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7 of the Most Common Questions Asked by Employees Relocating Internationally

September 11, 2015 6:59:43 PM BST | By: Michelle Dopps

Try placing yourself in the shoes of your relocating employees. There are more unknowns than knowns, especially if it’s your employee’s first corporate relocation moving outside of their home country. What kind of questions would you have? What would you want your HR department or relocation team to answer for you?

Answering relocating employees' questionsWe’ve put together a list of the top questions and areas of concern that employees (and their families) have when relocating internationally for work. By knowing ahead of time what you may be asked, you can prepare and reassure your employee that they will have the support they need.

1. How will my health care be managed abroad?

Relocating employees typically want to know how health insurance will work in their new location and what will be covered. Especially if they have children, a pregnant spouse or taking prescribed medication(s), these concerns come up quite often.

Want to get ahead of the questions? Ask your employees if there are any specific concerns, such as allergies or a chronic illness, and make sure that their policy will cover those things. In addition, you can assist by providing information about health insurance coverage up front or even arranging a briefing with the insurance provider to see if opting to have a global medical plan is right for your company.

2. How will my taxes be calculated, and how will I file my taxes?

Taxes are a common subject of worry. Tax laws vary greatly from country to country, and it will be overwhelming for your employee to try to figure out how their taxes will differ in a new country. Furthermore, the logistics of filing will be new to them. If you let your employee know upfront that you have the answers they need and show them where to go for help, they’ll feel much more relaxed.

Lexicon offers global compensation services for the compiling, managing and reporting your employees compensation data to the appropriate home and host country tax authorities. Tax compliance is critical for the success of a global mobility program. It's important to have a provider who can track and report country-specific compensation via their technology platform. For Lexicon’s clients who elect to include global compensation services as part of their relocation program, the process is managed through all stages of the assignment from pre-departure through repatriation.

3. Are work permits, visas, and all other immigration issues already taken care of?

Work visaWhether you handle immigration in-house or outsource it, your employees need to know where to ask for help. In the case of immigration, this is an area where being proactive on your part will be very beneficial to your team and your employees. By the time an employee has a question about their work and resident permits, they may already be behind.

If you are a Lexicon customer, your employees are provided with an interactive relocation timeline that maps out their to-do list and reminders all in one place. It’s updated constantly, so your employees always have the latest information pertaining to their relocations at their fingertips. Without these tools the time and effort needed to gather documentation, especially when you factor in processing time, can be quite extensive.

Having a relocation provider can help set the right expectations for timing and coordination by partnering with your immigration provider to coordinate the process.  If you are doing this on your own, it may be helpful to put this at the top of your list of items to discuss with your employee.

4. Will my family be happy?

When relocating to another country, it is just as important to accommodate the family’s needs as the employee’s. Often, the family can make or break a relocation. As we recently discussed in our last blog, trailing spouses, particularly those who've left a career behind to relocate for their spouse's job, can struggle with relocations abroad. If you’ve taken the proactive step of providing dual-career assistance, let the employee know. Many employees negotiate their relocation packages to ensure that the family is gaining promotional value and isn’t impacted by standard of living changes.

A happy family = a happy and productive employee. Family adjustment is the key to avoiding expatriate assignment failure. Assignment failure can cost you a lot of money – the best return on investment is ensuring that any red flags are caught up front. Your relocation management consultants can catch problems early on, but it may be even better to get candidate assessment program underway first and foremost to assess each relocating employee and their family’s ability to adapt to his/her global assignment.

5. Will good schools be available?

International school

One of the main concerns of employees with children is schooling. Are the school standards on par with home? Are they easily accessible? Will it be hard to get into top-notch schools? Does the style of learning meet expectations? Does the school year calendar align with our previous experience?

Whether you’ve approved working with an educational consulting firm or a local destination services provider, you want the employee and family to feel confident that they’re getting the best support in this area.

6. Will home feel like home? When will my household goods arrive, and will they fit into this new place?

In some locations, home may not fit the mold an employee and their family is accustomed to. Living in a high-rise apartment in a big city or in an expat condominium community is very different than living in a stand-alone house in the suburbs. Set expectations before they arrive at their destination – find out what their current home is like, and let them know how the future will differ.

Household goods delivery can also be a cause of anxiety. While everyone plans and hopes for the best case scenario, it is helpful to be honest about the fact that both delays and damages are a possibility that could delay arrival of your household goods. Understandably so, it is natural for both you and your employees to be concerned about when goods will arrive in the host country. Employees don’t like to stay long in temporary living and won’t feel truly settled until their belongings arrive. Setting expectations about international customs strikes and summer volume delays is critical for families to understand the reality of the situation.

7. How can I track my full relocation process and how are expenses reimbursed?

Ease of use for any technology solutions is essential for mobile employees. Making sure that expectations are set up front on timing of payments and counseling your employees on relocation management company portals are a must. Many employees are used to using their company card and internal reimbursement system for expenses, but you may have a different approach for relocation expenses to ensure assignment related expenses are tracked and reported properly for year-end tax calculations.

Train employees on any new tools you want them to use while relocating, and let them know how those tools could make their lives easier. If your relocation management company offers helpful tools, take advantage.

Finally, it’s important to think about things your employees may overlook. Here’s a bonus question they may not ask but should have the answer to:

How am I going to adjust to local culture?

Your employees will likely be focused on logistical questions, so adjusting to the local culture may be something they don’t think or worry about. However, questions and issues often arise during an assignment due to cultural differences and difficulty adjusting to local culture.

Cross-cultural training is a good way to ease this transition for an employee and their family. These programs take into consideration who you are, where you’re from and how you were brought up to simulate interaction with a different culture before you arrive. Or maybe they will have access to things that will ease this transition. For example, hospitals that speak your language, schools that teach in your language and groups for your family to be involved in are helpful.

By preparing to address all of these questions ahead of time, you’ll save yourself and your employees a lot of unnecessary worry.

Topics: global mobility, employee relocation, relocation companies, international assignments, HR

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