While more than 70% of expat partners are highly educated with a higher education qualification of four years or more, only about 20% are able to continue their career abroad, according to Katharina von Knobloch, an Expat Partner Coach. She states that "this is a very small percentage in modern times where dual-career couples are the new norm." For that other 80%, many consider volunteering or getting further education however, very few manage to convert those experiences into higher earnings or movement into a higher management position when they repatriate.
Most believe that if the entire family is happy and functioning healthily, then the ROI on that expatriate assignment is bound to be greater. This ECA article explains that the most common concerns about accepting an assignment are:
- impact on family or relationships (60%)
- partner career or income (54%)
- children's issue (53%)
- compensation considered insufficient (51%)
- uncertain how LTIA will affect career (35%)
- extended family issues (26%)
- security (25%)
- other concerns about the host location (24%)
While getting a job might be the partners first choice, it is almost never easy and often not even possible. So, looking for some advice, I went to an expert. Enter Tracy Stuart Kautzmann, Ma S. Sc, director, global client relations at the IMPACT Group. Tracy spends a lot of time helping companies consider how best to support employees and their families through the transitions of expatriate assignments. Support services like spouse/partner job search assistance, integration assistance, relocation decision support and global career continuation counseling are examples of the kind of support that can be provided. Tracy was kind enough to provide her insights on what can (and should) be considered for supporting partners on assignment. She explains:
- Having a career coach that is specifically trained to work with foreigners moving into a host country is key! One of the concerns I hear so often from spouse/partners is not necessarily in finding the exact position again, but more about keeping their career experience current while they are on assignment. It’s about seeing the opportunities in that host country and the experience they will gain and how to speak to it.
- It’s about making the move about them (the spouse/partner) as well as the assignee. We can no longer call them the “trailing spouse” as this move is not just about the assignee's career. To speak with a career/transition coach before the move (a pre-decision program?) can help the spouse/partner see the opportunity and look forward to gaining skills they may not have if they do not move overseas.
Tracy explains that for the partner it's about the loss of identity that often occurs when you move to a new location, and the need to research, re-discover who you can be and the process of re-developing yourself.
According to the IMPACT Group's People Perspective on Relocation Report, only 32% of employees are single, meaning that the other 68% have their spouse/partners, kids, elders, and pets joining. If you are looking to increase your acceptance rates or decrease your early return rates, you might want to dig in deeper? Try the Insights Hub on the IMPACT Group's website.
This article explores how organisations can best address the challenges of the partner’s career and support the partner in ways which are both meaningful and cost-effective. Commonest concerns about accepting an expatriate assignment ECA’s Managing Mobility survey identifies the key concerns of candidates in considering an expatriate assignment. Family-related challenges fill the top three places, with the partner’s career/income issue second, demonstrating just how important this is. Addressing issues relating to the partner’s career effectively provides the potential to increase the candidate pool for assignments.