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Strategic HRM Case
Every year thousands of young and energetic businessmen go for expatriate assignments. Some of them stay abroad for a few weeks, others for a few years. All of them have a special mission or task they must do. Nevertheless, not many of them are successful in what they do. According to statistics, 50 % of all expatriates fail but in 2 of 3 cases, an employee is not guilty of failure. The bad organization is the main reason for company failure.
Due to modern technologies and globalization, many companies enlarge their influence in the world. According to this fact, the importance of expatriate assignments has increased dramatically. Nevertheless, bad organization of expatriate assignments can cause much harm to the company. It can bring troubles to the employees and employers and even destroy the relationship with customers. One of the main reasons is a misunderstanding of foreign cultures that leads to misunderstanding between business partners. Another problem is the lack of information concerning the country where they go. When a person comes to a foreign country for the first time, he or she does not know what things are and he or she should behave himself. The company should give as much information as possible about the job, customer, and cultural environment. It helps an expatriate to feel comfortable in a strange place and not to make unacceptable steps.
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That is why employers are strongly interested in the improvement of expatriate assignments. Ms. Flavia DAlo, HR Manager Asia Pacific, Guidant Corporation, has emphasized attention to several tips which, according to her opinion, are very important. These tips must be taken into consideration with special attention. First of all, it is the preparation of the employee. The company must be sure that the employee has a clear understanding of his or her main goal. Especial attention must be paid to cultural awareness. Otherwise, it can turn into cross-cultural misunderstanding. Another important issue is accommodation. The company must be sure concerning the employee's understanding of remuneration and taxation. The next step is the support of employees. It is very important to give whole-hearted support to the employee. Unfortunately, many companies forget about this considerable factor. The next tip concerns the possible failure of an expatriate assignment. It is not difficult to predict that fail of expatriate assignment is the wrong candidate for this position. The unsuitable employee can be the main reason why the expatriate assignment has been failed. The reason is the bad work of interviewers. The lack of questions to candidates can cause many problems in the future.
No doubt, bad organization of expatriate assignments plays the decisive role but many other factors can influence it, such as stress, for example. Stress can be caused by many factors. In a foreign country, even such a simple activity as shopping can cause many troubles that influence the mental and physical state of an employee. For example, in Oriental countries, such as Japan, supermarkets are different than those in the USA. Their shops are much smaller, sometimes parking does not exist at all. That is why the employee must carefully plan his or her weekend shopping and prepare his or her hands for the hard job of carrying the groceries.
Well-organized companies make some preparation before sending their expatriates overseas. It is a responsible step not only for a company but for the employee and his or her family, too. In the 1950s many wives of expatriates, who were sent to Japan, had a lot of stress because of cultural differences. Some of them even had a nervous breakdown. Today the situation is different but many issues must be marked to avoid problems. The company must prepare an employee and his or her family for changes that they will face in a foreign country. In some cases, the expatriate should pay more attention to improving his or her knowledge in technical issues rather than in language skills. It can be useful if his or her job focuses more on technical working than on communicating with customers. However, the learning of a foreign language can bring its benefits. Those expatriates who can speak foreign languages fluently can do their routine job with more success. They make fewer errors and have fewer misunderstandings with foreign cultures. There is another important reason for studying foreign languages, even if the language does not play an important role in job success. The scientists have proved that the knowledge of foreign languages makes easier not only communication between the expatriate and customers but it also helps the expatriate to understand the foreign culture better. There is no easier way to understand a foreign culture than do it through learning the language of this country.
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Cultural training is very important for expatriates. When an employee hears about his or her job in foreign countries he or she tries to gather as much information about this country as possible. The employee starts to visit special language courses; he or she finds some information about the country on the Internet. He or she speaks with his or her friends, reads books and sometimes even tries to find a native-speaker, who can tell about traditions of his or her culture and help to understand it better. However, there are very few companies that make some cultural training for their expatriates. It is a very rare event, even among big companies.
The expatriate assignment is a very answerable issue. Success can be reached only if a company pays enough attention to the preparation of expatriates. Nevertheless, the employee's interest in improving and enlargement of his or her knowledge and skills also plays a very important role. Only a balanced mixture of these factors can help to achieve the necessary results in a company.