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Human resources actions that MNCs should take to facilitate expatriates adjustment Essay

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Updated: Jan 14th, 2020

Globalisation has enabled companies to diversify their operations to countries different form their country of incorporation or origin. Managing of such companies may be through a central point, head office, or/and at the foreign country level. Multinationals should manage their resources, both physical and human, effectively so that they can gain from the advantage that attracted them in the foreign country.

Human resources are the driving force of an organisation, thus they need to be well managed to develop an orchestrate team and tap their intellectual knowledge effectively. In MNCs, they are some experts imported from different countries to a country of operation to assist in different function.

They may come for pre-establishment preparations like engineering and legal functions or may be involved in day-to-day management of a foreign branch at different levels. When an expert is deployed on a foreign mission, there is physical relocation of the expatriate, probably his or her family, and if the expatriate has a team of operation, they may go together.

To ensure that the expatriate adjust effectively and fast, there are some human resources management strategic functions that need to be undertaken (Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars, 2000). This paper analyzes human resources actions multinational corporations (MNCs) should take to facilitate expatriates adjustment.

Expatriates and multinationals

On top of managing human resources generally, there is need to focus on expatriates to give them conducive environment to be assets of a company. The rate at which they adjust to new environment will determine how well their intellectual knowledge will be tapped. Their failure is very costly to an organisation thus they need to be given the right tools and supports to effectively perform.

Failure of an expatriate is in two levels, when he underperforms or returns home without having completed the task. On the other hand, they are paid expensively, so a company needs to utilize them effectively. Multinationals are increasingly focusing on employees foreign assignments as a strategic human resources tactic. In multinationals, there are three methods of developing a team: flexpatriates, inpatriates and expatriates.

Flexpatriates are employees with specific knowledge deployed on specific area for short period of time to set a pace in the area, for example employing computer engineers in a certain branch to make the initial connections. Using inpatriates involves developing of local talent and ensuring they meet the standard of the company. They may even be given exposure in other countries to develop the needed expertise (Bamber and Lansbury, 1998).

Whether the management of an MNC is multi-domestic, global, transnational or international, the intervention of human resources management in ensuring a fast expatriate adjustment cannot be ignored. There are some basic functions that should be looked in when managing expatriates, they stem from preparation to orienting an expert back to country of origin.

It is important to note that the factors that are likely to affect domestic workers like their career path, family ties, and the influence they get form their peers and personal goals will affect expatriate. Therefore, for him to adjust effectively all these factors need to be considered.

In general, expatriates adjustment is influenced by three main factors: individual adjustment factors, environmental issues factors, and position-related issues. All the areas must be well addressed early enough before the expert has messed up with the assignment given (Hoogvelt, 2001). The actions to facilitate fast adjustments are:

Assignment Planning

The decision to establish a multinational is not a one-night decision but it involves several months even years. The need for an expert is thus know early enough. Though choosing the expatriate may be limited to certain factors like the level of knowledge and experience that a certain employee has, basic human resources management tools should be utilized when looking for the right person to give the foreign assignment.

MNCs prefer to use the staffs they have for such assignments as they are aware of their potential, however they may outsource some expatriates in some areas. Whichever the approach, the first action is, defining the task that the expatriate is going to undertake in the foreign company.

Some projects may require a team, whether the experts have been working as a team previously or some need to be constructed from different experts.

Having a well thought analysis of the task and the kind of people that a company need is crucial. There should be two methods of outsourcing for these people; it can take general internal and external advertising for foreign post or it may involve direct approaches to people with the required knowledge and experience.

When advertising internally and externally, the human resources management should ensure that applications are well vetted for experiences in foreign country, how well they are performing, as well as their record of accomplishment. Sometime, some data can be available that gauges the performance that the individual had on a foreign mission in terms of his attitude, his personal goals and perceptions and how he or she blended in the foreign country.

For a person who has had an unpleasant experience, such an experience may create negative perception on foreign missions and even if willing to undertake another foreign mission, he may be hampered by his past.

