or attorney can assist with their visas and immigration details as well. This is also a time-consuming process, so be sure to provide ample time to do this.
Provide Support Related to Housing and Other Living Arrangements
Once you know the immigration and visas are well under control, you can focus on the logistics of relocating your employee. While housing may be the biggest consideration, there are other areas in which you can provide support.
The type of housing you secure will depend upon the type of assignment. For example, for a short-term assignment, renting a furnished apartment or house may be a better option than purchasing a house. No matter the type of housing, be clear up front about what costs you’ll cover on behalf of the employee, or if you’ll provide reimbursement for these costs. This includes providing a housing allowance or covering closing costs, housing deposits, or the cost of breaking a lease if they’re currently renting.
Your employee will also appreciate your support in navigating the process of selecting a place to live. The process is complicated for anyone, but remember that your employee has limited knowledge of the area, and likely won’t fully understand the process. Consider helping them with details like signing a lease, inspecting a house, or arranging the necessary utilities.
In addition to information about housing, provide information about public transportation, ride-hailing apps, or other means of transportation. If the employee intends to drive, they may need assistance with obtaining a drivers license in the new country, and how to purchase or lease a car.
Don’t Forget the Family
The employee may not be the only person moving to a new country. Given that a spouse’s resistance to moving is often the biggest challenge to relocation, it behooves you to take them into consideration too.
The spouse or partner of the employee may be giving up a career or educational opportunities, their friends or family. In the new country, they may not be eligible for work authorization. Remember, they’re adjusting to a new culture too, but don’t have the benefit of a network or job to help ease the transition. If they have children, they will likely need assistance with identifying appropriate school options and after-school or other enrichment activities. Consider organizing social events for employees and their families to meet each other and welcome the employee and their family.
Don’t Forget Cultural Acclimation
Relocating an employee is about more than helping them settle into their job. Don’t overlook the importance of helping your employee and their family adjust to their new culture. Adjusting to a new culture can take a huge emotional toll on anyone, and helping to guide your employee – and their family - through the process will have a positive impact on their success.
Consider offering language lessons for the employee and their family prior to their arrival so they can be better prepared, and continue the lessons once they arrive in their new country. If this isn’t possible, make arrangements for a translator.
The goal is to help your employee feel welcome in their new home, so consider putting together a guidebook about their new neighborhood, including recommendations for grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, coffee shops, museums, and other areas of interest.
Health and Financial/Tax Considerations
Your employee will likely need guidance on some of the more mundane – but very important – aspects of their new country, including insurance and any financial or tax implications.
Health insurance and health delivery changes from country to country, and providing guidance around this includes more than simply giving them paperwork to fill out. Be sure to explain the different aspects of health coverage, review eligibility, and discuss what is covered. Show them how to find medical providers if needed, particularly if your health plan restricts which medical providers can be used. Introduce the employee to your benefits advocate or broker who can provide more in-depth information. Finally, provide them with information about where they can obtain emergency care, including the location of walk-in clinics, emergency rooms, and hospitals.
Moving to a new country will also mean learning about new tax laws and adjusting to a new currency. Provide your employee with information on the country’s banking, tax, and financial systems, including information about how to establish a bank account. Make an introduction to a trusted account or financial advisor who can give your employee unbiased and accurate information, and serve as an ongoing resource.
Support Continues Post-Relocation
It’s crucial to continue the support after the relocation has happened. Once the novelty and excitement of moving to a new country has worn off, adjusting to a new culture can be lonely and isolating. Arrange opportunities for the employee to meet with colleagues in social settings, particularly if there are other relocated employees who can empathize with their situation.
It’s impossible to envision all the questions that will come up when relocating an employee. Be available to answer questions as they come, and be proactive in reaching out to the employee on a regular basis so they know they have support, not just professionally but personally as well.
Angela Smith is a sought-after HR consultant, writer and speaker, with experience in corporate talent acquisition, talent management, labor relations, and coaching managers and executives. Speaking engagements include the University of Massachusetts, Miami Dade College, Champlain College, and Cornell University, and her writing can be found at The Muse, Forbes, and Mashable. Angela holds an MBA from the University of Massachusetts.