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Planning overseas assignments.


The globalisation of business means that an increasing number of managers are being sent on assignments overseas. Selecting, appointing, and supporting managers for such assignments can be a challenging task. Failure rates, or non-completion of assignments, have been put as high as 40%. In addition to this, the cost to the employing organisation may be considerable, as may the professional and personal price paid by the individual. Both for the organisation and the individual, there is a need to reduce uncertainty and ineffectiveness as far as possible, and to create a sense of direction, purpose and control.

This checklist provides planning guidance for organisations sending, and to individuals being posted, on overseas assignments. A separate Checklist covers organising short-term business travel (see Related Checklists)

The careful planning of assignments will:

* minimise the potential for failure for reasons of cultural adaptation

* reduce the risk and cost of premature repatriation Repatriation

The process of converting a foreign currency into the currency of one's own country.

If you are American, converting British Pounds back to U.S. dollars is an example of repatriation.

National Occupational Standards for Management and Leadership

This checklist has relevance to the following standards:

D: Working with people, units 2 and 3


For the purposes of this checklist, working overseas means outside the United Kingdom. An assignment means a posting overseas for a defined period (of over six months) with the current employer.

Action checklist

1. Define the personal characteristics and requisites for the job

As with the recruitment and selection process for any job, it is important to have a clear view of the skills, experience and personal qualities that are needed for the post. The selection process should not just focus on technical competence technical competence,
n the ability of the practitioner, during the treatment phase of dental care and with respect to those procedures combining psychomotor and cognitive skills, consistently to provide services at a professionally acceptable level.
, but also assess personal characteristics such as flexibility, emotional stability, and learning and relational skills. In the case of an appointment for an overseas posting, additional factors need to be taken into account. These are:

* knowledge of languages

A good working knowledge of the main language of the host country, particularly if English is not widely spoken there.

* international experience

Previous experience can help mental preparation and reduce culture shock. Preliminary visits and existing organisational networks can assist the process of familiarisation Noun 1. familiarisation - the experience of becoming familiar with something

experience - the accumulation of knowledge or skill that results from direct participation in events or activities; "a man of experience"; "experience is the best

* job experience, seniority and qualifications

In some countries, qualifications are very important--as a recognition and acknowledgement of expertise.

* flexibility, willingness to learn and lack of prejudice

There is a need to be aware of and avoid stereotypical British superiority, insularity in·su·lar  
a. Of, relating to, or constituting an island.

b. Living or located on an island.

 and aloofness Aloofness

refuses to associate with others or even to mingle with other employees. [Am. Lit.: Melville Bartleby the Scrivener]

Chapin, Joseph
 and to be able to cope with unfamiliar people in unfamiliar surroundings.

* motivational factors

--the need to gain foreign experience for career advancement

--interest in other cultures and customs

--interest in communication and language learning.

* competence, effectiveness and capabilities

--stable, self-reliant and able to cope with crises

--willing to adjust to a new way of life

--relates well to people

--communicates effectively in the destination culture

--has the required technical knowledge and competence.

Producing a person specification based on the criteria that are essential for the post can be helpful. During the interview questions can be developed from this document and it can be used as a framework for assessing candidates.

Be aware that widely differing conditions between the home and host country, beyond the control of the company or individual, can impact on the effectiveness of any appointment. These include factors such as the degree of economic and industrial development of the host country, political stability, physical infrastructure, including transport, telecommunications Communicating information, including data, text, pictures, voice and video over long distance. See communications. , health facilities, social and cultural differences and extremes of climate. These should be taken into account.

2. Be aware of rights

Be aware of the rights of individuals and of the employing organisation in the country of destination, especially any existing or pending legislation. For example, the Posted Workers Directive, adopted by the European Commission European Commission, branch of the governing body of the European Union (EU) invested with executive and some legislative powers. Located in Brussels, Belgium, it was founded in 1967 when the three treaty organizations comprising what was then the European Community  in September 1996, guarantees employees sent to work temporarily in another EU state the same pay and working conditions as those recruited locally.

3. Plan ahead

Consider local language requirements and cultural issues, and allow time to prepare mentally and domestically for the transition. Preliminary visits for the employee and family (with the organisation's full support) are invaluable for gaining an initial perspective, making early introductions and learning about local facilities, or the lack of them.

As the transition is the joint responsibility of both employee and employer, it is vital that both:

* understand the task to be accomplished

* recognise the need for adaptability a·dapt·a·ble  
Capable of adapting or of being adapted.

, maturity and technical competence

* understand the need for organisational and family support.

4. Devise A testamentary disposition of land or realty; a gift of real property by the last will and testament of the donor. When used as a noun, it means a testamentary disposition of real or Personal Property,  an appropriate training programme

Job-related opportunities such as exchanges or secondments, have a role in preparing an employee for international assignments, but there can be no substitute for a practical, tailor-made and flexible programme. This should cover:

* language training

Self-learning tapes and intensive crash courses (e.g. Berlitz) have good track records if the learner is willing and committed.

* general, national and business orientation

Awareness of:

--the global economic order and terms of trade Terms of trade

The weighted average of a nation's export prices relative to its import prices.

--trends in technology and communications, demography demography (dĭmŏg`rəfē), science of human population. Demography represents a fundamental approach to the understanding of human society. , religion and the environment

--the historical, social and political background of the host country

--the attitude to foreign business within the host country

--the efficiency of transport and communications

--facilities for health-care, housing, education and leisure

--social and cultural expectations and norms

--a grasp of international business strategies.

