The cost of the Expat employee

The cost of the expat worker is now not just about the expected salary costs but the additional costs to ensure the worker and his family are able to adjust to the new culture so as not to make an expensive mistake. The recession has ensured that companies have tightened their belts and now have to consider seriously whether to employ a local worker with possibly less experience or relocate an existing employee to become an expat.

It is estimated that the cost of an expat worker is between three to four times that of an equivalent local worker after taking into account financial incentives offered to employees to relocate, the costs associated with physical location, cost of living allowances and any local tax differentials that the employer is required to meet.

There are usually compelling reasons why a company will relocate an employee, but many expat workers find relocation hard. There are certain personality types that are more unlikely to adjust to the change in culture and the move outside of their comfort zones. It is therefore necessary for companies to make sure it works. Most expat workers are able to adjust to their new working arrangements as often the task is the same just a different location and indeed many may have already spent time in the country visiting or conducting business.

However when the expat brings his or her family there are additional people to consider and a recent survey by Brookfield Global Relocation Survey cites 65% of relocation failure down to spouse/partner dissatisfaction. A lot of companies in the past have failed to recognise the impact upon a spouse or partner also relocating and that the impact of an unhappy spouse, partner or child on the employee’s ability to contribute to their workload effectively.

Companies are now wise to this fact  and offer even more help with a growing number of companies offering cultural awareness training ahead of a planned move abroad. They then follow this up with a range of assimilation activities when an employee arrives in the new location.  Spouses and partners are now having such training and activities extended to them, in some cases even to the children.

Modern technology and availability of transportation have made life abroad much easier for many expats as they are able to maintain more consistency of contact with their former lives, family and friends they have left behind.

The advice to all new expats is to be patient and not panic. Finding a work life balance is the key which will mean experiencing and finding new activities to enjoy as well as having an open mind. Experts suggest that it can take up to a year to truly settle in a different location.

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