Developing Global Executives: Failure Is Not An Option


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How do you define expatriate failure ? What are the main causes ? How do you select your candidates for expatriation ? Do your expatriate  talent going over to the competition? What types of  training and support are the most useful ?

 

With globalization, companies are required to manage an increasingly diverse workforce with expatriation being just a subset of this challenge. With increasing GDP-figures, a growing number of expatriates are sought to fill managerial positions in developing economies. Within BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), China has become the world’s second biggest economy before Japan with a growth rate of 9.8%.

“There is just not enough talent to go around for the foreseeable future, so emerging markets will take talent from developed economies”said Peter Felix, president of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC)-Stephenie Overman (SHRM  2010)

Compared to USA and Europe, the BRICs  are recovering much quicker but despite a younger and bigger populations, they face great shortage of talent especially at executive and senior management levels. Despite the increased demand for executive expatiates employment, still many companies do not know how to define and prevent expatriate failure. The direct financial costs of failed expatriates are associated with relocation, compensation, executive search and retraining of the replacement. The indirect costs are the most damaging and include loss of  market share and business opportunities, bad corporate image, high employee turnover and reduced productivity.

What are the major reasons for expatriate failure ?

1- Wrong candidate selection process

2-Poor job satisfaction including relationships with coworkers and disconnection from the company’s head offices.

3- Ethnocentric Global HR  Management: The organization thinks that the way of doing things in the home country is the best way, no matter where business is done.

4-Family issues including health care, children education and work-life balance, failure to recognize specific support to enhance local  job and family satisfaction

5-Spouse isolation,  career loss

Preparing the employees and their families for a foreign assignment is mutually beneficial to the organization and the employee. Many corporations still focus on the technical competencies required in the international assignment and overlook the significance of cross-cultural knowledge and the important function that the expatriate’s family plays.

What are the  top traits shared by  successful expatriates

 1-Happy, supportive  trailing spouse and family

2-Flexibility and adaptability

3-Creativity, open mind and complex problem solving skills

4-Great interpersonal and intercultural communication skills

5-Constantly developing a strong professional and social network with colleagues,  external peers and partners (in person, on the phone, online)

Financial incentives are not considered as a key success factor by most executives but generally “happiness” and a rewarding personal and  fruitful professional experiences with other cultures are intrinsically rewarding.

What types of  training and support are the most useful ?

 1-Cross-Cultural Trainings

Before expatriation, cultural preparation should include an explanation of what  is” culture shock”, learning about the host country’ history, main cultural traits, customs, and etiquette. In many cases learning the local languages help the family both at work and in life. The pre-assignment package should also include job search support for the trailing spouse if this is an issue, including help to get a working visa.  It is important that the executives and their families focus on discovering the positive aspects of their host country and learn to avoid comparing  things that are better in their home country. 

The executive and family need to assimilate  the local culture as much as possible to be happy and successful but the family should also be connected with other expatriates. Expatriate families need to network with other expat communities because in most cases “locals” have great difficulties to understand the challenges faced by international assignees, especially the trailing spouses.

For me becoming pregnant in Japan and giving birth in the USA was the most stressful events  in my expat life together with staying four weeks  in a Japanese hospital for surgery. In both cases I received most support from my French expat  friends.

2-Expatriate Career Management

Most expatriate executives come from the company’s home country. Before accepting a foreign assignment, an executive should ask questions regarding future career plans with the company. Although expatriation can increase the executive value in global organizations, it can also lead to a dead-end career.  Going abroad requires that people strategically manage their career by making sure to be visible from the head office. Assigning a mentor in the head office might be a good idea as well as executive coaching before the repatriation.  Career and personal coaching  can also be offered to the following spouses to support them in the repatriation process that can sometimes be harder than the expatriation phase See previous post : Expat Life: Returning Home and the Grief Cycle “

 

 It is critical that there is clear agreement and understanding between the assignee and management as to why the assignee is going, what the definition of a successful assignment is, and how this will be measured,” says Scott Sullivan, senior vice-president at GMAC Global Relocation Services, Inc.

3-Networking skills and social media training

It can be useful to offer trainings on networking skills with cultural sensitivity both off-line and online. The company should have a  social media policy and code of conduct on the internet  for employees and their families worldwide. Imagine the damages that can cause an angry and  frustrated trailing spouses venting on Facebook or Twitter? Trainings on how to use main platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter to increase the chance of meeting in person both  locals and other expatriates  are not expensive and most great advises are available for free on forums or online seminars, what company have to do is hiring a social media coach like George KAO

Conclusion

A happy family  contributes a lot in the success of an expatriation.

Avoid one size fits all training programs

It might be useful to conduct an assessment for selecting an ideal profile for the job abroad and check the candidates natural behavior, strengths and weaknesses to see if there is a match and which skills need to be  developed. Check that the family and the spouse are also aware of the pros and cons of the expatriation. If possible allow the following spouse to make a trip in the host country before the decision is made.

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5 thoughts on “Developing Global Executives: Failure Is Not An Option

  1. Heather Markel September 5, 2010 at 1:13 am Reply

    Great post! For the expat and trailing spouse I find it’s some of the tiniest differences that cause the most shock and isolation at the start of the experience. Failure to understand and set expectations ahead of time can have dire results for all. Cross cultural training and coaching are mandatory to ensure business and individual success.

    • Anne Egros September 5, 2010 at 10:48 am Reply

      Absolutely, it is the little things that make a difference.
      Finding what are the real needs of people before expatriation does not cost much to the company.
      I remember when I visited the International School of Brussels to compared with other schools, they put a “Welcome to the Egros family” sign on their flashing board at the reception. I thought how nice and gave me the signal that the school was different and cares.

  2. […] Developing Global Executives: Failure Is Not An Option (zestnzen.wordpress.com) […]

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