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What is Pre-Assignment Screening?

The term ‘Pre-Assignment Screening’ relates to the activities undertaken by a business to maximise the chances of a successful overseas work placement. In basic terms, it’s a thorough risk assessment which is taken ahead of an assignment. The process is crucial because it’s only when a potential pitfall is identified that it can be effectively managed or negated.

Pre-Assignment Screening can include the following:

  • Health screening
  • Pre-trip preparation & personal evaluation
  • Family support services
  • Logistical support

Screening requirements will vary from business-to-business and the specific nature of the assignment.

What types of Pre-Assignment Screening are available?

Both physical and psychological factors need to be considered when preparing an employee for an expat assignment overseas. It’s a huge transition for a person to start living and working in a new country with different customs, and to be away from home comforts and the support of friends and family. Without the right preparation, the potential for the assignment to fail is high.

However, the following Pre-Assignment Screening services are designed to minimise the risk and maximise the chances of a successful outcome:

International Health Screening

Expatriates frequently suffer health-related problems while on assignment overseas. This sometimes leads to the failure of the assignment, an expensive medical evacuation or staff absence – which are entirely predictable and preventable.

Sometimes an employee can have an unknown or undiagnosed condition. However, most issues arise when an expat with a pre-existing condition goes on an overseas assignment with little or no knowledge of how these conditions can be handled in their destination country.

Before an employee leaves for the work placement, they need to understand how to integrate with the local healthcare system.  Seemingly trivial information can be important, such as whether the pharmaceutical drugs they require are under the same brand name or whether they are even legal in their destination country. Knowing where to get hold of certain drugs or access specific medical interventions can be crucial.

International medical screenings are an important consideration for any employee, but particularly if the expat is being sent on assignment with their family. This greatly increases the risk presented by pre-existing conditions – after all, they are each likely to have a varied health profile.

International health screening is generally conducted via an online system which includes a review of:

  • The employee’s health
  • Availability and quality of local healthcare
  • Type of work performed
  • Length of assignment

When you incorporate an international health screening into your pre-assignment process, you are better prepared to predict, prevent, and reduce risk for your expatriate employee and their family. It also provides you with an audit trail, demonstrating proactive duty of care and helps you drive savings both before and during the assignment.

Pre-departure preparation and evaluation

Each employee brings a unique set of skills and character traits to an organisation. But how do you know which team member will thrive in an overseas assignment? Without a thorough evaluation it’s impossible to know.

Consequently, many businesses choose to include a ‘management selection tool’ which screens shortlisted candidates providing written recommendations and in-depth suitability analysis.

Conducted by an experienced counsellor, a pre-departure evaluation can last up to 10 hours. It identifies personal risk factors as well as business risk. Preparation modules can include coaching and skill building designed to give employees the tools and coping strategies required to prosper in the assignment.

Pre-departure family preparation

These sessions are designed to support expat assignees, and their families, to prepare fully prior to assignment. The session is counsellor-led and can last up to six hours, delivering intensive preparation and consultation.

Awareness-building and skills coaching are among its key components. The counsellor’s core duty is to help participants identify vulnerabilities and strategies for success, focused around the challenges of re-location and cross-cultural adaption. 

The counsellor will seek answers to the following:

  • What are the potential strengths and weaknesses the family possesses (individually and collectively) for the experience that lies ahead?
  • What are the potential problems that could arise?
  • What are the key skills required to prosper?

Destination Services

There are a lot of practical concerns that come with relocating for an expat assignment, particularly if moving with family.

The Destination Services programme provides customised support for expats and their families with logistical hands-on support to facilitate a successful move and integration into a new host city and country. This programme can provide up to six days support, depending on the needs of the employee and be offered in almost every major city in the world.

The programme looks to facilitate a hassle-free move and is provided by a dedicated Destination Services consultant. The consultant will have extensive international knowledge and understand the complexities of living and working in different cultures.

Destination Services may include:

  • Area orientation of a preview trip to the host city, including booking hotels and providing information.
  • Assisting with the accommodation search, including lease and sales assistance, as well as utilities set up.
  • Assistance with local requirements like setting up bank accounts, getting a driving licence and finding a doctor
  • Searching for and understanding the school system and assisting with registering their children.

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Why offer Pre-assignment Screening?

From a hard-nosed business perspective, there’s a lot of money at stake. The average cost of an expatriate assignment is around £220,000 per year and expatriate failure rates are as high as 40%. Properly preparing your new assignee, and their family, is crucial in making sure that they are happy and you get the best possible return on your investment.

There is also the ethical dimension too. When any organisation sends an employee on an overseas assignment, they have a duty of care. It can be a daunting prospect to live and work in a new environment, especially for a substantial period of time. There are also many logistics that need to be managed and hazards to be avoided. Will you leave them to it? Or ensure that nothing is left to chance?

How much does Pre-Assignment Screening cost?

With the average costs of an expatriate assignment around £220,000 per year, and expatriate failure rates as high as 40% for some countries, properly preparing your new assignee, and their family, is crucial in making sure that they are happy and you get the best possible return on your investment.

Would International Health Screening affect my International Health Insurance?

The International Medical screening is confidential and only communicated to the employer as a ‘suitability finding’. Therefore, it will have no impact on any International Health Insurance plan already in place. If an unknown pre-existing condition is found and International Health Insurance hasn’t yet been put in place, this should be disclosed to the insurer, unless the scheme is ‘Medical History Disregarded’ in which case no medical history will be required.

How should I support an expat employee returning home after a long assignment?

While this page is focused on Pre-Assignment Screening, an employer should also consider what happens after the assignment ends. If an employee and/or their family is going on a long-term relocation, a plan should be put in place to ensure they get the support required upon returning home.

Returning home after a long expat assignment can require as much adjustment as the initial move overseas. Providing an instructor-led workshop to an individual or family will help facilitate personal and professional reintegration – and a happy ending for all involved.

Post-assignment support allows expats and their families to debrief the assignment at a high level and explore the challenges they will face returning to what was once their home. They will be supported in:

  • Understanding reverse culture shock
  • Identify lifestyle and cultural changes that have occurred whilst abroad
  • Develop strategies for minimising the impact of re-adjusting to ‘normal life’, including relationships with family, friends and work.
Pre-Assignment Screening
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