5 ways recruiters can prioritise healthcare for expat employees

The stakes can feel impossibly high, but don’t worry

Sourcing and placing talent worldwide is becoming ever more the key to success for any internationally minded business – from an ambitious startup in Bangalore to the shimmering white buildings of Silicon Valley and the waterfront skyscrapers of Dubai and Singapore.

Yet it’s a naive manager or recruitment specialist indeed who assumes moving this talent around is about supplying a relocation package to a qualified employee, bundling them on a plane and having done with it.

The truth is far more complex, and employees are concerned with both their physical and their mental health more than ever nowadays. These are often long-term concerns, or matters that can tie into the element of the unexpected – an injury in the workplace here, a sudden bout of the local flu there.

The stakes can feel impossibly high, but don’t worry. With the right approach, healthcare can be correctly prioritised while also segueing neatly into your tried and true expat placement strategy.

1. Communication is half the battle

Getting to know your prospective expat employee personally, as much as they feel comfortable, is a big component in understanding how much of a priority healthcare is to them altogether.

Some workers see themselves as resilient and need only be reassured that the healthcare in their new country will be on par with the ad-hoc treatment they enjoy back home.

Other professionals regard healthcare as a central component of their willingness to relocate, and finding this out late into the process of arranging their expatriation can be a painful thorn in the side of progress for all involved.

Extend the conversation to their family if they’re moving, too. It’s important to identify if there are any ongoing or chronic illness or injuries that need consistent care over time, and identifying this early on will ensure a much smoother journey for all involved.

2. Reach beyond the hyperbole when researching

No two countries ever seem to view healthcare the same way. Indeed, many of the world’s most promising upcoming economies, hungriest for talent, are less adept in practicing modern and effective healthcare than your expat-to-be might be accustomed to back home.

And of course, those cities where business always seems to be booming often have many of the highest fears for healthcare costs too.

Given that you’ve hopefully taken the first point in mind, you should hopefully have an idea of your employee’s needs down to the more personal details, and can use this in researching the target destination in depth, away from the hyperbole.

Reassure that your client isn’t going to be going without healthcare in any way, too – especially with international healthcare policies for expats so readily available.

3. Understand your expat’s state of mind

Our mental outlook shapes our work, and that’s simply a fact of life. The same goes for expat employees, especially when you consider the impact that culture shock can have and how so many expat placements fail due to the stress of being in a new location.

Yet underlying mental health questions, however uncomfortable they may seem in the moment, are also wise to address. It’s important to identify if your employee is well disposed to the culture of the place they’re heading to, sure – but also to ensure that they know that their mental health is going to be looked after as much as their physical health.

You can do this in a number of ways. Some expat employees do well keeping in regular contact with the team back home and finding reassurement that they’re doing a good job. Conversely, others will flourish in being set free in a new society to make their mark on behalf of your business largely autonomously. It all comes down to the individual.

It’s vital to keep the conversation open here, as even the happiest countries in the world have rising mental illness numbers to contend with in today’s world.

4. Equip your expat with your resources

Operating in an information silo with, say, the research we have been discussing, or the healthcare professionals in other countries you may have formed alliances and relationships with, open those same lines of communication up for your expat both before and during their tenure overseas.

This not only ensures that you don’t have to be the go-between that connects up conversations and concerns from one party to the other, but it also equips your client with confidence boosting knowledge that will ultimately assist them in being autonomous in their new home.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed, as they say, so this is another area in which remaining open about, say, the best clinics and pharmacies for expats in a given destination, or any illness or safety scares in that country, will help foster trust with the recruit.

5. Help your recruitee understand how medication and local laws might conflict

Some destinations in the world are much more stringent on the use of certain medication or prescription drugs than your recruitee might be used to. For example, although Dubai is a global city that welcomes expats from all corners of the globe, the list of pills and drugs that the United Arab Emirates altogether bans or frowns upon is pretty substantial.

Whether your client relies on a consistent prescription to treat and deal with a condition, be that physical or mental, or if they instead have a favourite brand or kind of pill they turn to when the need arises, understanding its availability or any controls that exist at the destination is vital.

This is one of those issues that’s very easily overlooked, because it’s easy to take our medication for granted at home, where it’s so readily available. On a related note, it’s best to also forewarn expats about how certain treatments might not fall under regular healthcare programmes that may exist in their home country.

For instance, in places like the UK or Canada, a national health service exists, but it doesn’t cover the likes of optical or dental care, which often carry their own charges.

Overall, value the experience

That’s as true of your own research as the direct, boots-on-ground experience your recruitee picks up. Even if by some slim chance the expat placement doesn’t work, you have gained direct experience of that local culture to convey to the rest of their team.

And if things go well, as they ought to if you follow this advice, there will be a wealth of direct experience and refined talent that your expat can bring home and use to enrich the knowledge base of your organisation.

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