The modelof Oberg isvery simple and does not take the personality or previous intercultural experienceof the expatriate into account. Cultural distance is not considered by Oberg,although it seems obvious that the culture shock for a German expatriate goingto Switzerland might be less intense as if he is going to Saudi Arabia. InOberg’s model, it is supposed that expatriates reach the next stage as the timegoes by while the duration of stages and consequences if a stage can’t bereached are not specified. If adjustment does not set in during the assignmentperiod, the expatriate is stuck in the rejection stage, embracing his ownculture while rejecting ideas of the host culture, which appears to be fatalfor work relationships and performance. However, the model describes animportant psychological phenomenon that people experience more or less intense whengoing abroad for a longer time. Some might feel a slight culture shock even ina longer holiday vacation, while others experience it only after months, but itis very unlikely that expatriates are not experiencing any symptoms of cultureshock at all.
The only exception could be expatriates with a multi-culturalbackground who are well acquainted with the culture in the home country and theassignment destination.Mendenhall & Oddou did notdescribe cultural adjustment as a process but were eager to find out thefactors that influence an expatriate’s ability to adjust. One strength of themodel is their approach of examining the influence of the expatriate’swillingness to change perception and to communicate towards his culturaladjustment. Their findings show that if people are not willing to adjust,adjustment will not take place and people who are reluctant towards othercultures will be resistant to any cross-cultural training. It makes clear thatselection is a crucial element to the overall assignment success, as someemployees are simply not able to live and work abroad. However, this model appearsto limit possibilities of IHRM to influence the expatriate’s adjustment mainlyto the selection process.
Contrary to Mendenhall & Oddou,Black et al. did neither take into account the willingness of expatriates toadapt nor did they consider that cultural distance is affecting culturaladjustment. Therefore their model seems very general and insufficient.
Howeverit can be positively noted in Black et al.’s model of 1991 that they took into considerationmeasures before departure such as cross-cultural trainings that prepare the expatriate mentally andtheoretically for the host culture, as well as mentioning skills and factorsthat are critical to in-country adjustment during the assignment. The latermodel of 1999 is neglecting the anticipatory adjustment, but is very well summingup the factors in the three dimensions of social, environmental and workadjustment, which makes cultural adjustment of expatriates simple and achievable. 2.3 Measures boosting cultural adjustment Theexpatriate management of an organization can have a tremendous impact on thesuccess of assignments and can influence both, cultural adjustment in the hostcountry and repatriation. However, many organizations still don’t leverage thepotential of measures outlined in numerous studies and specialist literatureavailable. The following section summarizes suggestions for IHRM on how toboost cultural adjustment in assignments from scientific as well as practical sources.
Putting Emphasis on Selection:Accordingto the Global Assignment Policies andPractices Survey (GAPP survey) of 150 organizations by KPMG, selection of expatriates is mostlydone by the business unit issuing the demand (89%). In doing so, an assessmentof the candidate’s suitability for the assignment is not provided (60%) or is doneon an informal level by the line manager or human resources (38%) (KPMG, 2017).As their results indicatethat in practice organizations rarely involve IHRM in the selection process, oneof the main duties of IHRM managers should be to strengthen their influence onthe selection of expatriates.Black at al, strongly recommendselecting expatriates not only by their technical expertise but also bycharacteristics and skills that are beneficial for cultural adjustment based onthe three dimensions of social, environment and work adjustment. The selectioncriteria should always be related to the specific assignment objectives, butaccording to Blacket al, communication and social skills as well as flexibility areconsidered to be generally desirable for expatriates. (Black, Gregersen, Mendenhall, & Stroh, 1999, p.59-62) Kühlmannsuggests using …. (methods) for assessing the candidates needs… Furthermore,the selection process should also include a self-assessment of the candidateand evaluate their motivation for the assignment.
A candidate who is verypassionate about a certain culture or region and is self-motivated for theassignment, is more likely to be a successful expatriate, than those whoconsider going abroad because of benefits and allowances. (Quelle?) Kühlmann?Partners orfamilies of candidates should already get involved during the selectionprocess, as they are an essential part of the expatriate’s adjustment in thehost country later on. Look-and-see trips (a pre-assignment visits) can helpthe candidate and the accompanying family to assess their aptitude for the assignment. While those visits seem expensiveduring the selection process, they can reduce the risk of even higher costs forthe company that could arise if an expatriate is canceling the assignment lateron. However, most companies usepre-assignment trips only after the expatriate was selected as part ofpre-departure training or preparation (see next section). (Perkins & Shortland, 2006, pp.110-111) Granting pre-assignment visits:With apre-assignment visit, the expatriate and his accompanying family can get abetter understanding of the culture and the environment of the host country,and a business meeting can help the expatriate to get to know theorganizational culture and meet future colleagues. Therefore, the trip has apre-departure training function, contributing to the assignment success, withoutproviding any guarantee regarding the training outcome.
