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Assessing the risks of international assignments

Preparing an employee for any international assignment should include getting them familiar with any high-risk issues associated with that country. For good reason, international assignments are extremely costly, and subsequently, are a big hit to your bottom line if they don’t work out.

Whether it’s a big problem that’s all over the news or one that is easily overlooked by the average traveler, here’s how to get your international transferees prepared for their assignment.

Get the facts

Just because a problem is sweeping the headlines doesn’t mean it’s a real threat for your employees. Take the Zika virus, for example. Most people just hear “Zika virus” and “Latin America.” The problem is, there are a lot of arid places in Latin America with hardly any mosquitos (the carriers of the disease) and by extension, have had no reported cases of the virus. Getting smart about the issues (real and perceived) associated with your destination countries will make sure your employees have the right information so they can best prepare for their assignment.

Everyone has a different risk tolerance

Even if there is a real risk where the assignment is, it doesn’t mean it’ll be a problem for everyone. Sticking with the Zika virus, it is known to cause severe birth defects should a pregnant mother contract the disease. This is a significant issue for anyone with a growing family – and a potential deal breaker for the assignment. But for a healthy adult, the virus generally causes no more than a rash and fever, of which some people may not be particularly concerned. It’s important to review potential risks with candidates to see if they are concerned by them – and to determine if you’ll be able to alleviate those concerns.

Don’t underestimate the small stuff

Sure, it’s easy to get worked up about the big problems that make the news, but often it’s the small stuff that adversely impacts an international transferee or their family. Are the driving laws and culture radically different from what the employee is used to? Or maybe the weather? These aren’t necessarily headline-worthy problems, but they can lead to stress, and in some cases harm, if not properly addressed and prepared for.

Moving to another country is an adventure, which is a big part of the draw for many international transferees. But you need to make sure candidates have an accurate understanding of the problems they will and won’t face should they end up making the move.