Business is going global rapidly. Companies are leaving no stone unturned to be the best in their industry. And, to be the best, companies need to employ the best talent, local as well as international. Sure enough, international talent has become an important part of the strategy of the modern business enterprise.
International talent, is by definition, likely to be more senior, potentially more valuable, and almost certainly more expensive for the company. It follows that these valued international employees need to settle well into their new surroundings for them to feel happy and to perform their duties up to their maximum potential. This is where cultural assimilation can play a vital role in helping these expats adapt to their new circumstances and role.
Living and working in a new country and surroundings presents employees with significant challenges even outside their new workplace. It is important for the international employees to understand the foreign culture and ways of the host country. The better they assimilate the foreign culture the sooner they will ease into their new life. Initially, many expats go through the so-called ‘Honeymoon’ phase where they are excited about coming to a new country and experiencing the new culture. Others go through a “Culture Shock” phase where the sheer newness of everything threatens to overwhelm them. The crucial part comes after this initial phase, where many of the expats start feeling homesick and missing their earlier lives. This period is the make or break period, as it determines whether or not the international employee be wanting to give up and move back to the home country or stick through.
The company and its Human Resource management group must take necessary steps to support the expat employees during this phase. There are various things that can be done to support expats with culture assimilation:
- Initial training:
Companies should sensitise their expat employees with training as they get started with their new job. They should be given an introduction to the new culture that they are going to be a part of. Communication is key here. Clear, detailed, and strictly relevant, information will allow the expat to understand the scenario in the host country and will allow him/her to prepare mentally accordingly. Climate, language, traditions, lifestyle, and security are some of the important factors that affect expats while settling in. The company should make sure that relevant information is communicated to the freshly-minted expat.
It is also very important for an expat to understand the prevailing social norms regarding public behaviour, etiquette, and even acceptable dress-codes. Understanding and following such traditions and values are important on the road to adjusting to the new culture. The expats should share that information with their family members, with whom they have moved to this new country.
Whether it be Diwali and Holi in India, Christmas in most countries, or St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, festivals have always formed an integral part of any nation’s culture. This offers an opportunity for HR Depts to take the initiative and help their expats understand and participate in the host country’s festivals to blend in with the culture. Fun group activities aligned with the theme of the concerned festival where the expats can dip into the festivities along with their local colleagues will help them feel a part of the celebrations.
- Expat clubs and communities:
Even if it is outside the workplace, it is very important that expats meet other expats so that they can share their experiences and support each other through the cultural assimilation phase in the new country. Companies can seek out appropriate forums like the Pune Expat Club. They could introduce their international employees to these communities in and around the city. These are the platforms where not only the expats, but also their families can get together with other expat families and build a fulfilling social life.
- Company outings:
Employees look forward to a break from the routine, so that they can sit back, relax and rejuvenate, even as they get work done. Company outings can be used as a platform to help expats and their families understand the lifestyle of the people in the host country. Company could plan off-sites and occasions in such a way that their international employees along with their respective families bond with the other local employees. The more the time the expats spend with the locals and their families, the better they’ll understand the lifestyle that the locals lead and the easier it will be for them to blend in.
- Expat’s family:
It is often true that more than the expat, their family suffers the most due to culture differences. The expat has the preoccupation of work but the other members of the family especially children have to start their life from scratch. The company should make an effort to ensure that the needs of these children are taken care off. This includes providing advice and help in finding and securing admission for them in an appropriate educational. This is the most critical element in ensuring the children settle comfortably into their new surroundings. The right choice of educational institution will go a long way in organizing not only the schooling, but also the hobbies and playtime of these young expats.
Thus, in conclusion, cultural assimilation plays a vital part in the happiness and performance of an expat. It’s fair to say that the performance of your international employee directly depends on how well they settle into their new surroundings. That being so, the company must take active steps to help these international employees understand and blend in with the new culture. You must support the international employees during the adjustment period and welcome them with utmost warmth -they could well be your most valuable employees after all.