Building a new social network in the destination location is one of the most significant challenges facing an assignee/transferee (“expat”) and their family. The company mobility team can support their expats by ensuring they are aware of the various offerings of public social networks and online communities. Company-specific social networks can also be offered to ensure their expats have a common network to connect with each other as well as the company.
Public Social Networks and Online Communities
Dozens of public, online social networks for expats are available; some with over a million members in hundreds of countries. They make it easy for expats in similar locations and situations with comparable interests and needs to connect and develop relationships online, and in many cases to attend local social gatherings for foreign nationals. And, membership is generally free.
Social networks support expats by:
- addressing the basic need to have friends and belong
- providing information on local resources, e.g. medical services, shopping, etc.
- publishing expat magazines, country and city guides
- sponsoring job boards and job fairs
- posting classified ads
- organizing community outreach events
- offering specific discussion groups; e.g. tax, expatriation and other expat-specific topics
Company-specific Social Networks
Companies with substantial expat populations often sponsor their own expat social network to stay connected, make announcements, initiate discussion topics and respond to questions.
Company-sponsored social networks afford most of the same benefits as public networks. Plus, expats can:
- make pre-departure contacts and develop relationships with new co-workers and their families in the destination country
- seek assistance in their pursuit of a post-assignment role
- receive announcements, reminders, resources and advice from the company’s mobility team
HR&Relo Advisors recommends having well-defined social media usage guidelines that are aligned with the company Standards of Business Conduct and other ethical standards for the employee (and their family if they have access).