When the business approaches your global mobility team with a potential new assignment, how sure are you that there is not a qualified local candidate that could fill the position? Does the business get challenged to prove that an assignment is really the only way forward right now? Is there a justification process that must be followed or completed within your company?  

Consider also that according to a study done in 2017 by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) and IPSOS, four in 10 global employees agree "there is nothing my employer could do to convince me to take an international assignment,"  an increase of five points over 2012. Which of the other 60% of global employees then should be considered for an expatriate assignment?

What exactly is the right employee profile for a given assignment? What profile are you looking for when you, as the mobility manager are speaking with a business line manager about a specific employee going on a 12-month assignment? Is there a checklist that you work from? Do you have a candidate assessment that all potential expats take before final approvals are given?

According to KPMG's Global Assignment Policies and Practices survey (2017), in sourcing prospective international assignees, the applicable business unit drives the selection process for 89% of organizations surveyed. While several participants in their survey assess an assignee’s suitability for an international assignment through an informal review by line management/ human resources or via self-assessments, the large majority of participants (60%) do not have a provision in place to make an informed assessment of assignee suitability. 

Sometimes you do find that "needle-in-a-haystack" - the perfect candidate that is the one with all the soft skills, leadership qualities, expertise and technical skills needed to hit-the-ground-running and be successful in the host location. More often however, is the candidate that has much (or some) of what is needed, and can be coached and supported to be successful. And, then there are those that...well, you know where this sentence was going. It's no secret that global assignments are not for everyone!

It is no less important today than it has ever been to make sure that expatriate assignments are successful. According to the Forum for Expatriate Management (FEM), failed assignments can cost the company anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million USD. 

When considering a specific employee or building out a candidate pool for global assignments, it is important to select the right people. Worldwide ERC® suggests that there are three major global mindset attributes that successful expatriates possess:

  • Intellectual capital, or knowledge, skills, understanding and cognitive complexity
  • Psychological capital, or the ability to function successfully in the host country through internal acceptance of different cultures and a strong desire to learn from new experiences
  • Social capital, or the ability to build trusting relationships with local stakeholders, whether they are employees, supply chain partners or customers

In this article, Western Union breaks out eight personality traits that every expatriate has to have to be successful. They are:

  1. Global curiosity
  2. Emotional intelligence
  3. Extreme organization
  4. Cultural adaptability
  5. Language skills
  6. Flexibility
  7. Leadership
  8. Patience

Of these eight, which do you think are at the top of the list?