With multinationals leading the way, more Australian organisations today are seeking out ways to better understand the global market. One strategy is by opening up to new markets in different parts of the world and sending executives and managers on short to semi-permanent global relocation assignments.

These international assignments could occur because of the following reasons:

  • transference of skills and expertise needed within the company in a different geographical location

  • to fill posts where local staff may not have any or limited qualifications

  • to start up operations in a new area

  • to provide development opportunities for the executive

  • to encourage employees to develop a global mindset

  • to resolve a specific problem or issue

In this week’s blog post we discuss a few factors to consider before even thinking about relocation negotiations or what to include in a relocation package:

  • Candidates – Executives chosen for these assignments need to have not only the skills, relevant experience and value to the company, but also be open to learning and looking for new experiences and challenges. When selecting employees, managers shouldn’t assume that if the executive performs well in their home country that the same will apply overseas.

  • Location – You need to balance a candidate’s personal preferences with the company’s needs and still fill vacancies in less desired locations.

  • Length of assignment – Depending on the company’s objectives the assignment could be from several months to several years. 1-6 months for general training at a certain location; 1 year with a specific objective to resolve an issue for example improving relations with external suppliers, re-organisation in a department etc.; longer-term assignments, up to 3-5 years are given to set up company’s operations abroad, for restructuring or simply to manage an important market.

  • Relocation PolicyYounger employees can be more mobile (ie they don’t have dependents) and are more open to opportunities to work in a different country and environment. Companies can provide a policy that includes provision for accommodation as well as an assignment promising personal and career growth.
    For the employees between 30 and 50 years old, the support of the family is very critical to successful performance of the relocated employee. Therefore companies would need to provide policies that would assist with rental or purchase of a home or support in finding school for children and career advising for spouses. Delivering the right support for employees and their families may mean the difference between the success or failure of an assignment.

  • Expatriate life – Living overseas is obviously going to be different than in the home country. New languages (in most cases) and cultures will be presented. Those who are able to accept and adapt will find it much easier to succeed in their assignments and have a more life-enriching and enjoyable experience.

  • Repatriation – Upon returning to their home country, many executives find their assignments have greatly assisted with career progression and believe it to be a great addition to their resume, which could enhance future executive job opportunities and international career. Others worry that once returning to their home country they will not have the sufficient knowledge of current local practices to compete with domestically settled executives. Returning home can be a bit of a shock for anyone given an assignment overseas for a period of time, re-acclimating means re-adopting the home country’s way of life and on the business side of things it may mean changes in the way of communication within the organisation and how things operate in the home country’s office. It might also mean a sense of loss with the lack of opportunity to use valuable skills and experiences which were acquired abroad.

Each of these factors come into play when thinking of whether you need to fill a position in an overseas location, it will also help you define what kind of candidate is needed and what you will need to include in your relocation package and negotiations. Have you experienced relocating an executive in your organisation before? What would your tips be in the research and planning stage?

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