Why Focusing on Repatriation May be Your Ultimate Retention Tool 03.8.2023 | Susan Pineau

We don’t talk about repatriation enough, and perhaps this isn’t surprising. After all, many of us will invest plenty of time into intricately coordinating perfect vacations, often ensuring we have a plan to manage work and our pets while we’re away. But rarely do we consider the homecoming process; we usually let it unfold (rather haphazardly) as we do load after load of vacation laundry in a jet-lagged haze and bite our nails in anticipation of a wall of unread emails.

In the same vein, many companies often fail to plan effectively for the return of their employees, and the numbers prove it, with more than a quarter of international assignees leaving their employer within two years of returning home. While most companies that we work with do have a repatriation policy in place, the benefits are generally limited to covering things like HHG shipments and temporary housing support. And by and large, these don’t address the emotional and mental stresses of repatriation.

The good news is that many of these companies are cluing into the strong link between effective repatriation processes and employee retention, and are looking at how to better support (and track) assignees upon their return home. Here are some of the top things every mobility manager should know about repatriation, based on our research and the experience of our advisory team over the past year:

 What are some best practices for successful repatriation?
  • Thorough pre-assignment planning to clarify the purpose, job responsibilities, intended term (and often projected ROI) of the assignment, in addition to the benefits and allowances to be provided.
  • Develop a performance management plan between the home and host business entities to ensure that the employee’s performance is consistently tracked and reported, especially where incentives and equity awards are involved.
  • Establish a communication plan between the employee and their home country business unit, which includes regular contact with management, home office visits as possible, and ongoing communication regarding the operations in the home location to maintain a connection.
  • Periodic return trips to allow the employee and any accompanying family members to stay in touch with home-located family, friends, and business associates.
  • Addressing the impending repatriation 3-6 months (and sometimes up to a year) before the return to ensure sufficient time for career, V&I, and host country “close out” planning. Early repatriation conversations are also necessary to set expectations and allow the home office enough lead-time to plan for the employee’s return and their level of involvement in projects or day-to-day deliverables.
  • In addition to the pre-assignment planning measures described above and physical move benefits to return the family, pets and belongings to the host country, best practice programs will often offer the employee, spouse, and family home-finding and temporary living benefits as needed, destination and settling in services, and even cultural training depending upon the duration of the assignment.
Do you have a job for them to return to?
  • Some companies guarantee a job upon return, but many indicate that it may not be the same job the employee left. Some companies indicate a “comparable” position, and some do not address the issue at all.
  • In our experience, companies should address this up-front (and as early as possible) to encourage positive employee experiences and outcomes. This is also in the best interest of the employer — an employee uncertain of their job security upon return is more likely to leave, jeopardizing the ROI of the relocation!
What other vital aspects can drive successful repatriation?
  • Consider a mentor program for the employee throughout the assignment to ensure they are prepared for the end of the assignment. This mentor can serve as a valuable link between home and host offices and coach them for their role following the assignment.
  • Check in with the employee throughout their first 6-12 months upon repatriation. The employee has gained a wealth of global experience and new skills and is likely eager to leverage this knowledge in subsequent roles and share the value of the assignment. This connection to the company’s objectives is essential to maintaining engagement following repatriation.
  • Lastly, encourage storytelling! Ask employees to share their experience with colleagues on an internal website or video, recalling the rewarding professional and personal experience. This will fuel excitement, help overcome reluctance for future assignments, and raise the visibility of the mobility program.

While nothing feels better than home, homecoming is rarely as easy as expected. A thoughtful repatriation process holistically addresses the emotional, physical, and career aspects of returning from an assignment. Employees who feel adequately supported by their employer are more likely to stay with the company, enriching their teams with their newly honed skills and experience.


Interested in learning what else you can do to reinvent your repatriation process and drive higher retention rates among your post-assignment talent? Talk to us!

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Written by Susan Pineau

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Susan is a Research Analyst in our Advisory Services group. She has over 25 years of experience in workforce mobility, encompassing roles in Client Services, Equity, Client Accounting, Expense Management, Implementation and Proposal Writing.

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