I was recently sequestered inside a Downtown hotel with my visual field limited to the halls of the Forum for Expatriate Management’s Totally Expat Show in Houston. The first time FEM have ventured to the American South West. By all accounts it was a successful event.
As attendees wandered the aisles of the ballroom viewing all that the global mobility industry had to offer those in the business of relocating their employees around the world, whether expatriating for the first or thirty-first time, it was heartening to see so many HR people from the oil and gas industry. A sector not renowned for their empathetic handling of international relocation, or their adherence to the tenet that if the family does not move well, the assignment could quite possibly end early, or fail to even get off the ground.
“Why,” I asked, “Do some corporations, particularly in the oil industry, take so little care of their relocating families? Surely they understand the costs involved with an unsuccessful assignment.”
“It is a deliberate and calculated risk,” I was told.
I’ve been thinking about that ever since. A calculated risk. It sounds so cold. The uplift in salary and perks is thought by many to cover all the intangibles of a relocation. They don’t.
What accountants with rampant red pens, who oftentimes have never left the safety of their desk for longer than a quick business trip to Cairo or Qatar, fail to realise is that for the cost of a little intercultural awareness training before an assignment, that relocating family is helped not just practically, but emotionally. Surely a small price to pay for a focused, productive employee.
That early assistance can be a twofer. It helps the family moving adapt to a different set of cultural mores in their host country, whilst also helping to manage expectations. Maybe an accompanying spouse with her, or his, own successful career adapting to being a stay-at-home partner, keeping children on track through the stressors of a new home, school and social circumstances.
If credence is given to an accompanying partner’s anxieties, and issues addressed early in the proposed relocation process, the chances of firstly acceptance to the proposal and secondly a successful relocation, are greatly increased.
Nothing new or difficult to comprehend there, which is why that term ‘calculated risk’ seems so short-sighted. If an employee is considered worth sending across the world to represent and hopefully increase the profitability of a corporation, isn’t the ease of the transition for the entire family worth investing in?
Yes it is tempting to believe the uplifts more than compensate for the hardships of leaving home base, but that myopic approach can lead to great unhappiness whose knock-on effect directly impacts the sponsoring organisation.
It all comes back to the five Ps – proper planning prevents poor performance – and that is what organisations like the Forum for Expatriate Management http://www.totallyexpat.com and Families in Global Transition http://www.figt.org do. They support, encourage and invite open discussion between all the sectors engaged in diverting employees and their families around the world. All of us involved, either as global nomads or international HR specialists, should be listening to what is said at these conferences.
And please, let’s change the terminology from a ‘calculated’ to a ‘managed’ risk.