Repatriated workers find it hard at home

EMPLOYERS need to pay more attention to ensuring staff returning from an overseas posting are welcomed back in to the fold, according to a recent survey.

The survey, by global accounting firm Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, found 40 per cent of all those who had spent time working overseas had left their employer within two years of repatriation.

Employees returning from overseas assignments sometimes experience problems moving back into their old position – problems which can even lead to job loss.

Disenchantment and loss of motivation, poor work performance, loss of image and credibility for the international assignment program, rejection of assignments by other key employees, an inability to effectively achieve business and career development objectives, or an exposure to tax or legal risks are all problems returning employees can experience.

Despite the costs involved – repatriation of an executive (and family) from the UK to Perth could cost  $50,000, for example – many industry figures contacted by WA Business News say that carefully planned repatriation is worth the expense.

By carefully planning repatriation, companies do not risk the loss of a valuable investment, they say.

Retaining the returning employee’s valuable offshore experience is an important consideration. 

Deloitte taxation senior manager Ross Atkins says repatriation has been a major problem and companies are often trying to develop polices or find out why they cannot retain returning staff.

“Companies tend to focus on cost, but there are so many other issues that you need to be aware of,” Mr Atkins said.

“And that’s where repatriation comes in; that can’t be a cost issue.

“If you get the people issues right then the cost issues usually work themselves out.

“Getting it right in the long-term can actually save you from the remuneration packaging side.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers tax director, employment and wealth, Cathy Broadbent, said international assignments had a higher chance of success when the process was planned and managed from start to finish.

Successful repatriation was the final element of a successful assignment and could be achieved through strategic human resource management activities before, during and after the assignment, she said.

But for repatriation to be successful, it should start before the assignment even began, Ms Broadbent said.

Corporate services manager, Michael Dunstan, from relocation specialist Crown Worldwide Pty Ltd, said he had seen similar statistics to support the PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.

However, Mr Dunstan said many employees actually left a lot earlier than within two years of their return if things did not run smoothly.

He said the key to retaining staff was company support.

“If support is given they get treated nicely, and actually have some sort of personal effects with them when they are on assignment their [retention] is more common,” Mr Dunstan said.

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