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Overseas deployment support

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Resilience is a popular topic these days.  And with good reason: setbacks and challenges happen to every individual and organization. How these are handled is what separates learning from stasis, better performance from demoralization and retreat. While resilience alone can’t make an organization grow and prosper, no successful team does so without it.

All organizations committed to building and sustaining resilience have one thing in common: they invest in their employees. This includes effective and tailored staff care that is offered wherever and whenever managers and staff need it.

For organizations with employees that work outside the United States, preparing staff before they depart on an assignment, being available to provide support while they are in the field, and checking in with them at the conclusion of a difficult assignment, is critically important to ensure well-being.

If you are an employee benefits advisor, or you advise individual clients who may go outside the United States for work, you will want to keep information on helping clients’ employees, or your own individual clients, on hand, for the times when you encounter these kinds of situations.

Effective deployment staff care includes:

1. Pre-deployment

Confidential, telephone or video-conference consultations are offered prior to deployment. These consultations are designed to discuss the individual’s psychological preparedness, resilience and self-care plans. Consultations assess personal strengths and vulnerabilities, develop/refine a resilience plan and set the groundwork for on-going support if it is desired.

In addition to staff deployed on long-term assignments to high stress locations, pre-deployment consultations are also available to those who may deploy frequently for short-term assignments to high stress locations.

2. Deployment

While staff are deployed they may benefit from access to one-on-one resiliency and stress management consultations. This includes individual consultations via telephone or video-conference with staff while they are deployed in the field. Common issues faced by staff while on deployment to high-risk locations may include: stress, anxiety, mild depression, sleeplessness, difficulty with peers or colleagues, relationship issues, vicarious stress, and loneliness/homesickness.

Teams are also trained in the particular environments in which they work. Ideally, this is done by coaches and facilitators who have worked in countries around the world. Expats understand the nuances and importance of healthy team dynamics suited to unique situations.

Accidents, disasters and attacks occur in the field. Specialists provide services to assist leaders and employees as they confront emotional challenges in a way that enables them to continue to perform and fulfill the mission. Counselors and trainers work with leaders and staff to understand and prepare for the impacts from and normal responses to critical incidents and other stresses inherent in high-risk environments.

3. Post-deployment

Specialists provide confidential, telephone or video-conference consultations with staff and volunteers upon conclusion of an assignment.  These confidential consultations are designed to reflect on experiences from the deployment, including challenging and growth-producing ones, develop a personal transition plan and lay the groundwork for on-going support if desired.

Resilience and staff care as an unbroken continuum. Services overlap all stages of deployment, while additional team strengthening and related consultation is available on an ongoing basis.

Identifying, addressing and supporting employees’ emotional needs is a critical part of effective leadership. The challenge is to transform that insight into comprehensive and effective services and processes that build and sustain individual and organizational resilience.

Lynne Cripe is the director of resilience services at The KonTerra Group in Washington. She was director of employee engagement, support and communications at CARE USA and a technical adviser with USAID.


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