When the expatriate is moving with his team, the team should also be analysed to see the role they played and determine whether they are willing to undertake the foreign assignment not withstanding having applied for the post. In teams, peer pressure must be dealt with to ensure all are willing.

In direct appointment, the concerned team having analyzed the performance, experience and exposure that a candidate has, approaches a potential expert or team. At this point, care should be taken not to force or dictate terms on the expatriate.

For example, if top management are the ones recruiting an expatriate, a junior may feel mandated to take the venture since in most cases comes with benefits and as a recognition, and accept it whereas if he was given a free leeway to decide, he would have decline the offer. The tone and approach to be used is important.

When this is done, the employee should be made aware that he or she has been given an offer that he or she has the freedom to decline or accept without any effect on his career.

A decision should not be expected immediately but time should be given for consultation with his immediate family members, friends and colleagues. The offer should define all aspects of the assignment like benefits, functions, family, the duration of the assignment, and what next after the accomplishment of the assignment (Shaffer, Harrison and Gilley, 1999).

Coaching, preparing, and psychological preparation

After the right candidate has been chosen, what follows is preparation from the company. Preparation is wide and depends with the candidate involved. For a person who has had an experience, the preparation may not be so intense since he is aware of what to expect. In this stage, the family should be involved. Support should come from all corners and mutual understanding as well as psychological preparedness should be attained.

Involving the services of a counsellor is important to prepare the expert on the new environment. The main subject to learn in this stage is cross-cultural differences that the expert is likely to face in his assignment. If there are people who have similar experiences, they should be consulted to give in-depth and informed information to the potential assignee.

If the country uses a different language than the language that the expert understands, measures should be put in place to ensure that the expert and the team learn the language. It may take enrolling in a language class with the team that involve spouse and children. Children may have an issue understanding what is likely to happen so they should be given attention and their issues solved in an intelligence professional manner.

Preparation does not happen on the expert himself alone, it should also be happening on the other side where he is going to undertake the assignment. If the company is running, employees should be made aware of the new development. Having new experts who has a different experience and comes from a different culture will require adequate preparation on the employees.

The foreign company should be involved in managing movement logistic like where the expert will be living, his family issues like school for the children, transport, security among others. There are times that an expert spouse may be working and want to move and work abroad, such issues should be considered (Shaffer, Harrison and Gilley, 1999).

Mentorship, pilot survey and initial orientation

At this stage, the potential assignee is aware and psychological prepared for the task that is ahead of him. A mentor who in most case is a person who has had a similar experience more so in a foreign country is deployed to assist the assignee adjust.

The foreign company is more suited to send a mentor, he may be one of its employees who will be working with the new expert to spend time and prepare the expert on what usually happens on the other side of the company.

If the mentor will be working with the new expert, they should review the duties of the assignment and devise best ways of performing them. A mentor should also assist the expert understand the language and culture of the new country. Sharpening of understanding of the new country and its language is important.

After spending some time and bonding with the mentor, they are then supposed to visit the country of assignment. The visit is rather casual because the expert only learns the preparations made in the country to receive him and a few logistics about the company. At this visit, he may not interact with junior employees but spends some time discussing different issues with the top management.

The aim of this visit is to pre-orientation. If the expatriate is moving with his spouse, there is no need of going with the spouse but it should be noted that the experience gotten at this level would be shared with the spouse thus can influence the decision or create a negative or positive perception (Harzing,1999).

Relocation and orientation

When all is set to go, the expatriate and his team if any, move to the country of operation. They should be guaranteed that all things are in order. The first few days may be time to orient oneself with the new environment. If there are kids, they should be mentored to develop new friends and mix with the new environment.

After the “honeymoon” period, then the expert goes to the company and start taking his tasks. He should get teams that are ready and prepared to support. Management of the foreign company should ensure the expatriate gets his place in the company. he should be given proper working conditions and equipments. A channel to air out his problems should be devised.

