A decade ago it seemed to be more common for employees to be on developmental assignments for longer periods of time. These days the duration of assignments seems to have become shorter. The required steps are not much different though.
It is vital for the organization to have a clear process around the mobilization, preparation, sustaining, return, development of assignees and there are multiple organizations (internally and possibly externally if outsourced) which need to contribute to the process in order to make the assignment a successful one for the company and the employee
Some of the biggest unintended outcomes of assignments are:
- The employee (and/or family) did not fully understand what they were getting into and found it too overwhelming at the assignment location – wished to return earlier or resigned.
- Employee did not understand how the assignment was adding to his or her skill sets or competencies and he or she ended up frustrated and demotivated.
- Employee on assignment no longer felt connected to the home office and were anxious about what happens after the assignment – wished to return earlier or resigned.
- Employees (and families) experienced a high level of anxiety associated with the assignments due to inadequate preparation and support before, during and after return to home location.
The process flow shared here shows a simplified version of how a developmental assignment should be planned and executed before mobilization, during and after an assignment has ended. It takes into account the logistics part, which may be an internal organization (Center of Excellence) or an outsourced party, the role of the manager, the role of the employee and how the Business Partner can contribute to ensure the entire process yields the desired outcomes. There are also some suggestions for surveys to capture any feedback to identify useful improvements to the process.
Some additional tips:
- Make sure that managers are clear on the process, the various steps and the specific roles and responsibilities. Most employees will ask their managers for advice and information first. The role of the manager is very important to ensure future retention of the employee by staying in touch and ensuring the employee continues to feel valued by the organization during and after the assignment.
- Create or outsource a solid assignment preparation program for employees (and families as applicable). This includes cultural awareness training, language training (if applicable) and developing the right mindset and approach to living in a new country for a period of time.
- Apply attention and diligence when outsourcing logistics and defining the SLAs associated with mobilization. Lost goods, delays in finding accommodation, faulty or missing paperwork can cause a lot of unnecessary distraction and anxiety on the part of an employee on assignment. Conduct regular audits and have discussions with an outsourcing partner/COE using the surveys as a basis to provide input aimed at improving the experience of assignees.
- Ensure either the Business Partner or the Manager has discussions with the employees to be sent on the assignment to ensure they understand how to leverage the opportunity to improve on their own skill sets/competencies and how they should contribute to the learning of those at the assignment location and again to the learning of those at the home office upon their return.
Preparation and Training
Training and support in these areas (see below) will help each assignee and his/her family – should they accompany the assignee – the best opportunity to understand the assignment requirements and the local culture better. And having an improved awareness will enable the assignee (and family) to have a solid plan of how they would set-up their start-up activities at the new location for a successful assignment experience and conclusion.
Being sent on an assignment is both an opportunity and a responsibility for the assignee. It can bring out the best and worst in a person as he/she (and the family) face huge life changes compared to life at the home office. The experience can lead to increased maturity, improved leadership skills and understanding and increased knowledge and skills if managed properly. As the manager, business partner or any other stakeholder in the process, it is important you ensure there is a clear process mapped out which details the various steps by process contributor and that each stakeholder is acutely aware of the bigger picture while performing own parts.