When employees are sent by their employer to work in a foreign country for a specified period, they require a visa or permit. This is referred to as an “assignment”. The nature and duration of their “assignment” can influence the type of immigration document they need.
Planning and executing international assignments requires a great deal of planning and strategising, well in advance of one’s proposed dates of execution. There are usually a lot of pre-departure preparations to make, points of compliance to consider, and post-assignment integration and review to partake in.
This article will provide a step-by-step guide to ensuring such strategies are acted out as effectively as possible.
There’s a great deal you can do to prepare not just yourself, but your business for integration into the world of business in Africa. It’s important not just for your business, but for your employees as well, to make sure everyone is well equipped to succeed in their roles in a foreign country.
The phase of preparation involves comprehensive planning and training to prepare to adapt to a new culture, environment, and work expectations and there are several things you should consider during this phase.
You should provide to the best of your abilities, in-depth cultural training specific to the host country that includes social norms, business etiquette, communication styles, and local customs.
You should acquire and share insights into the country’s history, values, and cultural nuances so as to understand what could impact your business interactions.
Offering language courses or providing apt resources is a must when conducting business in a foreign country. Encourage employees to learn basic phrases or the local language as it’s a brilliant aid in building effective communication and relationship-building practices.
All forms of communication are incredibly important and it’s vital to have an understanding of the different communication styles, non-verbal cues and listening habits so as to properly navigate conversations.
All local business will have their own unique ways of conducting business, so it’s important to understand the decision-making processes, various styles of negotiation, and more, and this knowledge becomes vital to ensuring successful collaboration with local businesses, clients, and governments.
You should also provide an overview of the local legal and regulatory landscape, including employment laws, tax requirements, and business regulations that might impact the assignment.
Employees need to fully understand their roles and responsibilities during the assignment and be provided with clearly defined performance expectations. This applies not just to the assignee, but to the local team as well. This way, there is clarity that helps align everyone’s efforts.
The assignment’s objectives should also align with the employee’s career goals in order to further enhance motivation during the assignment process.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are vital during assignments, and you should establish a system for evaluating progress and success.
While there is no general or universal approach to measuring performance given the large number of specifics related to the job, country, and culture to be considered, employers must still identify and communicate clear job expectations and KPIs very early on in the assignment.
You should also emphasise the importance of continuous learning and adaptation during the assignment and encourage employees to reflect on their experiences and share insights with the business.
It’s important to keep in mind that compliance during international assignments with local laws and regulations is imperative to managing the logistical aspects of the assignment effectively.
All work permits and visas must be accounted for and up to date, and one should collaborate with immigration consultants who specialise in the host country’s immigration laws. Human Resources or global mobility teams can also handle paperwork, documentation, and coordination with the local authorities.
However, if you find the right immigration provider, they can greatly support Human Resources in this capacity, reducing the workload of the assigning company. Having a consistent and transparent relationship with your corporate immigration provider leads to a better—managed immigration process.
Collaboration is essential for a comprehensive approach to legal and administrative support for international assignments and ensures that both the company and the employees remain compliant and well-supported throughout the assignment lifecycle.
As with any business planning, effective contingency plans must be put in place in the event of unexpected events negatively impacting business.
Risk assessment is imperative at all levels of business planning so as to effectively identify and eventually deal with risks and challenges that could arise during assignments. Setting up emergency contact lines for employees and establishing clear communication channels and protocols is also vital.
In the eventuality of repatriation following the conclusion of assignments, it’s important to put in place several systems and protocols that will ensure a smooth transition for the employee.
There’s a lot to consider, such as career transitions, reverse culture shock, knowledge transfer, and reintegration support, all of which need to be provided for assignees, collaborating with as many groups and departments as necessary, such as HR, global mobility teams, legal experts, and more.
Every African country is different and has its own unique characteristics in business. As such, it’s important to tailor all strategies in accordance with the context of the assignment location.
By investing sufficient time and resources in thorough pre-assignment preparation, businesses can effectively set the stage for successful international assignments that contribute to employee growth and organisational success.
Make sure to consistently consult with HR professionals and corporate immigration providers to acquire as much insight into the world of African business as possible, and your international assignment to Africa will be not only seamless but successful as well.
Written by Simon Carletti, PR and Creative Supervisor