Is your employee REALLY ready for an International Assignment? Part 1

Mistakes are costly in international business.

Expats who aren’t ready for an international assignment are major risk factors for their companies. Relocating a manager can cost, on average, $3 million. If the manager quits their assignment, that is money down the drain. If expats stay but don’t do a good job, they can create hassle and inefficiency in the company.  Because of this, it is important to have expats that are happy and well adjusted.

There is good news.  If companies screen employees appropriately BEFORE they receive an international assignment, their chances of success are much higher. 80% of relocations fail because employees can’t adapt. We can’t guarantee that any person will adapt successfully. But you can load the deck in your favor by choosing employees who are  ready. And the best part is that there are some key factors you can watch for to identify these people early.

We’re going to walk you through the process. In a four-post series, we’ll show you what the ideal candidate for an international assignment looks like. Armed with this information, you’ll know exactly how to sort your resources so that you identify your best potential expatriates early.

In the next three posts, we’re going to look at the problem of expat adaptation from three different angles.

First, we’ll examine the way an great international employee thinks. Then, we’ll look at the way they handle their relationships with others.  Finally, we’ll explore the way they manage themselves when things get tough. All three of these self-management factors are crucial to success in a new environment.

1. Mindset, thought, and perception

These are the ways an individual views and reacts to the world around them.  These elements show us how a person is likely to respond internally when they are in a difficult or stressful situation. Negative mindsets and bad attitudes may seem too subjective to matter. But just imagine the impact this can have on your company when it’s compounded over three years!

2. Relationships with others

The way a person interacts with those around them becomes crucial when they have to adapt to a new culture. If their social skills are already low in their home environment, their skills will worsen when they undergo the stress of adaptation. International work requires some specific relationship skills that aren’t as important at home. On global teams, conflicts can arise when communication breaks down. This causes more than just an HR hassle.  Slowdowns, inefficient work, and legal problems are all potential risks.

3. Self-management

This is how an employee handles stress, challenge, and difficulty. Working in a foreign country is hard. Employees must adapt to a new culture, and a new language.  They need to adjust to different work standards and different ways of doing work.  They may not know how to handle the systems that are necessary for day-to-day living. This doesn’t even include the stress  of uprooting themselves and starting over somewhere new! Global assignments can tax expatriates to the max. An international employee must manage themselves well and deal with stress healthily. If they don’t, they will be vulnerable when placed under this kind of pressure.

All of these possible pitfalls can feel a little overwhelming.

But don’t lose hope! There is a bright side, and it’s a big one. Imagine if you knew exactly which employees to select for an expat assignment. Imagine if, instead of cracking under all the responsibility, the employees you sent abroad thrived.  Global teams can be a huge asset to your company. The synergy they create combines creativity, multiple knowledge sets, diverse ways of looking at problems, and new ideas to create powerful innovation.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 15 traits that mark the best international candidates, we’ll examine each one of the categories listed above in detail, and we’ll explore 5 factors that characterize someone who is strong in each skill set category.

Before you leverage the power of expatriates and global teams, you must identify your best candidates for international positions. This blog series will help you do just that.

If you want more information on this topic, contact us at to see how we can help your expats thrive.

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