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10 Questions You Should Ask Before Relocating an Employee to India

August 19, 2015 11:25:00 AM EDT | By: Michelle Dopps

Have you ever tried to understand what makes one international assignment to India successful while so many others fail? If so, you'll know that it's difficult because every person’s motivations and skills are different. How could you predict who will fail and who will flourish?

So what do you do?

Many companies have found success by implementing a candidate assessment program and communicating the cultural hurdles of this vibrant land to their potentially relocating employees.

Relocating employees to India

This post will tell you what you need to know to make sure you select the right candidate and what barriers the assignee will have to overcome to ensure you reduce assignment failure to India for good.

India has been reported as the second most challenging location for expats. Knowing this, companies must act quickly to prevent further failures. The first step toward success is selecting the right candidate. Who can you send into this generous, intelligent, humid, polluted, exotic, impoverished yet developing peninsula that will survive and thrive? Who would say yes to an offer letter that includes a Hazard allowance?

Questions to consider when narrowing down your talent pool:

1. Who has been successful on assignment in the past?

2. Who has expressed interest in foreign cultures?

3. Who is empathetic to others and slow to frustrate?

4. Who has emotional intelligence and is open minded?

5. Who would be most mobile?

6. Is your company prepared to lose this select individual for a period of time?

7. Was this person a slingshot leader that prepared someone else to take his or her place in their absence?

8. Are families or trailing spouses going to present a concern?

9. Is the family willing to be flexible and adjust to a living style that may not be the same as they are accustomed to?

10. Is there sufficient support for families abroad; for example, tier 1 city expat infrastructure, excellent international schooling options, social groups and associations for westerners?

Once your global mobility and human resources recruitment department have obtained their top two candidates, you should ask your relocation management company to test, interview and simulate real world situations often encountered in India with the assignee and family. These evaluations dive deep into the personality and incentives of the candidates to accurately assess their abilities to adapt to a new work and cultural environment.  

Cultural obstacles to prepare for:

The above questions could help to seek an assignee for any international assignment, but what about someone who can handle India specifically?

Make sure that your potential transferee is prepared for these cultural differences:

  • The head gesture movement in a figure 8
  • Patient repetitive mentoring
  • Greeting people by their initials
  • Waving hello meaning “no” or “go away”
  • Waving goodbye being an impolite way to express “come here”
  • Minimal traffic signals with cows having the right of way
  • Intoxicating gastronomic aromas

If they are not, some confusion and miscommunication may occur. Imagine simple gestures we use every day being interpreted the opposite of what we intend?

India is a country of paradoxes and contradictions, with high rise buildings intermingled with slums, intense heat in competition with freezing A/C or whole families riding on a single-person motorcycle. Everyone is your "cousin" or "auntie." In a nation of excess poverty, students are educated in the U.K. system, and intelligence thrives.

Who can you send that would be willing do all of the following:

  • Answer personal questions upon first meeting
  • Discuss family before business
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Respect elders
  • Accept late appointments
  • Never turn down a gift or picture taken of them

You need someone who is as enthusiastic, dynamic and open as those in the country they’ll be immersed in.

Many of these things cannot be taught or instilled in an adult, but cross-cultural competencies can be ingrained in someone’s personality given their past experiences. Although it all sounds daunting, imagine bringing back to the U.S. someone who has adapted the Indian mentality of positivity during hopeless situations? What an enriching quality!

Topics: employee relocation, BRIC, candidate assessment, India

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