Tag Archives: international assignment

Is your employee REALLY ready for an International Assignment? Part 4

What does it take to succeed on an international assignment?  How can we identify employees who are a good fit?

We’ve looked at why it’s important to choose the right people.  We’ve discussed five mindset traits and five social skills that are good indicators. In this final post on this topic, we’re going to look at self-management.

Self-management, the way a person handles stress and challenge, is especially important on a global assignment.

Working in a different culture can be  very stressful. There is less comfort and less familiarity. An employee can never be on autopilot, even when performing the simplest of tasks. If there is a language barrier, everything becomes even more challenging.

There are five traits that characterize employees with strong self-management skills.

1. They are optimistic. 

In most situations, they tend to take a glass-half-full perspective. They have positive feelings about a potential expatriate or global team assignment. They’ve already decided that things will work out well. They have good judgement in that they aren’t unrealistic or untrustworthy because of their optimism. Even when faced with challenges, they maintain a positive attitude.

2. They are self-confident.

They are not arrogant, but they have a healthy appreciation for their strengths and skills. It is clear that they can handle most situations. They are willing to work hard and expect that this will pay off for them. There are few things they don’t think they can do once they really set their mind to it. They are also humble enough to ask for help when they need it, and willing to take good advice.

3. They have healthy values.

They know who they are and what they believe, but they do not force their views on others. However, they also don’t give up as soon as they are faced with a potential conflict. They have a healthy, clear balance between commitment to their own values and willingness to accept others’. If an international employee is too rigid, they won’t accept differences in the new culture. On the other hand, if they are too flexible, they can lose sight of their own values and the company’s. The best candidate has a healthy, balanced attitude in this area.

4. They don’t stress easily.

This person has calm responses to most situations. They don’t freak out about small things. Minor setbacks and inconveniences don’t disturb them. They are able to empathize and they stay serene most of the time, but they aren’t seen as cold. When they do face stress, they know how to care for themselves and get through it. They know when to quit and when to push harder. When they need to, they can relax and let go.

5. They are resilient.

It takes a lot to overwhelm this person. They bounce back quickly when something does affect them.  Setbacks, major frustrations, and personal challenges do not derail them for long.  At the same time, they can set healthy boundaries. They are capable of determining when enough is enough. They are stable people.


These five self-management skills can point to the ideal candidates for international positions. Once you combine these with the traits we discussed before, you have the portrait of the perfect global employee. Look for the traits in those you are considering for expatriate assignments or global teams. Your employees will be happier, healthier, and more successful.

If you are interested in more information on this topic, contact us at info@catalystintercultural.com to see how we can help your expats thrive.

Is your employee REALLY ready for an International Assignment? Part 3

What traits do employees share who are most successful on international assignments?  We’ve explained why selecting the right employee for an expat or global team assignment is crucial to success.  We’ve examined five mindset traits that can predict which candidates will have high expatriate potential. Now let’s look at interpersonal skills, and which ones matter most in a global context.

For global employees, interpersonal skills are an absolute necessity.

Expatriates face greater challenges in communication than the average person. Even if they’ve mastered the language, there are many subtle cultural variables that can make or break an interaction. People who want to relate to others do better.

Global employees with less human interaction need less of these skills. For example, an IT specialist might spend 90% of his time working alone on a computer. This employee won’t need such strong skills in this area. Managers, team leaders, and HR personnel need much more. But anyone on an international assignment needs to have solid social skills. No one lives in complete isolation. Even smaller interactions can cause problems if the social skills are not there.  Given the extra challenge of communicating around cultural and language barriers, interpersonal skills become particularly crucial.

It doesn’t matter if a person is an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts can have great interpersonal skills, and extroverts can have terrible ones. The key element is that they interact with a degree of comfort, ease, and finesse.

Which skills count most? These five are most important for anyone working globally.

1. They take interest in relationships.

If the employee is always avoiding others or hiding in their office, they will not be a good fit for an international assignment. Life involves talking to people. Engaging with people from other backgrounds is hard, and those who don’t like to interact with others will find it even harder. Look for someone who is at ease with other people, and who has some desire to create friendships and partnerships.

2. They get along with people who are different.

People who seek diverse relationships at home will do the same on assignment, but those who spend all their time with people exactly like themselves will not have the skills they need to bridge cultural gaps. The ideal candidate will accept differences in others without losing their connection to their own culture. They have a natural desire to engage and interact with everyone, including people who are different.

