expat failure rate

Why Expat Failure Rate Stands at 40% the Past 40 Years

failure rateWhile corporations everywhere are recognizing that international assignments are key to their own global expansion, one little-known but sobering fact should give them pause before they start planning for it: the failure rate of expatriates who had been posted on foreign shores remains at a high 40 percent for the past 40 years. The report cited by Talent Management and HR says that the numbers started at 25 percent as early as 1965 and have slowly climbed to their current status today.

For Global Mobility Managers and their superiors, that means that four out of 10 expatriates and/or assignees they hire will either not perform at their optimum level, resign midway, or end a mediocre career without any motivation or enthusiasm to accept another foreign or regional post. That means time, effort, training, and money down the drain — which the site estimates at $300,000 a year.

Our other blogs have lengthily discussed the need for preparation and even training to make sure that the assignees do succeed in their jobs. More important, they become so good at it that their Global Mobility Managers will lose no time in preparing them for another assignment as soon as their current ones end.

Here are the top three core elements that impact an assignee’s life which Global Mobility Managers must give strong support to, if they want to prevent their assignee from becoming another statistic:

Intercultural immersion is just the beginning

This Asian assignee video-binges on Hollywood movies during the weekends and can speak American English like a native, but that does not mean he can easily adapt to the overall American zeitgeist. Watching blockbusters on the screen is a hobby. English fluency is a skill. Both may help them navigate their first few days in corporate America, but they are not guarantees that they will be comfortable accepting orders from female executives if they have been raised in a rigidly patriarchal society. Or if the assignee comes from a region where the lines between the secular and the religious are blurred, their first exposure to a democracy that separates the two may bring in a bit of a culture shock.

The differences that the assignees will have to navigate as they plant themselves in their new country of employment go beyond the superficial. The Global Mobility Manager must see to it that they get some intercultural immersion and/or training their first few months on the job. At that point in time, the learning of the assignees is just beginning.

Flexible training needs one-one-one sessions

Each assignee is unique and brings something different to the table. They all have different personalities, temperaments, motivations, and value systems. A strategy that has succeeded with one assignee may not work with another. As such, the cookie-cutter approach cannot be implemented in the continual assessment of the assignee. The Global Mobility Manager must always follow up the standard online courses and other departmental training with one-on-one sessions to see how this particular assignee is growing in their role, and how fast and smooth they are adapting to their new cultural environment.

Family members must also feel at home  

A huge part of the assignee’s success depends on how well their own immediate families have adjusted to their situation. This holds true regardless if the assignee’s spouse and kids emigrated with the assignee to the United States or chose to remain back home. Sometimes, the assignee’s next of kin consists of  elderly parents or an extended clan who depend on them for financial support. Their well-being will affect the assignee’s performance. Constant communication or the lack of it can bolster or reduce their motivation.

The Global Mobility Manager must help surround their assignee with the resources and network for the latter to feel confident that their loved ones are being taken care of. This support system can include the current tech devices that can reach the family member 24/7 regardless of global location; embassies, ethnic communities, and schools that can make the assignee feel welcome in their second home; and enterprises like California Corporate Housing that help bring back some of the styles and cultural traditions that they value right into their living spaces.