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Overseas assignment success: adapting to new cultures

Aetna International understands the importance of ensuring that international assignments are a success from the very beginning.

We provide our members, their families and their employers with some practical knowledge to support a successful assignment.

New start, new culture

The number of international assignments among multinationals grew by 25% between 2000 and 2016. While international assignments are becoming more strategic, they do still pose challenges and risks to employees and organisations. One challenge includes the increased pressure on employers to reduce the cost of international assignments. A typical assignment costs at least two to three times an employee’s annual salary or $1 million per assignee.

At Aetna International, our highly skilled medical experts place great emphasis on providing guidance on the health and well-being of our members prior to their relocation, maximising the potential success of the foreign assignment. We want our members and their dependants to feel confident that their newly laid roots will soon take hold, and by supporting them throughout their assignment, those roots will soon evolve into a fulfilling life abroad. We have put together a range of Destination Guides so that those planning to relocate can become familiar with the unique culture, customs and environment of their intended destination before they make the move.

Costing up cultural barriers

The ability to adapt to other cultures is critical to the success of international assignments. Aperian Global lists the top five reasons for international assignment failure as: inadequate preparation, the pressure of transition, family adaptation challenges, isolation (out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome) and repatriation concerns. Many assignments also fail due to people not adapting to the culture of their new home and the stresses associated with feeling like they don’t fit in. Find out more about how to prevent international assignment failure here. In KPMG’s Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey 2015, approximately 32% of workers polled said they had turned down overseas assignments because they were concerned about how it might affect their families. They were worried about uprooting their family or interrupting their spouse’s career path.

A powerful partnership

In February 2016, we formed a partnership with specialist crisis management company red24, providing an additional layer of personal protection and security for eligible members who choose an Aetna Pioneer or Aetna Summit plan. red24’s expertise in international crisis management and security services provides a valuable extension of our health and well-being services for members relocating to higher-risk environments.

Members who have access to an Aetna International plan with red24’s AdviceLine service can learn all about their planned destination to help ensure integration success. red24’s cultural assessment works to help members understand the cultural beliefs, values and practices of their destination. This could include advice on what to wear to meetings, how to greet associates, dining out and other “dos and don’ts” specific to your new country of residence.

In addition, red24’s global team can provide round-the-clock country risk information, intelligence reports, cultural recommendations and support services to eligible individuals and employees on a group policy. Personalised and expert safety advice can be delivered to members — whose plans include red24 services — in real-time, in the event of political unrest, natural hazards, travel disruption and hostile situations.

Ongoing support to help you flourish

Aetna International understands that no two countries are the same and that no two individuals will have the same needs and requirements once they relocate. We look at what employees might need from a health and wellness point of view, and our expert clinicians are available 24/7 to support members before, during and after their assignment:

  • Pre-trip planning
  • Assistance locating providers and obtaining medications or medical equipment
  • Coordination of medical evacuation services
  • Discharge planning
  • Assistance with benefit coordination
  • Assistance with medical needs for the member’s return to their home country after they have completed their assignment

We address some of the most common problems leading to failed assignments – including stress and anxiety – and work to help individuals mitigate them. With organised pre-trip planning, we can guide and assist employees and their employer in reducing the risk of assignment failure, helping to ensure that the assignment is a success.

At Aetna International, we are committed to creating a stronger, healthier global community by delivering comprehensive health care benefits and health solutions worldwide. We are one of the largest providers of international private medical insurance, serving more than 700,000 members worldwide. We offer a broad range of health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioural health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities. For more information on our international medical insurance plans and the health and wellness support available to employees on assignment, contact our expert sales consultants today. 

Mental health is a growing issue for expats; workers and their employers, as well as those relocating independently. Read our white paper — Expatriate mental health: Breaking the silence and ending the stigma — for more information.  

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

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