Why is a greater degree of involvement in employees’ personal lives inevitable in many international HRM activities? Explain using relevant illustrations. When an international assignment is not completed, necessitating a replacement of the expatriate, the cost of the failure to the organization are both direct and indirect. The direct costs include salary, training costs, travel and relocation expenses. The indirect costs could be loss of market share, poor relationship with the hosts.
This is quite costly for an organization and therefore careful selection would be determined by the expatriate success rate in completing their assignments. Expatriate failure is primarily caused by error in selection. Historically, the selection of expatriates has been based on interpersonal factors of expatriates. For instance, Clarke and Hammer, (1995), found that interpersonal skills assist in the cultural adjustment of the expatriate and his or her family In the domestic setting the Human Resource department’s involvement with the employee’s family is limited.
Most expatriate selection decisions are made informally because expatriate jobs require much more than the right skills. When an organization sends its employees to some other country, it takes over the responsibilities besides the basic functions of human resource management. They do not deal merely with the selection of the best employees for work in foreign countries but also have to be aware of the needs of the family that will accompany the employee to the new cultural environment.
A lot of people taking on international assignments are unsuccessful since their spouses or families cannot adjust to their new surroundings. Hence it is necessary to organize training in the foreign language for the employee and his/her family. Also important is to organize everything necessary for the journey including visas. It is also important to prepare the residence in the new surrounding as well as to assure health services and enrolment into schools for the children of the employees.
It is also important to find out if the spouse is working and whether they will be able to get a working permit in the new environment Particularly, as more and more spouses are working and children may not wish to leave their friends and other family behind, Aanne Harzing explains there are some companies that include spouses in the selection process, although this may be seen as a barrier to personal freedoms, to have the company so involved in the personal affairs of a given family. It may prove that preparing the family as well as the expartriate employee will reduce expatriate failure.
Expatriate failure is the early recall of an expartriate from an assignment. In selection therefore, firstly is to ensure technical ability which is, does the candidate possess the required skills and managerial capabilities required to fill this position. For example, Hixon found that the expatriate selection was based on technical ability and willingness to reside abroad. Another factor is cross cultural suitability, will the candidate be able to function in the new environment, how adaptable is a person, does he have the requisite language ability, a positive attitude and emotional stability.
There also may be family considerations, such as does the spouse and children see this assignment as positive experience. Another family experience is whether or not the spouse is working; the chances are quite high that the spouse will not be able to obtain a work permit in the assigned country. Owing to the above observations, the human resource department needs to ensure that the selection process is faultless by not concentrating only on the skills competencies but in the understanding that most failures on the expatriate assignments are actually related to the employees inability to adjust in the new environment and family factors.
So when selecting, over and above the skills competencies requirement, it will be necessary to get involved in the personal life of the potential expatriate. This involvement will help the human resource department to access information including emotional stability, willingness to relocate, stability of the expatriates marriage, whether the spouse is willing to relocate, whether the spouse is working or studying and whether the children see relocation as good experience. If the children are school going..
The above information will be useful in planning the relocation process of the expatriate which will involve organizing appropriate travelling arrangement and getting adequate residence for post departure training and counseling when and if needed. It will also be important to get personal information on the spouse, on whether she’s working and if she would be willing to relocate even when at times it is not easy to get a working permit in the new country. Also whether the spouse may want to enroll for further studies.
In the event of the spouse wishing to work then it will be the responsibility of the human resource department to get them a working permit and or enroll them in college. If the spouse has children, this information is important to the human resource department as they will need to enroll the children to schools albeit carefully since some learning institutions accreditation may not be recognized in the home country. If this is not carefully addressed it can have devastating effect on repatriation since the children will have to repeat classes and therefore loosing valuable time.
This personal involvement goes as far as need to know the size of the employees family. This will assist in getting the right size of residence for the family. Again the human resource department will need to organize for health care and all aspects and all aspects of the organization package provided for the assignment. Expatriates and their families need time to become familiar with the new environment and to become comfortable living there. When they arrive, the newness of the experience is exciting.
A few months later, when they have had more experience with the culture, expatriates might begin to feel frustrated and confudsed as they try to make sense of their new living situation. This feeling is’ culture shock’. At this point counseling services are necessary and the same should be availed by the human resource department. As expatriates get comfortable and understand more about the culture, usually six months after arrival, the culture shock will wear off, and they will experience a more normal feeling (Adler, 1997).