* family consultation

A stable family life is usually seen as an asset. Where the assignment is for two years or more, the family usually expects to move with the appointee APPOINTEE. A person who is appointed or selected for a particular purpose; as the appointee under a power, is the person who is to receive the benefit of the trust or power. . Consider the whole range of domestic arrangements (which on home ground would usually remain the private preserve of the individual). Consider too, what the spouse will do with him/herself in a situation where the employee is, in effect, cushioned by the very fact of employment.

* career development preparation

View this experience as a stage of development and not the end of the road. Both employee and employer should give thought to how this experience will be of mutual benefit and what will follow.

* pay and benefits

Information should be provided on issues such as the total benefits package during the overseas appointment, tax implications both at home and abroad, UK national insurance contributions, medical insurance, effects on any UK pensions arrangements (particularly important), hardship and other allowances, for example, for inhospitable in·hos·pi·ta·ble  
1. Displaying no hospitality; unfriendly.

2. Unfavorable to life or growth; hostile: the barren, inhospitable desert.
 climates, accommodation costs, private transport facilities if necessary, leave and travel allowances for home visits, and security of job tenure on final return.

5. Support the manager overseas

An on-site line manager, subordinate, superior or peer who acts as a troubleshooter, mentor Mentor, in Greek mythology
Mentor (mĕn`tər, –tôr'), in Greek mythology, friend of Odysseus and tutor of Telemachus.
 and guide in the early stages can be a boon Boon

A general term that refers to a benefit or improvement for investors. This can include such things as increased dividends, a stock market rally and stock buybacks.

 during what could be an otherwise traumatic, worrying or frustrating frus·trate  
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart:

6. Prepare for repatriation

This is as important for the career path of the employee as for the avoidance of 're-entry shock' for the family. Re-integration, or the coming home phase, may also require some training and re-familiarisation from the company, as well as personal effort.

How not to plan an overseas assignment

Managers should be aware that:

* the cost of preparations can be expensive and time-consuming, but not as expensive as a badly planned assignment

* rapid detours or u-turns due to unforeseeable Un`fore`see´a`ble

a. 1. Incapable of being foreseen.

Adj. 1. unforeseeable - incapable of being anticipated; "unforeseeable consequences"
unpredictable - not capable of being foretold

 political, economic or environmental changes of circumstances CIRCUMSTANCES, evidence. The particulars which accompany a fact.
     2. The facts proved are either possible or impossible, ordinary and probable, or extraordinary and improbable, recent or ancient; they may have happened near us, or afar off; they are public or
 can throw preparations out of the window.

Problems in planning overseas assignments often result from the failure to:

* research the political, economic, social, cultural and market fronts

* research the facilities and support-lines in the foreign country

* ensure that a proper training and familiarisation programme is in place

* give due consideration to what follows the foreign posting for the employee.

Additional resources


Lloyds TSB Lloyds TSB Group plc (LSE: LLOY) is a banking and insurance group in the United Kingdom. It was formed in 1995 by the merger of Lloyds Bank and the Trustee Savings Bank (TSB). The Group's head office is at 25 Gresham Street, London.  offshore working abroad: the complete guide to overseas employment 26th ed. Jonathan Reuvid ed

London: Kogan Page, 2005

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at:

Journal articles

Expatriate Expatriate

An employee who is a U.S. citizen living and working in a foreign country.
 selection good management or good luck, Barbara A Anderson

International Journal of Human Resource Management, Apr vol 16 no 4, 2005, pp567-583

Safety first, Ross Bentley Ross Bentley (born on November 4, 1956 in Vancouver, BC) is a former CART racecar driver.

He made a total of 25 starts from 1990 to 1994. His best finish was 11th place in 1992 at Surfer's Paradise.

Personnel Today, 12 Jul, 2005, pp15-16

Working away, Sue Mann

Professional Manager May vol 12 no 3, 2003, pp29-32

This is a selection of journal articles available from the Management Information Centre. More information at:

Related checklists

Organising successful overseas travel (025)

Preparing for business abroad (124)

Internet resources

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Details of travel advice, health issues and general personal safety while working abroad. There are also downloads of documents detailing the support offered by the FCO for British nationals abroad.


Centre for International Briefing, Farnham Castle Farnham Castle is a castle in Farnham, Surrey, England (grid reference SU839474).

First built in 1138 by Henri de Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror, Bishop of Winchester, the castle was to become the home of the Bishops of Winchester for over 800 years.
, Farnham, Surrey Surrey, county (1991 pop. 997,000), 653 sq mi (1,691 sq km), SE England. The county seat is Guildford. The North Downs cross the county from east to west. To the north the land slopes gently downward to the Thames, into which flow the Wey and the Mole, Surrey's , GU9 0AG

Tel: 01252 721194

Employment Conditions Abroad, Anchor House, 15-19 Britten Street, London


Tel: 020 7351 5000

The Association of Language Excellence Centres, IALC IALC International Association of Language Centres
IALC International Arid Lands Consortium
IALC International Association of Lions Clubs
IALC Instrument Approach and Landing Chart
IALC Interpersonal Action-Learning Cycle
 Secretariat Secretariat, 1970–89, thoroughbred race horse. Trained by Lucien Laurin and ridden by Ron Turcotte, Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes to capture the Triple Crown in 1973.

(foaled 1970) U.S.
, Lombard

House Business Centre 12/17 Upper Bridge Street Canterbury, Kent CT1 2NF

Tel: 01227 69007
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Title Annotation:Checklist 006
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: People Management
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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