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Expat Investor : March April 2009
QUOTE, UNQUOTE Expatriate employment – recruitment tactics explored Stephen Asher of Frank Hirth plc is the main contributor to The Corporate Guide to Expatriate Employment, just published by Kogan Page. Here he answers five key questions on expatriate career and recruitment opportunities. 1) The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) estimates there are 5.5 million Britons living away from the UK. Do you see the overseas job market expanding or constricting for careerist Brits? There is a distinction to be made between permanent migrants and internationally mobile career expats. The IPPR research illustrates that of the 5.5 million Britons living abroad permanently, the majority emigrated to Australia, Spain, the United States and Canada for a variety of reasons; some work, some retirement, for example. However, the picture for people working abroad on a temporary basis shows a somewhat different landscape. Here the most popular locations are more likely to be the United States, China, Singapore, Germany and Japan, with increasing opportunities in India, Russia and Poland. If you consider the output from various surveys, the indications are that expatriate employees are involved in a large number of industry segments including financial services, information technology, machinery, shipbuilding, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical diagnostics and healthcare. The majority of the employers in those segments anticipate continuing increases in expatriate numbers. Emerging sectors that might also see a need for expatriate skills could include biosciences, green energy and waste management. To understand the overseas job market you also need to consider the myriad ways people work abroad to recognise why there is likely to be a continuing demand for Britons to work overseas: while there remains a hard core of financial and administrative staff on overseas posting there are also media, entertainers and sports people, offshore oil and gas workers, seafarers, pilots and of course visiting professors and teachers. Business demand is often for highly skilled employees working at non- UK client sites such as IT engineers, and marketing and sales specialists operating on a country specific or regional basis. Having said all of that, at the present time the full impact of the global economic mutations are impossible to predict as none of us have experienced before this type of global economic downturn. The challenges for the financial industry segments in particular are profound; however, the response across industry segments is likely to involve short-term, less expensive assignments in place of longer term overseas employment rather than a significant reduction in overseas opportunities. 2) Are there any indicators forecasting what types of postings are most likely to succeed? An important place to start is to consider how you define or measure success for these purposes. Very few employers measure the return on their investment in expatriate employees. This may be because the majority of secondments are, in fact, in response to business demand rather than corporate career development programmes. But regardless, success has to have something to do with accomplishing assignment objectives at the expected costs. These will be seen differently from the perspectives of the expat and the employer. One of the common measures of an assignment not succeeding is the early termination of the assignment because the expatriate could not 16 EXPAT INVESTOR ? March/April 2009 expatinvestor.com adjust to the new environment. So the postings most likely to succeed are those with a clear set of agreed personal and business objectives for which the expatriate and the employer have properly prepared. 3) Even after much care is taken by companies to recruit the right person for an overseas posting, some assignments fail. Are there common pitfalls which could be avoided to prevent such costly mistakes? The most common pitfalls to avoid in limiting the risk of failed assignments are around expatriates not able to integrate with the local community. Perhaps overlooked on too many occasions is that family issues remain a major factor in the failure of overseas postings. These two areas can lead to a sense of isolation and anxiety that can impair performance. Inadequate or ineffective candidate selection and assessment, lack of communication about assignment objectives, and little or no cross-cultural training particularly in non-English speaking locations, are all contributors to these challenges. 4) What are the best ways a company can keep an expatriate motivated in an overseas posting? It is important for expats to maintain motivation so that they are physically and mentally healthy, and stay that way. They will need to have self-confidence and a sense of the purpose of their posting, be resistant to stress or at least be able to manage stress. Continued support from head office will help the expatriate remain motivated to accomplish the agreed objectives. How the employer can do this will depend on a number factors but it is likely to involve internet use such as intranet/extranet sites, e-mail, teleconferences to keep in touch with the team at home. However, this has to be balanced with recognising that motivation can also be maintained by integration and engagement with the local
January February 2009
May June 2009