71% of expats in India report high confidence in the Indian economy -more than anywhere else in South and Central Asia. 63% of expats recommend India for the career advancements. HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey of 2017 has plenty of interesting numbers but if we were to summarize the results in 8 words it would be “More expats love India than ever before.” This is, of course, a very good thing -top international talent coming to India in greater numbers is good for business, good for the economy, and good for the expats too. The only people who are not completely thrilled with the whole deal may well be the HR folks in the organizations that employ these expats. Not that they don’t care for business growth -just that some peculiar challenges arise when it comes to expat relocation.
Hiring and relocating expats is no mean task. There are many things to nail down before, during, and after such a move gets made. So much rides on a successful transition and there is so much more that can go wrong. Some of the major issues faced both by HR folks and the expats, concern family relocation, cultural acceptance, acclimatization to a new work culture, housing, government regulations etc. Lexagent has helped many expats relocate to India and it’s fair to say that, at this point, we have, more or less, heard it all when it comes to areas of concern. Based on that experience, here’s an “HR worry list” with the Top 6 HR concerns for expat relocation and how to address them:
- Government regulations
The most important task (and the biggest worry) for any organization is to be completely aware of the laws of the land before carrying out the expat hiring and relocation process. The HR groups responsible for making the move happen should prepare an extensive checklist covering every possible legal process to be fulfilled before hiring the expats. It includes work permits, visas, registration requirements, financial documentation, and other important documentation required for relocating to India. This will ensure that the expat employee faces no regulatory hurdles on landing here.
- Fitment into Indian work culture
Every country has a distinct professional and work culture. Even in India, the work culture differs across major centers like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru etc. It is a valid concern if expat employees will be able to fit in or perform in an alien environment. Things that they take for granted in their home environment may be unavailable here and that should not throw them off their stride. It is imperative for the HR groups to introduce the incoming expats to the prevalent work culture early in the move. This helps in faster acclimatization to the work environment and avoiding any work culture shocks.
- Home and Family Settlement
The biggest concern of the incoming expat, and hence of the HR group that would be caring for them, is the happiness and well-being of the expat family. This covers a gamut of areas – home, schooling, house help and staff, transport, social life, entertainment, and even community. All these are important areas. Discomfort or poor options in any one of these will distract the expat employee and ultimately frustrate and demotivate them. The HR group will have to take the onus of providing the expat with all the right information they need to make the right choices that will make their Indian life a happy experience.
- Salary and Payment Schedule
Many reports now show that some Indian centers (like Mumbai) may be among the highest paying locations worldwide for expats. Clearly, money is a huge factor -and a huge worry for HR too. An extremely important aspect of consideration for expats while moving overseas is the salary and the terms of the salary. The terms of employment should be clearly stated. The salary should be transparently clear. The inclusions, and most importantly, the exclusions should be listed. The applicable tax laws should be identified, and all agreements should be in writing. This helps prevent any misunderstanding or debate later.
- Cultural Assimilation
Starting a new life in a foreign land has its own challenges. We have written in the past how HR should help the expats settle into their new culture. Without this, the newly arrived expat could become lost, confused, and alienated. This support may include identifying Expat clubs and communities in the city. The case point is Pune Expat Club.These groups let expats socialize with other expat families to build a fulfilling social circle. This may involve introducing them to the local festivals like Holi and Diwali. This inculcates a sense of belonging and oneness amongst the expats and their families. The sooner the expat feels at home, the better it will be for HR.
- Long-term v/s short-term
The tenure of the expat decides what kind of assistance the expats might need. The worries for HR are different in each case. If it is a short-term relocation then the chances are high that the expat might not be willing to get his family along. The focus is more on the expat himself and getting him (or her) up to speed on the job, settled into the new role, and providing them the specific support they need to hit the ground running. The worry here is often how to keep the expat employee motivated and engaged with the temporary assignment. If it is a long-term proposition then the family relocation becomes a major priority.
The expat’s performance depends upon how happy and welcoming they feel in your organization and country. The onus is on the HR group to make the expat employee feel welcome, settled in, and ready to take on the work challenges. As we have seen, that task is not a trivial one -but it’s something that organizations everywhere are taking on more than ever before. And, in many cases, they are doing so with help from Lexagent!