02 May With or Without His Family, How a Talent’s Move is About Looking Forward
Your assignee’s family will always be at the top of his mind. They are crucial to his success and his performance in his new country or city of origin. Regions like northern California which are family-friendly, celebrate cultural diversity, and have communities with strong ethnic communities will make them feel welcome.
As such, relocating them in such places is already a point going in your favor. However, as a global mobility specialist, you do have to take an active role in ensuring that your assignee maintains his strong, close — and happy — ties with his family. This should be applied regardless of whether your assignee’s family does the relocation with him, or stays in their home country or city.
As TorFX points out, the number one reason why an assignee fails on the job is that his family fails to acclimatize or adjust to the situation. While the author clearly means this to the act of relocation, wherein spouses and kids have to adjust to a new work and lifestyle environment, it can also be applied to families who stay at home.
Distance might even turn out to be a bigger difficulty. An assignee who comes across an unhappy bored spouse and a child who cannot find friends in his new school can still act with some decisiveness on the spot, in a way that he will feel empowered. He can consult you, the global mobility specialist, to refer his kid to hobby groups and regional activities where the young person might have a good time. He can consult his accommodation consultants like California Corporate Housing which is open to redesigning your assignee’s apartment if it means making him and his family feel more at home.
One of our earlier blogs contains tip on how you can help make your assignee keep that bond with his loved ones even if they are living on another continent. Our next tips, in a sense, would be more proactive. It would mean preparing your assignee and his family prior to his or their flying overseas. It would mean that, again regardless of whether the family is joining the assignee or not, they are on agreement on this issue. And you as the global mobility specialist is there to make them continually affirm that agreement. It means laying the groundwork for this new status in their lives. Any activity you do afterwards is building on it.
So imagine this, the contract has been signed, your assignee is raring to go, and a thousand and one questions are popping in his mind about relocation details like housing and school for his kids. On the other hand, if his family is staying behind, he would be thinking about his frequency of contact with them or if his compensation package carries overseas telephone or internet services.
All those answers will require research but in a sense, the answers would be easy to find and organize. What you need to do at this point is to set your assignee’s mind at ease and reconnect him with his loved ones in order to prepare them for their new future.
In defining loved ones, go beyond the usual definition of the American nuclear family. In dealing with foreign assignees, their concept of family might be different. As discussed in another blog, this can include blended families, extended clans, elderly parents, and even exes who want to keep a close tab on the kids they share with the assignees.
Remember: you are shaping the emotional and relational landscape in such a way that will strengthen and fortify the assignee and his family — and make them strong during those unavoidable moments of loneliness, anxiety, and confusion once he (or they) start hitting the ground on their new home.
As expat author Martha Wolf puts it, keep the assignee and his family looking forward. Continue to assure them what they long suspect: this decision is good for their family and will secure their future. For every seeming inconvenience, point out the advantage. For example, their kid will miss his friends but he has a greater chance of realizing his dream of becoming the next Bill Gates if he studies in an American university, and one that is close to Silicon Valley. This does not mean cushioning the truth that adjustments can be hard. Far from it; you are giving them the motivation to move forward and realize their dreams. There will be dark clouds in overseas work; teach them this early how to discover the silver lining.
Second, as the Harvard Business Review advises, go through every single detail of this new change with them. There are details that you have worked out and which are you confident of: the schools, the new home, the weekend vacations, the transmittal of funds, etc. This kind of preparation is good because it will help you answer the many questions your assignee will pose to you: what if this school doesn’t work out? What if the new apartment unit does not allow pets?
But this is just an overview. Go deep to the places which are important to your assignee. Don’t take for granted the wife’s silent nod supposedly saying it is ok for her not to work if she does relocate with the assignee. She may not be willing to admit that insecurity in front of her husband. Arrange to have time alone with her, engage her in conversation, and then let her open up. And then address those issues in a way that gives her confidence.
Always examine the culture of your assignee in addressing those issues. Your assignee’s child was practically reared by her doting grandmother. Your solution to place the child in a daycare center might be greeted with horror. Instead, probe if a nanny who belongs to the same ethnic community of your assignee might be more welcome, although many families in the U.S. favor bilingual nannies because it helps them learn another language and in the process, raise their I.Q. as studies indicate.
Finally, always assure your assignee and his family that you are there for them. You are just a phone call away, for both professional and personal issues. Emphasize that their family welfare and happiness is also important to you and the company you work for. Update your smartphone with all the networking partners that can help you build a system of support — the embassy, the school board, and the immigration lawyer. On further thought, including a relationship counselor just might be a good idea.