Case Study: AstraZeneca’s Expatriate Best Practices

AstraZeneca’s Expatriate Best Practices

Columbia Southern University

Analyzation if AstraZeneca’s expatriate management practices:

AstraZeneca is a large pharmaceutical company, the fifth in the world by global sales (Deresky, 2017). This company has a high reputation for being one of the top best companies to work as am expatriate for due to the outstanding support, processes, and how the company selects their staff in order to make the assignments successful. As the case study in the course book states, “Expatriate management at AstraZeneca went beyond tackling issues such as compensation, housing, issues related to the spouse’s career abroad, and so on. It also took care to ensure that employees on international assignment were able to adapt well to the new environment and achieve a work-life balance.” (Deresky, 2017). This seems to be the total opposite of the company Kelly was working for in Unit 6 when she was moved to Tokyo Japan. Now, she was not part of a larger company either, but Kelly had no support and her company seemed to not know what they were doing when they sent her to represent their company overseas. This pharmaceutical company, with 2013 revenues of around US$25.7 billion, had things figured out. They had the training, resources, and personnel to assist with the training and step by step transition of the employee to their new assignment. AstraZeneca also went a step ahead and looked after the family and made sure the spouse had a career abroad, or opportunity to work abroad. This is a very valuable asset when hiring an employee to work on an assignment overseas.

Another strong principle this company practices is how it researches the country the employees work in. Deresky states, “The company saw to it that the costs involved were acceptable and that the career management of the employee during the assignment was consistent with personal development goals as well as business needs. The contractual arrangements for the assignment were also centrally managed. From the outset, if there is not a clear sense of how the international assignment experience can be applied at the end of the assignment term – the business should strongly consider whether an international assignment should even move forward.” (Deresky, 2017). Though this is a large passage of the text, this is a very important part. If the company sees that the employee’s needs were met on both the personal and professional level as well as a good opportunity for the business, then there may be future dealings with that set location. The company also looks to see how much it costs to keep it running in that local area. Are the costs exceeding the profits coming in? Is the company taking to large of a hit financially to benefit with staying long term? The company analyzes everything and listens to their employees. Listening to the ones who are going through the tough times and real events will better your company in the long run. AstraZeneca can really shed some light on developing companies looking to expand abroad.

Training was also a large part of success to the company. When the new offer came in, the company would assign an IA Manager to that employee who would begin the briefing on the language and culture for the assignment location. According to Deresky, the employees were given materials that gave the dos and don’ts on social considerations and interactions, the culture normality’s, the differences with the host country, etc. This is very beneficial. The more you know about a certain location, the less overwhelmed a person will feel once they get there. They will have a sense of what to expect and will somewhat know what the area will be like before working. The company also goes a step above and tries to pair up an employee with someone who has been to that location before that may have some insight and help in areas where the company cannot. The IA Manager and the company manager will stay in constant contact with the employee. This is important in order to assist in the work – life balance.

Buildup of anxiety due to work – life balance while working as an expatriate:

Working in a foreign environment can be extremely difficult for anyone. The language barrier, knowing your surrounding with a new location, transportation, food choices, customs and courtesies, and culture is hard enough to take in. Learning all that while trying to take care of your family and learn your new workload and how the process rhythm is with your new companies’ location is can be extremely stressful. Everything the company AstraZeneca is doing to prepare their employees for an overseas assignment is spot on and what I would do if I was a manager for a business. The steps they do are:

1. Assignment offer is made to expatriate

2. International Assignment Manager (IA) is assigned.

a. Briefs expat on leaving destination and returning to home country

b. Gives expat information about culture of destination country (differences with home country) and social do’s and don’ts.

c. Gives employee and family language training of host country if it is needed.

d. Stay in touch with expat during duration of overseas assignment.

3. Connects employee with past expats that served in that country already.

4. Follow-up workshops held in host countries

5. IA manager as well as company manager stay in touch during the duration of the expat’s overseas assignment.

With all that the company does, I can see why this company is one of the top for overseas expatriate employment. The way they take care of their employees shows how much they care for their well-being and how much the executives understand that their business will not be successful without them. When you have anxious, stressed, and angry employees, the work they put out is poor or non-existent and you would not want that represented overseas.

Companies decisions to maximize the benefits for expatriates:

With the economy downsizing and companies always finding ways to save money, there are things that need to be looked at when assigning future expats to distant countries. With everything that is involved with the training and preparation of an expat before departure, the bill of the company can already start to rise to a high level. On top of that, the size family can cause an issue. When you sent a family, you must provide benefits, school expenses, spouse job expenses, compensation for cost of living expenses, higher salaries to make up for the larger families, etc. Everything needs to be considered when determining an expats eligibility of future overseas assignment work. One thing that can be done would be ask what languages someone speaks when hiring new employees. This would decrease the costs of language training and courses and would save the company time. And we all know time is money. Also, the size of a family can be taken into consideration as well. Maybe a smaller family should be chosen ahead of a large family, or a single employee, or an employee without children should be considered first when selecting the right person for the job. This does not mean select the bad employee over the best because they don’t have kids. What I mean is that the company should evaluate what resources their employees already bring to the table and where the company would not have to spend as much funds on that employee to prepare them and sustain them while hired as an expat. Also, when a position comes open, would it be cheaper to keep a person overseas, or would it be cheaper to move them back and send someone else in their place? There is a lot to determine, and there is no correct answer to this question. The only input I can say is to find out what all current and future employees currently have in their tool bags (resumes) that can benefit your company and make it less time and costs with training them in specific areas.


Deresky, H. (2017). International management: Managing across borders and cultures (9th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Pearson.