International Consultants Centre addresses the challenge of relocating during periods of unrest
By Julie Granek BA, BSW (Hons), MMgt (HR) Melb
Specialist Member, The Employee Mobility Institute
Member, Australian Human Resource Institute (MAHRI)
Cultural Training Consultant, International Consultants Centre
The growing risk of terror-related issues can naturally be a source of stress for international assignees and has been found to impact on workplace attitudes, performance and assignment duration (Reiche 2014b). It can also render the recruitment of future expatriate employees much more difficult (Scullion, Collings and Gunnigle 2007). Yet multinationals must still continue to encourage staff to work abroad so as to develop – and train others with – the necessary skill set
required to compete in the international market.
- Maintaining low levels of accrued stress by lowering the influence of (other) existing stressors of the assignment. This may already begin during the candidate selection phase by screening for suitability factors including previous experience in high-risk countries (Bader and Berg 2015).
- A range of protective solutions at pre-departure and post-arrival points could be offered to minimise accrued stress levels. Examples offered by International Consultants Centre include: orientation programs and cultural briefings as well as teaching skills in coping, crises management and self-care through the Assignment Support Services for Internationally Successful Transfers (ASSIST) program, which is facilitated by in-house trainers who hold qualifications in counselling and Social Work.
- Organisations should aim to optimise psychological health and wellbeing of assignees through personalised anti-stress initiatives. These may include provision of leave, psychological assistance such as Employee Assistance Programs or promoting recreational activities that promote stress recovery.
- There is some evidence to suggest that assignees are seeking greater support and access to information from their home offices as they undertake work aboard (Scullion, Collings, and Gunnigle 2007). Various forms of social media including company chatrooms and messaging applications are becoming increasingly popular methods for keeping in touch. Mentoring programs and social gatherings with other expatriates can also provide a forum to exchange information and reduce social isolation.
- In line with a global duty of care, emergency management guidelines should be updated and embedded into organisational policy (Bourke and Cooper 2008). The necessary resources to deal with various types of emergencies and information on who to contact in the event of an unplanned disaster must be clearly communicated. With increased global instability, this is applicable to assignees in all locations and not just those that have traditionally been earmarked as a “hardship” destination.
- Increased fluidity in defining a “hardship” destination. Reiche (2014a) argues that consideration must be given to factors that are not only influenced by variability to the expatriate’s home. These include risk of natural hazards and physical threat as well. The manner in which the safety and wellbeing of international assignees is managed by organisations will largely influence the take up of overseas assignments, the interest of future candidates and ultimately an organisation’s global business and human capital strategies. Therefore, it is imperative that relocations occurring during periods of unrest be adequately supported to sustain a competitive advantage in industry.