Managing Expatriation and Repatriation Scope, Merits, Demerits

06/11/2021 1 By indiafreenotes


Expatriation refers to the process where an individual, often an employee, is temporarily relocated by their organization to work in a foreign country. This assignment can range from several months to several years and is typically aimed at fulfilling specific corporate objectives, such as managing a subsidiary, transferring knowledge and skills, or developing the employee’s international experience. Expatriates can bring valuable insights into the global operations of their company, fostering cross-cultural communication, and potentially leading to more effective and cohesive international strategies. However, expatriation also involves significant challenges, including cultural adjustment, personal and family relocation issues, and the complexities of international human resource management. Successful expatriation requires careful selection, preparation, support, and repatriation planning to ensure both the individual and the organization benefit from the experience.

Scope of Expatriation

  • Strategic Management:

Expatriates often take roles in managing and developing overseas subsidiaries, joint ventures, or project teams, facilitating strategic alignment and knowledge transfer.

  • Skill and Expertise Transfer:

Organizations use expatriates to transfer critical skills and expertise that may not be available locally, helping to build the host country’s capabilities.

  • Global Leadership Development:

Expatriation is a tool for developing global leaders with firsthand international experience, cultural sensitivity, and a global mindset.

  • Market Penetration:

Expatriates can play key roles in entering new markets, leveraging their knowledge of the home country’s business practices and networks.

Merits of Expatriation

  • Cross-Cultural Skills:

Expatriates often develop significant cross-cultural communication and negotiation skills, valuable in managing diverse teams and international partnerships.

  • Global Perspective:

Living and working in a foreign country broadens one’s perspective, fostering innovative thinking and a better understanding of global markets.

  • Leadership Development:

The challenges faced during expatriation can accelerate personal and professional growth, shaping effective global leaders.

  • Organizational Integration:

Expatriates can act as bridges between the headquarters and foreign subsidiaries, ensuring alignment and facilitating knowledge and best practice transfer.

Demerits of Expatriation

  • High Costs:

The financial cost of expatriation, including relocation expenses, housing, schooling, and salaries, can be significant for organizations.

  • Adjustment Challenges:

Expatriates and their families may face considerable challenges adjusting to new cultures, languages, and work environments, impacting performance and well-being.

  • Risk of Failure:

The risk of expatriate failure, where assignments are terminated early due to poor performance or adjustment issues, can lead to financial loss and disrupt operations.

  • Repatriation issues:

The return home can be as challenging as the initial relocation, with expatriates facing reverse culture shock, dissatisfaction with domestic positions, or feeling underutilized after their international experience.


Repatriation is the process of returning an expatriate employee back to their home country after completing an international assignment. This transition phase is critical for both the employee and the organization, involving readjustment and reintegration into the home country’s office and often the broader society. Repatriation can present challenges, such as reverse culture shock, changes in position or responsibilities, and adjustments in personal and family life. Effective repatriation programs, including career planning, support services, and reorientation initiatives, are essential to facilitate a smooth transition. These programs help retain valuable international experience within the organization, ensuring that the knowledge and skills gained abroad are effectively utilized and contribute to the company’s global strategy and competitive advantage.

Scope of Repatriation

  • Professional Transition:

Involves reintegrating the expatriate back into the home office, which may include a new position, roles, and responsibilities.

  • Social Reintegration:

Addresses the expatriate’s and their family’s adjustment back to their home country’s social life, culture, and community.

  • Psychological Adjustment:

Deals with the mental and emotional adaptation of the expatriate, managing reverse culture shock and realigning their identity with the home country’s culture.

Merits of Repatriation

  • Enhanced Skills and Knowledge:

Repatriated employees bring back valuable international experience, skills, and insights that can benefit the home organization, such as understanding global markets, cultural sensitivity, and foreign languages.

  • Leadership Development:

Individuals who have successfully completed international assignments often possess advanced leadership skills, making them assets for taking on higher positions within the organization.

  • Network Expansion:

Repatriates can expand the organization’s network by leveraging international contacts and relationships built during their assignment.

