Many discover that coming home is not as simple as it sounds.

Just as every landscape needs a balanced natural ecosystem, every organisation needs a healthy talent ecosystem. You need the right mix of age, skill, experience, gender, culture and neuro-diversity to meet your organisation’s needs, and these systems are not static. To maintain your talent ecosystem, you need to manage dynamically and attract, retain and repatriate the best talent you can get.

In this third part of our series on your talent ecosystem, we address the challenge of repatriating talent. What happens when you bring employees back from work assignments at other sites within the home country or from abroad? We look at the many things that can be done by employers and employees to mitigate risks and ensure the best return on investment, for everyone.

Even when organisations put a lot of effort into supporting employees moving away for work, the level of support for returnees is usually much lower. I’ve been talking to a lot of people who have been through this and their stories have brought home to me what some of the pitfalls can be.

(Names are changed to provide anonymity.)

On the home front:

Home has changed:

When your home town has changed while you were away, it can create a dislocating feeling. As Chrissie Hynde wrote, “I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone”. Whilst normally we see changes gradually, experiencing them after a long absence can be jarring.

Or home hasn’t changed:

Ian told me, “It was strange. My city hadn’t changed, but I had. It was hard to find my place again.” Tom told me he spent months  “in mourning for the different lifestyle I had when I was away.”

Relationships are challenged:

The rhythm of friendships and family connections has been broken. Can you reform the links? Sylvie told me, “I’ve become much more critical of my countrymen now that I’ve lived away and have seen other ways of living. That’s true for friendships and for the culture generally.”

Getting settled is not so easy:

“I needed a new place to live and was dealing with family breakdown and bereavement at the same time. I felt like my life was in the air and there was no help for me”, Richard told me.

“It was strange. My city hadn’t changed, but I had. It was hard to find my place again.”


Procurement Director

People tire quickly of hearing their stories about “over there”.

And work can be challenging too:

Fitting in again:

Those who travel away from headquarters as expats often find themselves frustrated by being a small cog in a big machine again after having had significantly more influence in their placement. Others are frustrated when the learning they bring back is rejected as “not invented here”, and people tire quickly of hearing their stories about “over there”.

Career planning:

Employers may promise to keep an eye on your career progression while you are away, but many returners tell me they felt that it was more “out of sight and out of mind”, and they felt that their new skills and experiences were inadequately recognised by their employers on their return. For those who return to find a new job, it seems that recruiters struggle to value foreign experience appropriately, in terms of both responsibility and salary, when matching candidates to opportunities. As a result, many returnees leave their employer and a significant proportion of them turn to setting up their own companies.

Employers: Returners are an important part of your talent ecosystem

Global mobility is great for employers and employees, but the risks are real. What can be done to reduce suffering and promote flourishing?

Talent Planning

Make sure that succession planning takes into account the people who are working away. And make sure that their development in role has been reported and acknowledged by the management team

Lessons learned

Find opportunities for returners to apply what they have learned in their placement; can they contribute to some cross-functional groups to share intelligence and learning beyond their day job?

Offer support

Repatriation is a coachable moment. The returnee faces all sorts of practical, professional and emotional challenges in re-entry, where individual coaching can make a big difference. It’s also a time to consolidate learning and make a difference to the organisation by bringing in new ideas.

Repatriation is a coachable moment.

Make sure they keep you in mind by staying in touch.

Employees: Manage your own development

Treat coming home like going out

Remember how you had a big plan to make your relocation work? You had a plan and a checklist, you went out of your way to meet new people and find new hobbies. Yvonne told me she realised she had to do the same thing when she got home. Finding a walking group and joining a book club made all the difference in helping her feel at home again.  You have changed, so your ‘tribe’ may have changed too. Be open to embracing a new friendship group and letting go of relationships that no longer serve you.

Take control of your career

While you were away, managers back home were busy. Make sure they keep you in mind by staying in touch. Find yourself a formal or informal mentor and keep them informed of your progress while you are away. When it’s time to return, start early with enquiring about opportunities at home, some moves take time to organise!

Develop a global mindset

I’ve noticed that people who have moved a lot begin to develop a global mindset. This can include developing a sense of home that is within them rather than around them and which they carry with them wherever they are. They also become more tolerant of diversity and change and this can help us to accept the change we find when we return to our place of origin.

Share your experience

At Enhanced Relocation, we care about those setting out and those returning. At our Welcome Club monthly meetings we see those who have just arrived, some who have been here some time and some who have returned. Everyone has their own stories and yet a lot in common too. We all understand what it feels like to feel out of place.

What’s your story, what’s your challenge? Share it with us!

Would you like to know more about how to maintain a healthy talent ecosystem? Read parts 1 and 2 of our series below and find out more at Enhanced