The trip is alsoimportant for an adequate assignment preparation and companies should providethe expatriate with a consultant, who is supporting the housing and schoolingselection process. (Perkins & Shortland, 2006, pp.110-111) Learningabout shopping, leisure and transportation possibilities before the assignmenthelps the expatriate to settle in more easily afterwards. In case theexpatriate was not pleased with his experiences during the visit, it is stillbetter for the company to cancel the assignment at this time than to cope witha failed assignment later on. The usual duration of pre-assignment visits are5-7 days (KPMG, 2017, p.38). Providing cross-cultural trainings:Black et al.
1991 include cross-cultural trainings in anticipatory adjustment (beforedeparture)…Stroh et al. suggest in a newer publication that a cross-culturaltraining should not only be provided before the assignment, as the assignee isengaged in other preparations and the effect of a crash course is limited. The expatriatewill benefit more from cultural trainings during the assignment, because the acquiredknowledge can be directly leveraged in practice and the training can becustomized according to the expatriate’s experiences. If adjustment issuesexist, the expatriate is more likely to find solutions in a present culturaltraining than by trying to remember information from the pre-departure course.After the assignment, repatriation training can help the employee to cope witha re-entry shock. (Stroh, Black, Mendenhall, & Gregersen, 2005, p.198)In fact,85% of organizations provide cross-cultural trainings for their expatriates (KPMG, 2017, p.
39). However, the KPMG survey didnot reveal to which intensity and in which assignment stage the trainings takeplace.Communicaid,a service provider for cross-cultural trainings, suggests to prepare assigneesfor the differences in business etiquette before departure, noting theconsiderably impact of communication and leadership styles when working abroad (Mulkeen, 2012). Althoughscientific sources such as Black et al. 1991 or Stroh… confirm the need ofcross-cultural trainings, there are different views on the content of thetrainings. Instead of coaching expatriates in how to shake hands and how tobehave when receiving business cards Beispiel Quelle?, the approach of consideringcommunication and management styles aims at generating in-depth training ratherthan scratching on the cultural surface. Offering language training:Languagetraining for the host country’s main language in business can be useful beforebut especially during the assignment.
By learning basics and helpful phrases inthe host language, the expatriate might find it easier to socialize with localsand adjusts more quickly to daily life in the new culture if short phrases orproduct instructions can be understood. Some knowledge of the host language isalso beneficial in terms of business relationships, because it is showingrespect and the willingness to learn the other’s native language, which is veryimportant in some cultures. Quellen?Languagetrainings are a very common benefit for expatriates as very few companies donot offer a language courses to their assignees (11%) (KPMG, 2017).However, it is important to choose the right language that should be learnedfor the assignment. Depending on the demographics and workforce, the officiallanguage of a country is not necessarily the dominant language used in dailylife and business. And many countries have a variety of dialects that are sodifferent to the standard language, that the expatriate might not be able tocommunicate after he took the standard language course. Giving country-specificsupport:A contactperson who is specialized for the region can be a helpful source of informationfor the expatriate and help anticipate difficulties in cultural adjustment.
Ideally, this is the same contact person who already supports the expatriateregarding his assignment and the assignment contract, managing his allowances,home leave and trainings. Therefore it is very important for companies to havea separate expat management department with specialists for the particularregions, instead of assigning this responsibility to HR administrators.Another wayof providing the expatriate with country-specific information is onlinecontent, using a blog or the company’s intranet, and expatriate networks, thatare either company-wide or from service providers and stimulate the exchange ofexpatriates in the same location. Quellen? Supportingexpatriates’ cultural adjustment through personal assistance or helpful online informationabout the host country is not widespread in organizations yet. Only 14% offeran internal contact person or a self-help resource such as an online blog orforum, 12% use a third-party service provider or an external expatriatenetwork. (KPMG, 2017)(p.47)The expat blogby Dana Nelson also highlights the importance of organizational support whenculture shock sets in and suggests expatriates not to be afraid of asking thecompany for help (Dana Nelson, CulturalAdjustment Part 5).
