Mentors: Their Role in International Relocation

The following article is featured in the July 2015 issue of BR Anchor Publishing’s Monthly News.  Co-authored by BR Anchor’s founder, Beverly Roman, and REA Manager, Mary S. Roberts, it provides insight into using mentoring during international relocation.

International relocation, always a challenge, has an even higher priority now in terms of realizing success for employees, as well as the company’s bottom line. Before employees make a commitment to move abroad, they and their employers need to evaluate the short and long-term career prospects. Employees should have a clear understanding of their overseas assignments, as well as what their jobs will be upon repatriation. Expats also need to stay “tuned in” and connected to their home offices. One of the most effective means to do this is to arrange for expats to have a mentor. This relationship can be mutually beneficial as the mentor stands to gain an overall wider perspective on global organizational needs and activities.

Mentor Selection and Responsibilities
Mentors should have a schedule that allows them to provide the required assistance. It helps if they are senior company employees and are in a position to speak effectively and assertively on the expat’s behalf to the appropriate corporate sources.

They should have a firm grasp of corporate strategy and business focus. Setting regularly scheduled meetings is crucial to the success of the mentoring partnership, especially when dealing with international time zones. Having a set meeting time on the calendar also allows for better preparation to ensure a productive meeting.

Mentoring can help promote knowledge sharing, leadership development, skill development, and employee engagement throughout the organization. This can be accomplished by mentors routinely making the expat’s accomplishments known to key personnel, watching for career opportunities, arranging for interaction in company projects and events and keeping the expat aware of changes that take place during the year(s) they are abroad. Changes in corporate policy, products, present and future business strategies and cultural climate within the company should not be a surprise upon repatriation.

Key Strategies for Mentors
Anyone who has lived and worked overseas, or interfaced with expats, knows that there is valuable expertise and knowledge to be gained from foreign assignments. This wealth of information should be utilized to the full extent upon repatriation and a well-connected expat will do just that. Mentoring can be a strategic part of an overseas assignment, and engaging the right person(s) needs to be an ongoing effort. If the selected mentor becomes
too busy or the job takes that person elsewhere, expats would be wise to have one or several other candidates waiting in the wings to fill the role.

An international relocation is likely to have layers of complexity and may be overwhelming to the assignee. Having a mentor in the expat location can also make a tremendous difference in how quickly he/she acclimates to the new surroundings and becomes focused and productive in the new assignment.

Mentors often find that they can also learn a great deal from their mentee. A comment repeated many times by a mentor when a mentoring initiative is implemented is, “I never knew we had so much talent in this organization.” Or by a mentee, “I had no idea that the development I needed was right here in our own organization. I assumed I had to go outside to get it.”

If There Is No Mentor
If there is no one to fill the role of mentor within your company, you can effectively showcase your own overseas accomplishments to your corporate office through careful planning and by using all available resources such as publications, company functions and existing networking efforts. For more tips, see also BR Anchor Publishing’s international book, Home Away From Home.

While living overseas, expats should document the skills, culture and knowledge they have acquired. This gained expertise can be incorporated into home office efforts, as well as serve as a resume, should they need to look for another position.

Conclusion
International assignments involve a significant investment of time and money for both the company and the employee. Providing a mentor has proven to be a successful method of retaining that employee so the company can further benefit from the new skills and experiences acquired.

Beverly D. Roman has been at the forefront of the relocation business since 1990 and is quoted as an expert in the field of relocation. She has written over 30 domestic and international relocation books and been published in numerous industry magazines. Beverly currently authors all of BR Anchor Publishing’s relocation books and consults for BR Anchor Publishing and NewMarket Services, Inc. Click here to visit BR Anchor Publishing’s company website, and here to download the newsletter from which this article is excerpted.

Mary S. Roberts is a Career Coach and Talent Management professional who has been working within the relocation industry for the past 10 years. She is a certified trainer with REA-Partners in Transition, to deliver Mentoring Workshops focused on developing all those involved in a company’s mentoring program. REA’s team of certified coaches provide training for mentors, mentees, and administrators, so that everyone involved can get the most out of the mentoring program. All training programs can be customized and delivered in workshop and webinar formats that fit specific needs. Click here to visit REA’s company website.