Preparing for a Successful Cross-Cultural Relocation

Does your business recruit personnel from overseas, or send staff to work abroad on assignments? The increasingly global nature of business means that when an organisation wants to acquire the best talent available, or move resources to where they are needed most, the solution will frequently involve relocating individuals – often with their spouse and family – across cultural borders.

International mobility brings commercial advantages for businesses – and career and lifestyle opportunities for individuals, but changes in work, the workforce and the workplace mean it’s a complex and evolving area.

  • The traditional family model is changing

The expatriate profile is changing in line with the traditional family model. Whereas once a typical expat would be male, and accompanied by a ‘trailing spouse’, dual careers and income requirements are now an expectation for many.

  • Workforce expectations are changing

As ‘Generation Y’ enters the workplace, they bring new expectations of career flexibility, a better work-life balance, and a greater sense of fulfilment.

  • The partner profile is changing

As more women are becoming assignees – 23% in 2013 – the proportion of male spouses/partners is also rising. (Brookfields Global Relocation Trends Survey 2013).

Not surprisingly, family concerns remain a highly sensitive aspect of international mobility, and continue to be the number one reason cited for an assignment being turned down according to a recent report. (Brookfields Global Relocation Trends Survey 2013).The same report also states that the third most common reason cited for assignment refusal is concerns about spousal or partner career.

What steps do organisations need to take to ensure a successful cross-cultural relocation?  

  • Consider the needs of the accompanying spouse/partner  

Employers need to take account of the needs of spouses and partners, and put in place practical, professional and social support. These types of support can be put in place without impacting heavily on the organizational budget, but will require planning and engagement by all parties.

  • Cross-cultural training

For an employee and their spouse/partner to be able to adjust quickly to the culture they are going to live and work in, cross-cultural training will be essential. Training can be tailored to take account of pre-existing levels of general cultural awareness, and to address specific cultural differences relating to the destination country.  All aspects of culture as they apply to social and business interaction will need to be covered.

  • Full support with housing, education, financial & legal matters

It’s crucial to remember that non-work related issues will be extremely important to the employee and their family, and only when these areas are dealt with will the employee be able to focus wholly on their work. Supporting them with issues such as housing, schooling, financial and legal matters will be critical to ensuring they settle, and are able to become productive quickly.

  • Post relocation – ongoing support

With the physical relocation completed, there may be a temptation to tail off support, but it’s at this point when the employee is at their most vulnerable. It’s vital that systems are in place to make sure the employee and their family settle in to their new location. Direct actions can include a welcome reception and briefing, full orientation tour, social events and introduction to the expat community. It will be vital for the employee to have a direct line of communication so they’re able to express any concerns. This way, they can be dealt with quickly before they become real issues.

Do you have an International Assignment Policy?

Any organisation relocating staff internationally should establish an International Assignment Policy (IAP) – also sometimes called an Overseas Assignment Policy (OAP), a reference document setting out all internal guidelines relating to relocation. An IAP will make certain that policies and benefits are clear to all parties, ensure equity, and will help the process of relocation run smoothly. It will include details on policy relating to remuneration, international allowances and support services.

Would you like professional help developing an International Assignment policy for your organisation? Expatknowhow can work with you to create an IAP that will differentiate you from competitors, give you a business advantage, and make your international relocations as straightforward as possible. If you have staff that you want to prepare for a cross-cultural posting, we can create bespoke training programmes to match their needs and help ensure a successful relocation. Call us now on 01235 855 236 to discuss your requirements!

 

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