3. They are sensitive to the needs of others.

Without empathy, expat employees will have trouble knowing when they are violating cultural norms or creating conflict. In intercultural interactions, both parties often have different assumptions, and there may be conflict when those assumptions don’t match up. A person who is sensitive to others will be more likely to pick up on this and to adapt their behavior. One of the key skills for positive intercultural communication is seeing the world from different perspectives.

4. They are self-aware.

Like empathy, self-awareness allows people to recognize problems and change their behavior. Without self-awareness, individuals have more difficulty realizing when they are contributing to a problem. International employees need to be able to look inward to examine themselves and their values. This is necessary for their own emotional health while abroad and for their interactions with others. At the same time, they shouldn’t overanalyze or empathize to the point of paralysis. Look for the person who understands when they need to adjust their own behavior.

5. They are flexible.

This person is able to adapt their social behavior to fit the context with ease. They know when it’s appropriate to be informal and when more formal behavior is necessary. They can have fun, be serious, make friends, and be professional. This person is not so changeable that they are untrustworthy, they just tend to be able to fit into a variety of situations without too much effort.


Employees that present these social traits will fit in well abroad, too. They will be able to deal with the locals in a new country, adjust to language barriers, and foster healthy relationships with their new colleagues.

If you would like more information on this topic, contact us at info@catalystintercultural.com to see how we can help your expats thrive.

Is your employee REALLY ready for an International Assignment? Part 2

How do you know for sure if your potential expat is ready for an international assignment?

There are 15 traits that mark employees with high potential for global success. The first factors: mindset and perception.

At first glance, mindset might seem too abstract to be important. Yet, we’ve all felt the drain of spending time with someone with a bad attitude. Imagine that negative influence in your company for as long as 3 years!

International employees need to have the right mindset.

With open minds, they are able to deal with difference, learn what they need to succeed, and thrive in their assignments. Otherwise, they create conflict, they’re dead weight on the job, and they often wind up quitting.

Employees need different talents to succeed abroad than they need to succeed at home. On an international assignment, new challenges present themselves often. Stress is higher, and what they have learned in their career in their home country may be of little use to them. Expatriate employees need a special set of skills. They must to be able to learn the right things, adapt, and change their approach when necessary. Their mindset and perceptions are what allow them to be this flexible.

So how can we identify employees with the right mental tools?  Easy. Just look for five traits. You can observe these on a day-to-day basis, at home. There’s no need to wait and see how the employee does on assignment. You can look for all these traits without ever leaving the employee’s original office.

1. They aren’t reactive.

Before they pass judgement on the situation, they pause and and try to look at the details. They work to understand what is going on, they don’t shoot from the hip, and they consider before they act. At the same time, they’re not indecisive. They don’t avoid conflict.  But they give themselves enough space to ensure they are taking the best action. This is the person you know you can trust to give you a balanced perspective on a problem and to respond with sound judgement.

2. They are curious.

They are eager to learn, they work to try new things (but aren’t distracted), and they ask questions. Training opportunities motivate and excite them.


3. They’re comfortable with the unknown.

It can even inspire or motivate them. They see obstacles as challenges.  They are resilient in the face of resistance or change. This person can work from a plan, but when they don’t have one or if it goes wrong, they aren’t daunted. They’re skilled adapters, improvisers, and innovators.

4. They’re interested in global culture.

They’re curious about other countries. They know something about foreign cultures or affairs and want to learn more, they may already speak more than one language, and they might enjoy foreign films or music. Maybe they are a geography whiz, or maybe they love to travel.  If they haven’t been abroad much, they might show interest in the local diversity. They’re not negative about their own country and culture, and they’re not snobby about their global knowledge.  This is the person who enjoys telling fun stories about how they spent their vacation on some interesting trip.


5. They’re flexible.

They can handle deviations from their routine. They don’t mind small changes. They’re willing to try something new from time to time. They definitely have their own preferences, opinions, and interests, but this does not prevent them from branching out or experimenting with something different. This is the person who loves it when something shakes up their day at the office a little. Instead of stressing them out, this variety refreshes them.


When you’re trying to decide which employees to send abroad, look for the ones that already show these traits. These employees will have the best chance of success! If you are interested in more information on this topic, contact us at info@catalystintercultural.com to see how we can help your expats thrive.

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 info@catalystintercultural.com to see how we can help your expats thrive.