According to the results, employee attitudes towards Finland and Finns were positive and organizational identification with the ECHA was high already prior to employees’ relocation. No changes in these two were observed in the post-migration stage, as compared to pre-migration levels. The psychological well-being of the employees, however, decreased significantly after the relocation. This indicates a need to pay special attention to the processes leading to successful psychological adaptation in the new country.
The decrease in well-being following relocation was in line with our expectations: moving to an unknown country can be highly stressful, and previous research has indicated a similar decrease in expatriates’ well-being 4-6 months after relocating. A more detailed analysis showed that this change was – in the pre-migration phase – mainly related to the limited use of planning as a coping strategy and the tendency to perceive Finland and one’s home country as substantially different from one another. In the post-migration stage, low levels of psychological well-being were related to the limited use of positive reframing as a coping strategy, low self-esteem, unsatisfactory social as well as organizational support, low European identification, an avoiding attitude towards contact with Finns, and unmet expectations concerning the work assignment. Satisfaction with organizational assistance and support to prepare for the relocation, as well as the availability of social support in general, were highly important factors, decreasing stress prior to relocation and predicting higher well-being after relocation.
Participants perceived the adaptation of their family members as more stressful than the new work itself. They were, therefore, highly appreciative of the assistance provided by the ECHA and the City of Helsinki in matters such as searching for housing facilities, day-care services, schools and job opportunities for their spouses. Furthermore, we observed that employees who were accompanied by their families showed stronger organizational identification with the ECHA as well as higher levels of job satisfaction than employees who came alone. One way to explain this link is by the fact that relocating with one’s family involves a greater commitment to the new work. Consequently, organizations that wish to retain their employees and support their adjustment should provide measures directed at the whole expatriate family.
It is important to note that highly skilled self-initiated employees (SFEs), that is, individuals who have independently applied for work abroad without a sending organization, often receive less organizational pre-migration support than traditional expatriates sent abroad by their employer. The latter tend to receive a greater amount of organizational support due to their association to both a sending and a receiving organizational unit, whereas highly skilled SFEs usually lack the support of a sending organization. Consequently, the support of the receiving organization and society are of a particular importance.
When asked about identification with different groups, the employees of the ECHA perceived themselves primarily as Europeans. In the post-migration stage, European identification was positively related to socio-psychological (attitudes towards Finns) and work adaptation (organizational identification), with higher levels of European identification predicting more positive attitudes towards Finns, as well as higher organizational identification. High levels of national identification (identifying with one’s country of origin), in turn, were related to lower psychological well-being. Similarly, stronger orientation for preserving one’s own culture after relocation was related to lower levels of well-being. Willingness to maintain one’s own culture and strong national identification are generally connected and can together lead to fewer contacts with host nationals. Limited social networks in the new country, in turn, are related to decreased psychological adaptation.
Finally, it should be emphasized that the different dimensions of post-migration adaptation were interrelated. For instance, the higher the employees’ organizational identification, the higher their job satisfaction, which, in turn, was positively related to psychological well-being. In addition, the less socio-cultural difficulties the employees experienced in their daily life and encounters with Finns, the more positive were their attitudes towards Finns. These results clearly suggest that, even when targeting a single area of adaptation, measures aimed at enhancing the adaptation process of international employees may have an extended positive effect on a wider range of adaptation outcomes.