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You May be Ready, but How About Your Company?

You May be Ready, but How About your company?

In a previous article, we offered several keys to increase the likelihood of success on overseas assignments, some tips to make yourself “ready” for the challenges working in a foreign environment bring.  Today, in answer to a question from one of our readers, I’d like to address the other side of the equation, namely, “What can your company do in order to welcome the overseas assignee?” 

For while some companies provide assessments and training for those employees (and occasionally, for family members) embarking on overseas assignments, few spend much time at all preparing anyone on the receiving side, other than perhaps the immediate supervisor-to-be.  And that ‘s a shame, because 50% of the responsibility for success lies with the readiness of the organization.  Are you really ready to receive?

Accepting short- or long-term overseas “transplants” can be a lot like hosting an exchange student.  Every good exchange program educates both the student and host family on cultural issues. How does your organization prepare your “Welcome team”?

Fundamentals & Fundamental Differences

At a minimum, you need the basic onboarding/orientation elements in place, just as you provide any new employee: shared mission, vision and values; mutual expectations; explanations in person on “how things are done here” (corporate culture); FAQs.  (If you don’t have these in place yet, what are you waiting for?)  But with a “foreigner” coming in, you will want to modify your approach, in at least the following ways:

1)   Exchange.  Especially if the overseas assignee has enjoyed years of experience with the firm, be sure the “orientation” is a two-way street.  Offer plenty of opportunities for the newcomer to share his or her views of the corporate culture as they have seen it played out so far in their career.  Note differences and similarities.  How are things done in their country? Overseas assignments are a fantastic way to build up and reinforce company-wide beliefs and practices.

2)   Timing.  Get that onboarding session (or sessions) started on the assignee’s first day. Don’t wait a quarter or even a month. You (and they) only get one chance to make a first impression.  What’s their impression of your satellite (or headquarter) office?  How can you give them a chance to make their best impression right away?

3)   Review.  You may have created a simple ½ day onboarding orientation for new employees or you may do more. Bu the onboarding process takes more than a day.  For someone joining the team from overseas, remember that they will be dealing with all kinds of extracurricular challenges—finding their home, perhaps settling a family, language difficulties, and more. So their personal “band-width” available to take in new information will be less than optimal. Be sure to plan “onboarding review times” and additional opportunities for one-on-one check-ins, with someone other than the assignee’s direct supervisor.


The ideal mentor(s) for the overseas assignee will depend on many different factors.  And for some senior positions, the ideal mentor may be no mentor at all.  But most newcomers will appreciate an extra pair of ears to share challenges with, someone who can help them get acclimated.   People will be coming with their own stories, their own experiences and pre-conceived ideas about what it will be like to work in their new office.  If someone in the organization has spent time in the assignee’s home country or office, he or she is potentially a great mentor.  Just make sure they’re bringing a coaching mentality rather than a professor’s.

Is it Worth the Trouble? 

At first glance, when you add up all the extra work involved in bringing on an overseas assignee, whether for the short or long term, you might question if it’s worth the effort.  But just as individual growth comes from stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone, the whole organization can benefit by gaining flexibility, knowledge, and (potentially) integrity. How many international firms boast of their “global network” without real relationships across their far flung offices?   Even a small enterprise can become more international by providing these kinds of opportunities.  And that in turn improves your ability to serve international clients.

Andrew Silberman | |

Andrew Silberman has been coaching high performance individuals and teams since 1989.  At AMT Group, which he co-founded in To- kyo in 1992, he leads a team of multi-national facilitators and staff whose mission is “Developing Global Thinkers.” His clients are managers and executives from leading firms throughout Asia (as well as occasionally in the U.S. and Europe).

Andrew’s expertise is in improving “Global Readiness®,” the theme of his book Get a G.RI.P.*: Andrew’s Ax Guide to Global Readiness®, published by Media Tectonics in 2012.

To contact Andrew and learn more about how you can better prepare your teams for global assignment, please send an email to:

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 at 10:56 am and is filed under Learning & Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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