Expatriate failure isn’t hugely common, but it still does happen.
Often the reasons for it are either one of two things – personal, or due to insufficient support and help from a global mobility team. Given the life changing nature of such relocations, it is unsurprising that there are sometimes major issues – it’s not a move everyone is going to be able to make. So why does it happen?
1. Culture Shock
Culture shock is often one of the most typical reasons for expatriate failure. It occurs where a candidate is not fully prepared for the new culture their assignment requires them to be a part of, whether there are language barriers, strict laws or customs or even just a totally unfamiliar climate and daily routine. While an element of this can be down to a lack of preparation or insufficient information, often the candidate is simply just not right for the role based on his or her own personality and needs. Culture shock is most common on assignments based in the Middle East, where, especially for women, laws and customs can be debilitating. Yet, for those candidates who are culturally flexible, these assignments can be greatly rewarding.
2. Family Stress
International assignments are already difficult for the individual, and for a family they can often be even harder. Relocating the entire family is difficult: there needs to be spousal support, decisions made about schools, daycare, the partner’s career and even basic things like family healthcare. Language barriers and housing needs can become more complicated and rather than just one person’s ability to adapt to a new culture defining the success of the assignment, it’s an entire family. There are still opportunities and fantastic experiences to be had by sharing in an international assignment, but they are not without their risks.
3. The Global Mobility Team
A suitable and well-organized Global Mobility team are essential to the success of an international assignment. They are responsible for arranging all support for a candidate: information about the local culture, transport, housing, school searches, spousal support and many other vital aspects of daily life. If the team fail to supply adequate information or offer the right support, candidates can often sign up an assignment very different from what they were expecting, costing companies thousands in relocation fees.
4. Responsibility Overload
As well as dealing with the responsibilities of a new job, candidates have to adjust to a new culture and new work environment and the challenges that brings. Trying to manage local staff can often be difficult due to cultural differences, and often staff teams can be larger than a candidate may have before been used to. Overload of responsibility can lead to increased stress, physical exhaustion and emotion impacts such as anxiety, frustration and anger.
5. Poor Candidate Selection
More often than not, the assignment fails because the corporation has made a poor choice in candidate. If a selection is based on headquarters criteria, rather than the assignment needs, or even the candidates needs, the assignment is almost doomed to fail. While someone may appear to be perfect for the role on paper, their own personal needs can often make them the worst candidate overall.
There’s a lot to take into consideration when choosing candidates for assignments. Ultimately a balance needs to be found between a candidates personal needs and their suitability for the responsibilities of the job itself.