Mentors for Assignees: Providing More than Just Knowledge Transfer

The success of your global assignee might rely on more than just the usual transfer of knowledge or even a post-relocation training program. Cultural immersion can help their adjustment and that of their family’s, but again that might not be enough. 

Another painful truth: you yourself — the global mobility manager — might not be enough, too, regardless of your professional qualifications, intellectual brilliance, and empathic heart. The one thing that your global assignee actually needs to succeed is a mentor who can understand them in a way no one can — and, more important, guide them to the right path every step of the way.

Adjustment in itself is tough. So is the process of uprooting from one’s native soil to relocate to another country. An assignee can emotionally unload and professionally consult with their peers and global mobility manager only up to a point. They need someone who has been where they are right now, and succeeded.

They require a fellow expatriate to inspire them, and one who has acclimatized to the country where they are working at the moment. As AXA Global Health describes it, the very existence of this professional predecessor is the best argument that the job can be done. During their lowest moments, the assignee can look at their mentor and tell themselves, “If my mentor can do it, then so can I.”

Mentors can also boost an assignee’s confidence and increase their skill set in a way that no other training program can. As Pushfar says it, the mentor is both an ear who can listen to the assignee’s travails, as well as the voice who can point them in the right direction. Unlike an e-learning program, the assignee and their mentor can have an actual human conversation.

The mentor can answer questions and provide solutions that have been gleaned from real-life experiences. They would also have a greater understanding of the cultural nuances and other challenges that the assignee faces. They know the unwritten rules in a particular country, and can tell the assignee what can work (and what cannot work) in a certain situation.

A mentor who has a background — professional, cultural, and/or ethnic — similar to that of the assignee would also be the best person to navigate them through socio-political minefields, and help them avoid a cultural faux pas. On a personal level, this kind of mentor can advise the assignee how to respond to family issues, such as when a spouse feels lonely or a child complaints of neglect. On a more positive note, the mentor can also help the assignee unwind big time — by bringing them to the bars, bazaars, restaurants, and other activity centers that their particular ethnicity or tradition enjoys. Actually, they could have their pick of food festivals, shopping centers, and performance venues in a place that embraces diversity like Northern California.

The positive impact of a mentoring program on assignees is slowly being recognized. According to Sirva Worldwide Relocation and Moving, successful assignees who had gone through mentoring express increased job satisfaction. They also connect more strongly to the organization and adjust to their new environment more smoothly. As a result, their commitment to both their career and their objectives also solidify.

Having a mentor would beat reading a book or blog on the subject of global mobility success at any given time.