However, as noted by Stroh et al., maintaining a form of regular communicationbetween the home company and the expatriate helps them to reach out for supportmore easily. (Stroh, Black, Mendenhall, & Gregersen, 2005, p.
197). Establishing a mentoring program:Assigning amentor in the host company who is willing to support the expatriate, especiallyin the beginning, can help the expatriate to overcome cultural obstacles in thehost country. By providing information about the host country and introducing theexpatriate to the local culture, a mentor plays an important role in facilitatingcultural adjustment (Stroh, Black, Mendenhall, & Gregersen, 2005, pp.197-198) As allpreviously mentioned models of cultural adjustment include social encountersand interaction with locals to be a key factor for overcoming a culture shock (Oberg, 1960; Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985; Black, Mendenhall, & Oddou, 1991; Black, Mendenhall, & Oddou, 1991), a localmentor seems to be the best possible way to get expatriates in touch with hostcountry nationals rather than only fellow expats. However, probablybecause the mentoring task is very time-consuming, only few companies (12%) providea mentoring program with host company employees for their expatriates accordingto a recent survey (KPMG, 2017, p.47).
Mentoring programs can only workwith ambitious volunteers who are motivated to help as well as with expatriateswho are open to accept support from their assigned mentee. Assigning responsibility to the expatriateIn herexpat blog, CaithinKuhfeldt Busscher advises other expatriates to get connected with otherexpats at the destination before the assignment and also be prepared to stayconnected with friends and family members at home to cope with culture shock.From her experience, she felt that intensive research about the destination inadvance gives expatriates control as they are mentally and emotionally preparedfor certain situations. By experiencing new things in the host country but atthe same time having reminders of the home country to overcome moments ofhomesickness, she sees a balance that helps expatriates to culturally adjust.(Caithin KuhfeldtBusscher, How to adjust to culture shock).
Especially the host company can help expatriates to socialize and engage inactivities, however this should be coordinated by IHRM in the headquarters tomake sure, that every host organization is providing the same quality ofassistance. Contrary to all previous mentioned scientific sources, Kuhfeldt Busscher seesa strong responsibility for the expatriate himself in preparing and overcomingcultural challenges. Assigning responsibility to the expatriate for hisadjustment in the host country takes away the assumption that IHRM alone is accountablewhether cultural adjustment is achieved or not. Indeed, IHRM can only assistand support the expatriate, but cannot provide the expatriate with a magicpotion to overcome culture shock abroad. Managing Repatriation:The KPMGsurvey shows that companies focus on administrative issues when it comes torepatriation, with priorities being the shipment of goods, organizing thetravel, and the use of consultation regarding tax returns.
The majority offirms does not provide any repatriation counseling to its expats and it iscommon, that returnees are not granted a settling-in time which could reducethe stress when getting back to work right after returning home. (KPMG, 2017, p.71)As learnedin previous sections, repatriation is an important part of the assignment andshould not be neglected. The assignment cannot be called successful, if theassignee leaves the company right after his return and the way repatriation ishandled can influence this turnover. Therefore, Black et al.
suggest to establish a’repatriation team’ prior to the end of the assignment, which consists of IHRMassociates, the expatriate’s mentor, and ideally the supervisor in the homecompany. Those will jointly prepare the expatriate’s return and support him, ifnecessary. There should be at least one person who is responsible for givinginformation about the company’s plans and possibilities for the expatriate’sfuture workplace and position. It is also important to provide any kind offorum for the expatriate and his family once they arrived, to share theirexperience from the assignment with other returnees, for instance a socialplatform like Yammer.
(Black, Gregersen, Mendenhall, & Stroh, 1999) p.223-232An article by HRZone takes on a completelydifferent perspective when giving advice for overcoming repatriation problems.There the expatriate is mainly in focus for repatriation success as the authorconsiders the hardest challenge for the returning expatriate to be acceptingothers’ lack of interests in detailed reports about the gained internationalexperience. Among other things, the article suggests that the returnees should beprepared for other topics to talk about with colleagues and family members (Slonecki, 2016). Scientific sources like Black et al. 1999 pointed out the necessity ofgiving returnees a platform to share experiences as well, but without relatingit to a general disinterest of the expatriate’s surrounding but rather to haveother expatriates benefit from it.
Repatriation should not be considered asinconvenience by companies but should rather be seen as development stage ofthe expatriate in which he can reflect his experiences and maximize his gainedskills.