It's no surprise that there are a lot of different elements that can negatively impact the overall success of an expatriate assignment, but that one of the BIGGEST is the family's ability to adapt and "sur-thrive" throughout the multiple stages of the journey together. The article, "The secrets to managing overseas postings for modern families? Start with the spouse" emphasizes what can be done to make sure that spousal discontent does not derail a given assignment or worse, multiple assignments throughout your expat program.
So, what are the secrets?
1.) Get the full family context. You'll increase the chances of success if you understand the spouses' needs and interests and provide proper support. The structures of families have evolved and because of this, each family has to be looked at independently. Dr Miriam Moeller, an international human resources expert at UQ Business School who has carried out research into the subject, says, “While the accompanying partner may hope to find another job, it may be almost impossible because they can’t speak the language, can’t get a work permit, their qualifications are not recognized or their skills are not in demand. Even if they do find work, it may be a less prestigious role – a ‘job’ rather than a ‘career’."
The article points to new research that provides insight into four different profile types of expat spouses:
The names probably provide insight into the profiles but knowing where the spouse sits on the profile spectrum will help identify the type of support needed to either reconsider the assignment, redesign it, or further discuss support that will make the difference.
2.) Understand the assignment context. There are more assignment structures than ever before to support corporate and individual goals for assignments.
3.) Consider the locational context. Emerging market, cultural challenges, language barriers, danger or hardship location? Do you have all of the proper "duty of care" issues considered and accounted for on each assignment?
Mobility managers and teams can educate their internal business stakeholders and seek to design "win-win" global assignment programs. One idea for keeping things balanced within your program is that every time a decision is made to cut cost, find a new way to enhance the experience for the assignment. Experience enhancements can come in many shapes, many with no additional costs. You might start here.
We are seeing an increase in the types of international assignments, including short-term, long-term, rotational, flex-assignments and so forth. You can add to this the propatriate (a professional expatriate committed to their parent company), the glopatriate (a globetrotting expatriate committed to a global career beyond their parent company), the inpatriate (a relocation from the subsidiary into HQ) and the self-initiated expatriate (a non-organisational form of expatriation) among others. We now have many assignment types – some of which have not existed or been recognised as such, say, ten years ago.