Today's global business environment may require even a small businesses to assign employees to work in foreign countries. Your human resources department must train and prepare employees for their experience working abroad so that they can work and live effectively. The challenge of such training is that it must embrace not only business issues, but lifestyle, technical and cultural issues as well. Make sure your HR department provides comprehensive training for expatriates.

Cross-Cultural Social Training

Your HR department must be prepared to offer social training for an employee assigned to work abroad and that employee’s family. The trainer should familiarize the family with local customs, taboos and expectations for social interactions. Everything from serving meals for dinner guests to gift-giving etiquette may be different in the country where the expatriate will work.

Cross-Cultural Business Training

The role of HR in business training involves thorough coverage of labor relations laws in the host country, as well as effective leadership styles in the new culture. In addition, the expatriate must learn about productivity standards, hiring practices, disciplinary methods and local regulations in the new location. HR must research and cover all of the important business topics that can affect the performance of the expatriate.

Security Training

Increased political tensions across the globe require the HR department to address security issues. The expatriate deserves to know what local conditions could adversely affect herself and her family. Such issues include the likelihood of kidnapping and terrorism, as well as the implications of being arrested by local authorities and being judged by local laws.

Remote Training

The HR department must plan for continued training of the expatriate as new products and procedures move through the company. This training can take the form of live meetings via computer, teleconferencing and web-based training. These types of training will not only keep the expatriate up to date on company development and progress, they will allow the HR department to receive feedback from the employee regarding issues and further training that is needed.


HR training for expatriates must encompass their return to the United States. Repatriation requires adjustments on the part of the employee who has worked abroad. Depending on the length of the foreign assignment, the returning employee may need to become familiar with practices in the home office, as well as adjusting to the reporting hierarchy. In addition, HR must plan to incorporate the returning employee’s insights and knowledge gained abroad into training for employees in the United States.