Motivational measures should be taken like any other employees in the company and his subordinates should not be belittled at the benefit of the expatriate. A team around the expert should be developed which can criticize, solve matter together without always hiding under the decisions of the expert.

Sometimes the expert may be wrong, thus when there is an orchestrate team it will mentor him. Though an expert becomes a team leader, he should not be the sole decision-maker (Scullion and Starkey, 2000).

Effective performance management

When the expatriates are on the field, their performance should not be waited to be evaluated after the completion of the project but they should be evaluated on time-to-time basis. A project should be divided into different packages that build the entire project. The outcome after a certain period and the strategies set by the expatriate and team should be effectively evaluated to ensure they are in course.

The appraisal takes the same way like in normal employees appraisal, however there may be some problems encountered by the team, which they had not anticipated. In such a case, the measures they have developed to cope with the reality on the ground should be evaluated.

The appraisal is not one-day event but a process that involves measurement of performance and ensuring current feedback on the progression. Problems that the team is experiencing should be well handled. There are times that expatriates team should be restructured to have a better combination of employees.

Other than evaluating the expatriate performance, he may be faced with some other off the job stresses like culture shocks, loneliness, and hangovers and homesick. They should be addressed by creating a friendly environment with his team and those people working around him should be advised on how to handle him.

Social function and team building are important in orienting and relaxing the environment that the expert is working. Maintain a mentor is important since he is likely to be free with the expatriate so he or she can be able to keep the expatriate company all through.

There are times that an expatriate may have issues to express or feels that the set targets are far from being attained as he had expected. These situations require the intervention of to p management.

Another problem that may limit the rate of adjustment and performance is the mental perception created by the company. The expert should not be shown as the final answer or should not be made to believe that he is the head or driver of the company. If such a case happens, he may get repellence from other members of staff and his mission will not be accomplished.

Human resources should evaluate the support that the expatriate is getting from other employees from a job satisfaction lens. If the employees are not supporting the expert effectively, he will not be satisfied with his job, a factor that will influence his level of adjustment.

When a certain task is going on well, the expert should b recognized, as this will give him the morale and psyche to do even higher, he will get more focused on the current task and forget about his country of origin or the future (Edwards and Ferner, 2002).


MNCs human resources management teams should ensure that expatriates adjust fast and effectively in their country of assignment or deployment. The rate of adjustment as well as how effective they have been oriented in their new environment affects their rate of performance. Adjustment is categorised in three levels: individual adjustment, environmental issues, and position-related adjustments.

Actions taken by MNCs human resources whether they are multi-domestic, global, transnational or international managed, to facilitate the rate of adjustment are contained in five stages of expatriate foreign assignment deployment.

The stages are planning, coaching and preparing, Mentorship, pilot survey and initial orientation, Relocation and orientation, and effective performance management. How well each process is undertaken determines the rate of expatriates’ adjustment.


Bamber, G. and Lansbury, R. D., 1998. International and Comparative Employment Relations; A study of industrialised market economies. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Edwards, T. and Ferner, A., 2002. The renewed American challenge.: A Review of Employment Practice in US multinationals. Industrial Relations Journal, 33(2), pp. 94-111.

Hampden-Turner, C. and Trompenaars, A., 2000. Building cross-cultural competence: How to create wealth from conflicting values. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Harzing, A.W.,1999. Managing the Multinationals: An International Study of Control Mechanisms in Multinational Companies. Massachusetts: Edward Elgar.

Hoogvelt, A., 2001. Globalization and the Postcolonial world; The new political economy of development. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Scullion, H. and Starkey, K., 2000. The changing role of the corporate human resource function in the international firm. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 11(6), pp.1061-1081.

Scullion, H. and Starkey, K., 2000. The changing role of the corporate human resource function in the international firm. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 11(6), pp.1061-1081.

Shaffer, M.A., Harrison, D.A. and Gilley, K.M.,1999. Dimensions, determinants and differences in the expatriate adjustment process. Journal of International Business Studies, 30(3), pp. 557-581

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