How to Convince a Reluctant Expatriate to Work Overseas

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Business People Working on Laptops at Airpot As businesses expand their global reach to exploit new and emerging consumer markets and talent rich resource pools, so there is an ever increasing need for employees from to relocate internationally on expatriate assignments. In fact, research from Weichert Global Relocations shows that 93% of companies are expecting global relocation volumes to increase or hold steady over the year. As most of you know with the emergence of BRIC, the Next 11 and the various other emerging nations, overseas assignments are becoming more globally dispersed than they have ever been.

Of course, within most organizations you will find plenty of people willing to go on international assignment, particularly amongst the millennial generation where research from PwC has shown that 80% of millennials want to work overseas, but on many occasions the people with the required skills may be older workers; however, research from the Corporate Executive Board  shows that 65% of senior leaders have no interest in relocating abroad.

So when you are faced with a tough sourcing assignment of finding an expatriate candidate from the more reluctant Gen X and Boomer generation, what steps can you take to convince them to work your international assignment?

Of course, there are the traditional hygiene factors which need to be on the table in order to get your reluctant expatriate to even take your request seriously. Yes, according to the Global Mobility Challenge Survey conducted by Ipsos and BDO, the top 5 most enticing incentives that will make employees more likely to accept an expat assignment were:

1. Repatriation assistance plus a guarantee they can come back to their former role post assignment (45%)

2. Round trip airfare to return home for family visits, 43%

3. A paid trip to visit the country before agreeing to move there, 43%

4.  Paid language training, if necessary, 42%

5.  Immigration assistance for your spouse in order that they could obtain employment, 42%

So, if you want to get a reluctant expat to seriously consider your proposal, you will at the very least need to make sure these things are on the table, but firms are increasingly beginning to rely on alternative techniques for enticing reluctant employees on to expatriate assignments.

Offer Career Development and Stretch Assignments

For example,  employers are realizing that the number one deterrent to expatriating abroad is the employee’s fear that they will lose their position or their general career standing on their return. That’s why many employers are turning this fear on its head by making international assignments part of an employee’s individual career development plan, making the role either a promotion or a developmental training assignment that can turn into a promotion on their return. The Mercer survey shows that 43% of companies are making international assignments about career support in order to entice reluctant assignees.

Use shorter term assignments

In the face of changing employee attitude’s to assignments many employers are increasingly making shorter term assignments available, according to a Weichert study. It seems that these shorter term assignment, that are typically under a year in duration, are proving more attractive to candidates than the typical 34 month assignment.

Increased used of commuter policies

According to a Fortune article, 20% of employers now use “commuter policies” compared to just 8% in 2002, which means allowing international assignees to fly forwards and backwards between overseas post and their home base as much as is practicably possible. This is proving attractive to expats.

Broadening definition of family

According to a KPMG survey, over the last 12 years the number of expatriate family policies that allow same sex partners, or non married partners to qualify has risen from 17% to 49%. Adopting this approach could widen the resource pool of potential expatriate talent.

Be prepared to bend more for assignments to non-English speaking countries

The Ipsos/BDO survey cited above found that employees overwhelmingly wanted to be assigned to English speaking countries. This means that you may have to bend and offer greater incentives and support for individuals going to non-English speaking countries in order to make it more attractive to reluctant expatriates.

Of course, there is no guarantee the reluctant expatriate will agree to go on assignment, but if you can incorporate as many of these factors and incentives as possible, you will at least make the most compelling case possible for an international assignment.

By Kazim Ladimeji