Finding a Circle of Friends for Assignees 

Here’s one important advice to global mobility managers as they start 2020: help your assignees build strong friendships that they — and perhaps, even you — can count on. We’re not talking about enriching their social media networks either. 

Tagging them, twittering in their online conversations, or posting photos on their feeds might get them a dozen Likes or Friend requests. However, all of that remains a poor substitute for a more interpersonal interaction, also more popularly known as Facetime.

Human beings, especially assignees who work far away from their loved ones, want to feel that warm connection with kindred spirits or potential buddies they think they would be able to trust in due time. 

Foreign workers in particular need to make new friends in their new location of employment. It boosts their self-confidence, and helps them believe that they can succeed in the strange new world where they had rooted themselves in. According to one survey by Relocate Magazine, 57 percent of assignees name the lack of friendships as the number one reason for any unhappiness they are feeling.

Here are a few tips how to avoid that despondent stage, and nudge your assignee into putting on the wings of a social butterfly:

Build rapport with their colleagues

Let’s start with the obvious — the assignee’s colleagues whom they work closely with. Americans, especially those who work in tech hubs like Silicon Valley, are genuinely welcoming of expatriates. 

Still, the occasional water-cooler dialogue may not be enough, especially if the assignee is naturally shy. As Instarem advised, subtly encourage them to join the company’s after-hour bonding activities like a weekend sports game or a brainstorming session held in a coffee shop. 

Ask the more sociable and influential individuals in the team to host a dinner or lunch at their homes; with other associates around, the assignee’s defenses can go down and they might feel more comfortable in mingling. 

If the event is bigger and contains a larger number of people, e.g. a grand birthday celebration, you might have to take the lead in introducing your assignee to the other people in the room.

Encourage the assignee to volunteer for a cause

Good friends or allies share similar passions or believe in the same cause. It becomes easy to open up and talk about yourself with a person who is equally fighting to make the world a better place to live in. 

Strategies, goals, and dreams are intensely exchanged, leading to deeper conversations. As advised by The Portable Wife, explore advocacies that your assignee genuinely cares about, e.g. education for the underprivileged, counseling the emotionally challenged, raising funds for orphans. Then link them with an organization that can provide them the suitable platform where they can make the most contribution.

There are also professional advantages to this approach. First, the volunteer work would look good in the assignee’s resume. Second, knowing that they are making a positive impact on society can boost their self-worth, which in turn can translate into optimism and productivity in the office. 

Introduce them to affinity or hobby groups, as advised by The Expatriate Coach 

Whether your assignee is a weekend chef or literally climbs mountains to de-stress, their pleasure in indulging their fun activity can be heightened with the right companionship. 

An assignee adjusting to a new culture will find this common interest as an icebreaker. It can also be an opportunity to show off their own prowess to potential friends. 

Once you’ve learned their fondest hobby, work your own network to see which affinity group is a match for them. A colleague who likes the same thing can join and accompany them, possibly creating the start of a good friendship.