The work on an international assignment usually starts long before the assignee arrives in the host country, and even before (and after) the training proper. Following is a structured process that includes six critical stages that can enhance the chances for a successful international assignment and transformational experience.
Pre-program assessment and exploration. This includes An assessment of the expatriate’s and family members’ background and prior international experience, understanding of the host culture, specific goals/concerns, and personal tendencies should shape a customized expat and family training session.
Use of cultural intelligence tools, such as Culture Wise, enables expatriates and family members to further assess their personal tendencies against the cultural tendencies of the host country. Further, exploration of existing online cultural information featured in such tools provides the trainees a wealth of questions to ask during the training session
Expat and family training program. This stage is designed to increase the assignees’ knowledge about the host country, society, values, business culture, and day-to-day living. Completing such training should result in significantly reduced risk of cultural misunderstandings and an enhanced cross-cultural experience.
Host manager and team cultural briefing. This next stage is focused on the host country manager and the team with whom the international assignee will be working, and provides insight into the cultural values and norms of the assignee. Differences regarding communication and management style will be identified, as well as different expectations. Ideally, this is an in-person training program, but when that is not possible, online tools can be helpful.
Project alignment meeting. After the expatriate and host organization have received critical information, it is time for an exchange, either in person or via telephone or videoconference. A project alignment meeting with the assignee and host manager should be held to discuss cultural differences that might affect the success of the assignment, tools and techniques to prevent misunderstandings, and mutual expectations of the assignee and the manager. This meeting typically includes discussions about timelines, reporting strategies, and setting milestones.
In-country coaching. As soon as the expatriate arrives in the host country, new and unknown situations inevitably occur. Therefore, an assignee should receive face-to-face or telephone coaching. A coach monitors the assignee’s process during the assignment and captures experiences, case studies, and best practices. In some cases, a coach observes the assignee’s activities, such as staff meetings, virtual meetings, and other interactions between the assignee and team members. The number of coaching sessions varies based on the assignment’s duration and participant’s needs.
Knowledge management process. Systematic and ongoing capture (and dissemination) of relevant documentation and lessons learned from an expatriate assignment is invaluable to the assignee, future expatriates, and the organization as a whole. Knowledge management enables the organization to avoid repetitive occurrences of known issues and over time, best practices and effective case studies are developed.
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