  • Organizational Learning:

The organization can learn from repatriates’ experiences to improve its international business strategies, cross-cultural communication, and global management practices.

Demerits of Repatriation

  • Adjustment Challenges:

Repatriates often face difficulties readjusting to the home country’s culture and work environment, experiencing reverse culture shock.

  • Career Anxiety:

Returning employees may fear that their international experience is undervalued, leading to concerns about career progression, job security, and proper utilization of their newly acquired skills.

  • Retention issues:

Dissatisfaction with repatriation processes, perceived lack of appreciation, or inadequate career development opportunities may lead to increased turnover among repatriated employees.

  • Knowledge Underutilization:

Organizations sometimes fail to effectively capitalize on the knowledge and skills repatriates bring back, missing out on opportunities to enhance their international business operations.

Key Difference between Expatriation and Repatriation

Basis of Comparison Expatriation Repatriation
Definition Moving abroad for work Returning home from abroad
Phase Pre-assignment Post-assignment
Focus Adjustment to new culture Re-adjustment to home culture
Main Concern Cultural adaptation, job performance Reverse culture shock, reintegration
Support Needed Pre-departure training, relocation assistance Reintegration support, career planning
Challenges Language barrier, homesickness Feeling out of place, career anxiety
Duration Typically fixed term Indefinite, return to home country
Objective Professional growth, global exposure Leveraging international experience
Psychological Impact Culture shock Reverse culture shock
Career Impact International experience acquisition Utilization of international experience
Organizational Role Talent development, global expansion Knowledge transfer, leadership roles
Family Consideration Adjusting to new environment Readjusting to home environment

Managing Expatriation and Repatriation

Managing expatriation and repatriation involves handling the phases before, during, and after an employee is sent on an international assignment. These processes are critical for global businesses as they aim to ensure the success of international assignments, support the employees and their families through transitions, and maximize the benefits of the experiences gained abroad for both the individual and the organization.


Pre-Departure Preparation

  1. Selection and Assessment:

Choose the right candidate based on not just the job skills but also their adaptability, cultural sensitivity, and willingness to live abroad.

  1. Cultural Training:

Provide comprehensive training on the host country’s culture, language, and social norms to reduce cultural shock.

  1. Logistical Support:

Assist with visas, housing, schooling for children, and other logistical needs to ensure a smooth transition.

  1. Policy Communication:

Clearly communicate the terms of the assignment, including compensation, benefits, duration, and the scope of the job.

During the Assignment

  1. Ongoing Support:

Offer continuous support for personal and professional issues. This could include access to counseling, expatriate networks, and emergency assistance.

  1. Performance Management:

Adapt performance appraisal systems to reflect the challenges of working abroad, setting clear objectives and providing regular feedback.

  1. Local Integration:

Encourage expatriates to integrate into the local community and workplace to enhance their experience and effectiveness.

  1. Maintaining Home Ties:

Facilitate ways to keep the expatriate connected to the home office, maintaining their visibility and integration within the organization.


Pre-Return Preparation

  1. Repatriation Planning:

Start planning the return well in advance, discussing career paths and opportunities that utilize the international experience.

  1. Reorientation Programs:

Offer programs or workshops about changes in the home country’s office and societal developments during their absence.

Post-Return Integration

  1. Career Management:

Provide clear career development opportunities that leverage the international experience, preventing the common issue of dissatisfaction and turnover.

  1. Reverse Culture Shock:

Acknowledge and support the adjustment process back into the home country’s culture and the organizational culture.

  1. Debriefing:

Conduct thorough debriefing sessions to capture and disseminate the knowledge and insights gained from the international assignment.

  1. Utilizing Experience:

Actively seek ways to utilize the expatriate’s new skills, perspectives, and networks to benefit the organization.

General Strategies

  • Communication:

Maintain open and regular communication throughout the expatriation and repatriation processes.

  • Flexibility:

Be prepared to adapt policies and support to individual needs.

  • Mentorship:

Assign mentors or sponsors both at home and abroad to guide expatriates through their transition.

  • Family Support:

Recognize the significant impact of an international assignment on the expatriate’s family and provide necessary support for them as well.