This assignment deals with a case study that analyzes the expatriate management issues that can occur in an organizational structure. This assignment focuses on a pharmaceutical company namely AstraZeneca. It is the fifth largest pharmaceutical organization in the world with revenues of US$ 31.6 billion and around 66,000 employees across the world. Over the years, AstraZeneca has able to build a strong reputation for handling its expat management practices. Around 350 employees of AstraZeneca are working on both short-term and long-term international assignments. AstraZeneca provided language and cultural training to their potential expat so that they can able to handle issues in a different culture. This case study critically analyzes AstraZeneca’s expats policies.
The term expatriate defines an employee sent to a different country by his/her company to manage operations. In an organization, expat is an employee who works and lives in a foreign location other than his/her home country. AstraZeneca’s policy for international assignments stipulates that a business rationale had to be present to handle any issue. To implement this, AstraZeneca team up the potential expats with an international assignment manager (IA manager), who brief the expats on organization policies and opportunities. The expats also provided with several trainings by AstraZeneca before leaving for any international assignment. AstraZeneca provides this training to give information about the culture of the host country, particularly the major differences with the expats home country.
Sometimes for follow-up workshops in the assigned country, expats stayed in touch with their IA manager in addition to the home country manager. AstraZeneca provides necessary flexibilities that are required for the expats to achieve a work/life balance. According to its HR manager, AstraZeneca is aware of the fact that they are working across various time zones. Hence, their expats are provided with several considerations so that their work/life can remain in balance. For this, AstraZeneca implemented a combination of things to have a culture that supports work/life balance. Some expats of AstraZeneca felt that practices like preparing employees for different international assignments, giving them support and assigning IA managers were very effective. As these practices, encourage expats to perform well in unknown environments.
However, there are some complaints from company’s expat population regarding work/life balances. According to them, the company will send fewer people on an international assignment because of the poor performance of the economy. Since sending people on international projects costs highly, the company will have to take a second look at the situation. Many also predicted a cut of compensation associated with international projects. AstraZeneca’s step of cutting costs by sending employees on short-term international assignments also influences this thought.
On the other hand, AstraZeneca has cleared that they do not have any plan in near future to deploy their international staffs. Since dealing with international assignments are critical, companies need to look at several factors beyond expenditure to identify the right person to perform this job. AstraZeneca also announced that they are more concern about choosing right person rather than the costs associated with it. Hence before choosing anyone, AstraZeneca can consider some factors (Vaiman et al., 2015).
An employee’s willingness to serve overseas is a key measure for identifying expat. Since this job demands geographical relocation, AstraZeneca can fill out an application by their existing employees. In that application form, AstraZeneca can ask their employees whether they are willing to relocate internationally and their preferred location. AstraZeneca also needs to be consistent in their practices and procedures for expatriates. AstraZeneca has policies that are written with the expats in mind (Czajor, 2015). However, AstraZeneca needs to ensure these policies are applied to all the expatriates around the world. Key issues like reimbursement, compensation packages and benefits are needed to be cleared to the expats before assigning them any international projects. A support network is also crucial for expats. However, AstraZeneca's practices of assigning IA managers are praised by their expatriates immensely; still company need to keep focus on not to rushed employees on foreign assignments (Marples & Gravelle, 2014).
When expats are on foreign assignments, they can be under immense stress due to transitions of roles, differences in language, values, culture and expectations (Hayat, 2014). As a result, AstraZeneca needs to be extremely cautious in choosing right expats for the right positions and at the right locations. AstraZeneca can build a personal development committee between departmental staff and human resource staff to nominate most suitable candidate for the assignment. After this, IA managers need to conduct a telephonic interview to choose the right candidate (Smith & Tornikoski, 2012).
Informing employees about the content of the assignment is very crucial because an expatriate’s nomadic lifestyle is not for everyone (De Cieri & Bardoel, 2015). By providing information, AstraZeneca can give their expats a realistic overview of the job that will help expatriates to handle stress during the assignment more easily. AstraZeneca also needs to provide proper educational counseling for expats children. This will help expatriates family to settle down in an unknown country. Otherwise, expatriates may not fully devote themselves to work responsibilities which will in turn reduce expats productivity (Dabic et al., 2015).
AstraZeneca can also arrange a pre-assignment trip to give a realistic overview of the assignment that the expatriates are expected to perform. Pre-assignment trip can be a key factor as it gives a realistic overview to the expatriates about the kind of challenges he/she will have to face during the assignment (McEvoy & Buller, 2013). Pre-assignment trip also helps expatriates by providing them firsthand experience to the culture in which they are going to work during the assignment. Cultural training is also a key factor, as it helps employees to deal with unpredictable incidents in the new culture. The ability to adapt different culture is one of the most essential elements of a successful expatriate (Bonache & Noethen, 2014). However, AstraZeneca is known for the kind of training they provide to their employees. Still more is focus needed to be given to this factor. As every international assignment associated with lots of money, company need to be certain about its decisions. Otherwise, it might fail to recover its investments (Berry & Bell, 2012).
Building a proper expat system is like constructing a building, that is tall strong and attractive. Pre-departure support from the organization is a long process that prepares expatriates for their overseas assignment. This continues support for expats during the foreign assignments allows them to adjust and response to several encounters in differential cultural environment. AstraZeneca is considered as one the best in the world in providing support to the expatriates. Since, it is very much focused on providing right kind of training and support to its expats. AstraZeneca’s policies of providing IA manager have been praised highly by its employees. Since these managers have provided them the right kind of support to deal with several challenges in foreign cultural environments. AstraZeneca's key challenges will be to link foreign assignments directly to their company's carrier paths in order to be able to take advantages of the skills and experiences that expats develop during their transfers in long-term foreign assignments. AstraZeneca has already taken initiatives to provide proper carrier path to its expected expatriates. The changes of expats management of several MNC’s indicate that the other companies are also considering the issue of expat management very seriously. Changes in the way of perceiving carrier among the younger generations suggest that employees are not completely willing to focus on their professional lives on a single employer. Therefore, organizations have lot to lose if they do not handle their foreign assignments properly. Hence, it is critical for AstraZeneca to identify and develop their future expat management strategies in response to evolving corporate needs.
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