International assignments can be an integral part of business development. However, they also tend to have a high level of complexity attached to them — from finding the right person, with all that that entails regarding relevant competency and the ability for cultural adaptation, to the person getting settled and becoming a productive member of a team, to the administrative hoops. In short, there are inherent challenges, facing the employers of global talent, as well as the global talent itself.
The good news is, most of the issues are well known and can be addressed and mitigated by implementing a support system — a duty of care program. There is no one formula for what a duty of care program should look like. It can be more or less comprehensive. Ultimately, it depends on the organization it supports and its needs such as the type of assignments offered, and what the destination countries are. Done right, it should serve the employer, as well as the global talent. The benefits of a duty of care program are well documented and include:
- Ensuring your global talent is functioning at the highest level possible as soon as possible.
- Mitigating risk for the company.
- Ensuring a competitive edge and attractiveness as an employer.
Having a well-crafted support program allows for a streamlined process for paperwork, emergency situations, and practical matters alike. But perhaps more importantly, it offers a framework for intercultural support that can include preventive measures, access to educational tools, and professional guidance.
Consider for example an assignee who finds the office culture in the new country hard to navigate and thus is having difficulty performing at the expected level. The consequences are often not just the personal struggle of the assignee but can be felt throughout a workgroup, impacting what they are able to produce. A duty of care program might offer solutions such as intercultural training sessions, or a chance to seek the guidance of a coach. Having access to these kinds of resources can be the difference between a successful assignment and a failed one.
In basic terms, providing intercultural support is an insurance policy. Key to ensuring that the support program works is making it known and readily available to the assignee and educating those in charge of implementing it.
A 2018 survey from Cartus Global Mobility asked the question: To remain competitive in the future what are the biggest global talent challenges?
- Attracting talent with relevant global skills (leadership/cultural/language) in target markets: 64%
- Readiness of workforce for the complex global business environment: 47%
- Retention of key talent post assignment: 45%
- Key talent less willing to relocate due to loss of partner’s income/career: 35%
The answers to the survey question above are telling. As most know, adding international relocation and cultural adaptation to a work assignment changes the parameters for the job. The way an employee performs in a familiar environment is not directly translatable to how they perform in a foreign environment.
Furthermore, relocating with a partner or a family adds yet another level of complexity to an international relocation. The 2016 Global Mobility Trends survey by GBRS reported the following regarding relocating with a family and the impact it has on the success of an assignment:
- Assignee/family adjustment issues ranked number three as the most challenging factor in managing international assignments.
- 27% of assignees self-select as single when accepting an international assignment (even though they are not single). Out of those, 55% say partner career concerns are the reason, and 7% say that lack of support for family is the reason.
- Impact of spouse employment on attracting first choice candidates: 31% say significant impact and only 16% say no impact.
Again, an employer-backed support program can provide resources to help an accompanying partner settle more easily and prevent the loss of talent based on family concerns.
In its Global Talent Trends 2019 report, LinkedIn explored the four big trends impacting the future of the workplace. At the top of the list for career success was “soft skills”. Soft skills are personal attributes that allow someone to interact effectively with others, hard skills are occupational expertise. According to the report, 92 percent of talent professionals say soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills when they hire, and 80 percent say they’re increasingly important to company success.
This is an important piece of data when considering how global talent settle, function, and excel. Finding the best global talent is not just about identifying the hard skills, it’s about soft skills and how you support and develop those for optimal performance while abroad. Offering support is a way of protecting your investment while retaining a competitive edge and attractiveness as an employer.
By: Felicia Shermis