Americans love to live and work abroad. As of 2017, there were an estimated 56.8 million expats worldwide. Thirty-five percent of those expats have migrated for work-related reasons—that’s close to 20 million people who are potentially on assignment with large, multinational companies.

In a globalized world, sometimes there’s no substitute for sending a high-performing employee who knows the intricacies of the business to help open a new office, course-correct a team that needs assistance, or offer up a highly specialized skill set. Placing this very important employee population at the center of the benefits delivery experience helps to ensure a positive benefits experience for globally mobile employees. This can result in employee satisfaction that will have long-term ROI implications.

Bloomberg/file photo

Here are six opportunities for employers, brokers, and insurers to partner with employees to turn the uncertainty of navigating a new workplace into clarity.

Listen, communicate and engage before the assignment begins
Employers are generally an employee’s primary contact on all matters related to their new assignment and move. Taking the time to listen to employees and point them to information and resources that can help them on their journey will set employees up for success before they even touch ground in the host country.

Facilitate one-on-one meetings in preparation for the move. Have your HR team source dedicated and experienced expatriate service personnel to be the sounding board for your employee’s questions and concerns and partner with them on an action plan to address each benefit need. Additionally, connect them with any current expatriates from your organization who are in the host country. The current expatriate will be an invaluable source of information and provide an inside perspective of how to navigate the experience within your organization. It’s okay to hold their hand through this process. Employees are looking for guidance and advice and will lean on you as the expert as to what their experience may look and feel like.

Start the benefits conversation early
When moving overseas, employees typically are not thinking about their health benefits — but they should. Partner with your insurer to identify what changes and challenges employees can expect abroad. Be very clear to your employee in what coverage is available and identify how it is different or similar to what they have now. Remember that your employee is still feeling overwhelmed and during the enrollment process, plan options can sound confusing and paperwork is seen as cumbersome. Your goal is to take them from a state of uncertainty to feeling reassured and supported.

Leverage your insurer for educating your employee
Ask your insurer what materials are available during implementation that you can use which provide clarity around what it means for your employee to not only be an expatriate in a specific country, but also on how to navigate the local healthcare space. Many insurers often have educational materials, host webinars, and have access to multimedia tools and communications which employers can repurpose. Employees tend to receive information better from their employers versus the insurer, therefore it is helpful for the employer to take the lead here.

Engage spouses, partners in addition to your employee
Many times, expatriate assignments that include a family have one person who manages care and keeps the family organized. This individual should be on-boarded as well — especially if they aren’t the employee — so they understand the type of support they can expect from employers and benefit insurers. Don’t assume your employee will relay all this information to their significant other at home.

Ensure that your insurer is in a position to assist where your employee is assigned
Once employees are on the ground and searching for a medical provider, they will need guidance and support. Insurers are in the best position to provide referrals for their healthcare needs. Whether it’s a website, an app, a customer call center, or a local walk-in office, referral tools and customer assistance should be on standby, comprehensive, and timely. Insurers can provide information that is readily available so employees feel empowered to manage their care.

Make it clear to your expat who to contact if help is needed
This point can’t be overstated. Expatriate employees may be inclined to reach out to employers for information — but they should be contacting their insurer. When employees report a problem to their employer, many times the employer funnels the issue up to a broker who also isn’t in a position to help. It is critical for employees to know who their first point of contact is when it comes to issues that need to be escalated. Making this clear will help avoid aggravation, fear, and loss of time when it comes to addressing critical health and benefits issues on the ground.