american expat

How To Recruit Decade-Long American Expats Back to the US

How do you recruit American expats, also known as sea turtles or “amphibian” expatriates working abroad, to return home after being away for over a decade? One of our blogs has explained why they can be nurtured and tapped to become a significant talent pool who can fill in critical shortages in skills and international knowledge and experience. They have been described as “amphibians” because they can navigate skillfully in several countries, including their country of birth and country or countries of employment. They often become the link by which the businesses and enterprises that are located in these nations can find a common platform and create solid relationships. Their respective ages, gender, and gender orientation do not matter — what is important is what they can bring to the table.

The Recruitment Intelligence Group specifically names the fields of work that American expatriates have become skilled and knowledgeable in the past few years, ranking them as follows:  1) production, manufacturing, maintenance, and repair; 2) public services, defense, and community; 3) communications and media; 4) healthcare; 5) consultancy management; 6) transport/logistics; 7) education/science; 8) telecommunications; 9) energy; 10) industry; 11) IT or the internet; and 12) pharmacy.

American sea turtles who want to come home may happen to have an edge over foreign nationals or assignees: their familiarity with American culture. They are Americans after all, and while they do need a certain amount of integration once they return, it does not have to be as extensive as that of the foreign assignee. The foreign assignee would be learning everything almost from the beginning, whereas the American sea turtle would just have to take another tour of the old stomping ground.

But neither is re-integration as simple as it sounds. American expatriates returning to the fold do harbor their own set of insecurities. Some of them keep to themselves until the global mobility specialist dig it out. This sea turtle may know that language and culture will not be an obstacle, but the so-called reverse adjustment may be. As ERE Recruiting Intelligence puts it, this sea turtle will be asking themselves the following questions:

“Will I enjoy the same “expat” status in the U.S. as I did back home? Will I be given the same kind of autonomy to do my job, or will I be micro-managed? Will my fellow Americans respect the different perspectives that I acquired overseas? Will I be able to fit in? Will I like the same sports, TV shows, movies? How about my family? We’ve been separate for so many years, will we be able to live together in peace now that we will be together?”  Or if his family and kids had stayed overseas with them, the sea turtle will ask if those youngsters will be able to find new friends in an American high school, now that they’ve possibly adopted a new faith, sported a couple of different ethnic clothes, and have gotten used to foreign food.

To manage this reverse global culture shock, global mobility specialists can do the following:

Understand the prime driver that made this sea turtle want to come home — and then nurture and support it.

Knowing their motivation is half the battle won. Is it a desire to advance professionally in his native U.S.A?  Did the sea turtle want to bring up their kids in his home state, as opposed to a foreign capital? Was the sea turtle finally feeling lost and lonely and looking to recapture their roots? Were they planning on retirement and felt this could be better served in America instead of in a foreign soil?

Second, management must support the integration.

Training, online classes, networking activities, and other events that can help the sea turtle find their legs again should be designed and implemented in the next few months. The sea turtle has made a career swimming between two countries — this time, they are about to settle down in just one and they need to have the proper tools to do so.

Finally, create a support system that will support the management’s efforts at integration.

The global mobility specialist himself might have to be a shock absorber-counselor-and-career guide in one. He would have to take a lead in taking the sea turtle and their family out to dinner or to recreation areas where they can re-acquaint themselves with the American lifestyle. He might have to introduce them to schools and other cultural centers that can fill in the cultural gaps of knowledge created by so many years overseas.

The global mobility specialist in turn would have to rely on his own network of supporters to carry out this mission. Embassies, enterprises like

California Corporate Housing, civic associations, and schools would be a great place to start.