HR representatives should put themselves in expats’ shoes, especially the localised ones who want to integrate, writes Amy Amann.
Luxembourg’s a country of expats and, according to a 2016 Eurostat report, 6.9% of Luxembourg residents are non-EU. Once Brexit is final, those numbers will grow. Plus, more employees are hired on “local” contracts, not a classic three-year transfer package.
If projected growth in new sectors happens as planned and new talents with diverse profiles come to Luxembourg, the number of non-EU residents will grow. Are companies ready to help them succeed?
This isn’t just about finding housing or schooling. People are being localised but can’t immediately conform to local standards which often relate to financial and legal obligations at home and have long-term consequences (one example is the income tax filing requirement for Americans).
Experience shows that many companies aren’t able to provide the support required for newcomers. Some companies have knowledgeable HR teams, yet many HR admins who support expats have never lived abroad themselves, nor have they put themselves in their shoes to really understand their perspective. They don’t help expats think of things they aren’t aware of--often until they make a mistake and it’s too late.
A well-meaning HR advisor may, for example, offer a retirement savings plan that restricts cross-border payouts at maturity or neglect to inform on certain rights. A friend wasn’t advised by the HR department about her eligibility to participate in a tax-beneficial savings plan. When she finally discovered and asked about it, the HR rep said, “Well, everyone knows this.” Really? My friend lost trust in the company with this seemingly myopic view at the expense of her long-term welfare.
When I visit Facebook forums with expats, there are many questions that normally a good HR team can help answer. Such forums can be helpful and, judging by their traffic, are necessary. But not all advice from fellow expats is correct or current. Laws and practices change quickly; getting good advice is time-consuming.
My appeal to HR: put yourselves in expats’ shoes, especially the localised ones who want to integrate. Provide resources and support to help them succeed not just in the job today, but in their personal affairs going forward. Help them put their energy into making your company flourish, rather than worrying about their future.
Amy Amann works with organisations and individuals as a consultant, facilitator and coach. She has worked and lived for over 20 years as a localised foreign national in four countries outside her home country of the US.