Do your plans for international expansion include opening an overseas office? Your chances of success and profits are greater if you develop a comprehensive expatriate program before you transfer employees to a foreign country. Sending someone overseas to live, even temporarily, is far more complex than sending someone on a short-term business trip. Denise Oemig, director of international compensation and assignment services with Runz-heimer International, offers this advice:
Decide in advance whether the position you're creating will always be filled by someone from the United States or if the person you're sending overseas will identify, hire and train local personnel to staff the fa-cility.
Get country-specific tax advice before you spend any money. Companies usually pay for things like household goods, overseas schooling for employees' children and the like. "Tax ramifications surround every part of the assignment," Oemig says. She suggests entrepreneurs consult an ac-counting firm that specializes in international tax issues.
Provide cross-cultural training for the employee and his or her family. This lets everyone know what to expect in the foreign country and should include an advance trip to the location before the actual move. Language training for the family-both in advance and after they arrive in the new country-should be part of the package.
Arrange for destination services, which include having someone meet the employee and his or her family on their arrival, helping them get settled and acclimated, and identifying some local resources for them.
Before the employee and his or her family leave, be sure to work out all the logistics, such as visas, medical exams, inoculations, foreign medical coverage, school for the children, storage of personal property they won't be taking, how they'll deal with their home if they own one, and so on.
Set policies on annual home leave and perhaps paid R&R trips if appropriate. Your expatriate plan should also include a repatriation plan. Oemig says most companies simply guarantee employees their jobs when they return from overseas but don't consider what those jobs might be. "They need to think about how they're going to use the skills the person has gained, how they're going to get a return on the investment. It's very expensive to send somebody to work in another country for a couple of years," Oemig says. "What often happens is the person comes back, [and] they don't have anything meaningful to do, so they leave the company-and the company has just lost that investment."
For information and resources on foreign countries, contact the U.S. State Department and ask for the appropriate country desk, that country's embassy in the United States and the U.S. embassy in the foreign country.
Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 14 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.
- Runzheimer International, (800) 558-1702, www.runzheimer.com