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 ?
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
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.