By: Bei SuPaper: 114. 241
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Discuss how human resource managers can prepare staff for working in oversea locations.
Culture shock occurs when a person first enter and makes contact with a new culture, they would feel disoriented as to what to do, anxiety, frustrated and feels isolated (Stone, 2010, pg 614). We face culture shock almost every day, especially when we travel on holiday or on business trips. Everyone reacts to culture shock differently; some people’s reaction could be positive and some negative, just depends on how the individual would deal with change. The term culture shock was first introduced by a Finnish anthropologist Kalervo Oberg in 1960. Oberg defines culture shock as a ” sudden rush of anxiety that results from losing all our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse. These signs or cues include the thousand and one ways in which we orient ourselves in the situations of daily life.”(Oberg, 1960, quoted from Gibson, 2002, pg 15) In today’s world there are more companies that are involved in international business and therefore it is necessary for managers and employees to live and work overseas because of international competition. Due to growth of international companies, selecting the right employee to live and work oversea is important for an assignment. A person that works and lives overseas for a foreign company is known as an expatriate. Expatriate plays a vital role for their organization. There are ways for organizations to manage expatriates in the workforce this would be known as the cycle of expatriation (Brewster, Sparrow, Vernon & Houldsworth, 2011). Human Resource Managers can prepare employees to work overseas by using the expatriate cycle. The four cycle of expatriation are: selection, training and preparation, adjustment and repatriation. For the rest of this essay, I would like to discuss how human resource manager prepare employees to work overseas using the four cycle process. The first cycle of the process is selection. Selection is the process of gathering information for the purposes of evaluating and deciding who should be employed in particular jobs (Dowling, Festing & Engle, 2009 pg 109). Before the assignment, the company must select the right candidate for an international assignment, if there is an error in the selection process then there would have a negative influence on the achievement of an organization’s overseas operation (Briscoe & Schuler, 2004). A successful candidate must be able to do their job and make sure that their family will be able to adapt in the foreign country. Some of the important selection criteria for international assignment are job stability, cultural adaptability, spouse and family adaptability, academic qualification and desire for international assignment. Different companies may have different procedures when it comes to selecting an individual for international assignment. When the company has chosen which selection criteria to use, the company now needs to decide how to evaluate the potential applicants efficiently using the selection criteria. Some of the selection methods used are: interviews, formal assessment, committee decision and career planning. When sending an employee to a foreign country, this will often include sending the whole family. This means that when human resource managers are evaluating a potential candidate, the selection process would need to look into the candidate managerial skills and experience as well as the candidate’s family (Black, Gregerson, Mendenhall & Stroh, 1999). A company usually selects a candidate that has the personal characteristics that would fit the job. Information about the host country and the company should be made public to potential expatriate so that they can have the choice of accepting or declining the position. The second cycle of the process is training and preparation. Once a candidate has being selected for an international assignment the next step is to train the candidate so that the candidate can understand the host country culture and be able to adapt to it. There are many ways companies can support the candidate when taking on an international assignment this is through a pre-departure preparation, such as area briefings, role playing and field experience where the candidate would have the opportunity to travel to the host country to experience working and living there. The candidate can also enter a pre-departure cultural training, which is a training process to prepare the employee of their new tasks and their standards in which their performance will be evaluated (Lund & Degen, 2010). The cultural training would educate the employee about the business culture in the foreign country, social and business etiquette and interpersonal communication skills. These training would ease any confusion that the employee may have about the role in the company. For example, in China during meetings business communication is more indirect compared to western approaches and there is a natural respect for authority and the focus is on harmony as opposed to a dispute in a group (Marx, 1999, pg 92). Having language training is also important as this will give the expatriate the ability to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently. Families members who are joining the candidate to the host country should also attend the cultural training program, that way they will be able to prepare for the life in that foreign country and be able to support one another. Being able to know these changes will minimize the culture shock. . Having good preparation will decrease culture shock but it can never be totally avoided (Xia, 2009). Once the employee and their family arrives in the assigned country, they will have post arrival training which would help them with day to day lives like shopping, local transportation and social etiquette (Lund & Degan, 2010). The third cycle of the process is adjustment. When the expatriate and their families have arrived in their assigned location it is important that the newly assigned expatriate received support from their host country’s colleagues so that they will be able to adjust smoothly and that the expatriate will be able to succeed in their foreign assignment. The expatriate and their family would have to deal with the different way of living and working in that foreign country. Having social support is an effective way for expatriate to cope with the negative aspect of culture shock. For example, when an expatriate faces difficulty, their friends can give them encouragement and make suggestion about how to do improve in the future. It would take a certain amount of time for the new expatriate adjust properly in the host country. Poor adjustment to the host country can often lead to poor job performance, which could be costly to the company and would lead to lower productivity. Brewster et al (2011) has identified three aspects of adjustment that the expatriate may face: interaction adjustment, general adjustment and work adjustment. In order for a successful international assignment is to have the support of the expatriate’s family and the ability of the family to adjust during the assignment. The last cycle of the process is repatriation. This is where the expatriation returns to the home country after the international assignment is over. Once the expatriate returns home, the expatriate must adjust to the work, people and the general environment like the way the expatriate adjusted to the host country. When expatriate return to the home country they must deal with a transition called the reverse cultural shock after being on an international assignment for a long period of time. Adjusting to repatriation is harder than adjusting to the life overseas (Moulik & Mazumdar, 2012). Companies should plan for repatriation before the expatriate returns home from their international assignment this way it reduces anxieties and prepares the expatriates with a sense of stability (Chew & Debowski, 2008). There should be a repatriation agreement between the employee and the employer to help the expatriate determine the goals and expectations and include the amount of time to complete the international assignment and a payment incentive upon returning. The expatriate should have reassurance that they will have a job that is equal to or better than the one they had before leaving. Organizations need to think about how they could help expatriate and their family with the re-entry process and how to make the expatriate’s return as easy as possible. In conclusion, Culture shock is experience when someone enters a new country that they are unfamiliar with. People who experienced culture shock would feel disoriented, isolated, anxiety and frustrated. As there are more companies that are involved with international business there is a high demand for employees to work overseas. Human resource managers can successfully help employees live and work overseas by using the four cycle of expatriation which is: selection, training and preparation, adjustment and repatriation. Organization should closely monitor pre and post departure training and cross-cultural training. If organization does not pay close attention to the expatriate on international assignment it can be costly for the company if the expatriate fails their international assignment. All expatriate should be support by families and friends.