REPATRIATION OF EXPATRIATES
A largely overlooked but critically important issue in the training and development of expatriate managers is to prepare them for reentry into their home-country organization.44 Repatriation should be seen as the final link in an integrated, circular process that connects good selection and cross-cultural training of expatriate managers with completion of their term abroad and reintegration into their national organization. However, instead of having employees come home to share their knowledge and encourage other high-performing managers to take the same international career track, expatriates too often face a different scenario.45
Often when they return home after a stint abroad—where they have typically been autonomous, well-compensated, and celebrated as a big fish in a little pond—they face an organization that doesn’t know what they have done for the past few years, doesn’t know how to use their new knowledge, and doesn’t particularly care. In the worst cases, reentering employees have to scrounge for jobs, or firms will create standby positions that don’t use the expatriate’s skills and capabilities and fail to make the most of the business investment the firm has made in that individual.
Research illustrates the extent of this problem. According to one study of repatriated employees, 60 to 70 percent didn’t know what their position would be when they returned home. Also, 60 percent said their organizations were vague about repatriation, about their new roles, and about their future career progression within the company; 77 percent of those surveyed took jobs at a lower level in their home organization than in their international assignments.46 Not surprisingly, 15 percent of returning expatriates leave their firms within a year of arriving home, and 40 percent leave within three years.47
The key to solving this problem is good human resource planning. Just as the HRM function needs to develop good selection and training programs for its expatriates, it also needs to develop good programs for reintegrating expatriates back into work life within their home-country organization, for preparing them for changes in their physical and professional landscape, and for utilizing the knowledge they acquired while abroad. For an example of the kind of program that might be used, see the accompanying Management Focus that looks at the repatriation program developed by Monsanto.