Rather than taking a chance by moving overseas for a work assignment, wouldn’t it be helpful to find that you have got what it takes to thrive as an expat before they set off?
That’s what researchers at one assessment recruitment specialist decided to see what the personal characteristics are that make for a successful expatriate.
The idea for the report is not just to help expats focus on what they need to do to succeed when overseas, but also to help multinational employers decide who will be right for a particular assignment.It was conducted by cut-e and involved 35 companies and organisations in 70 countries, with expats, their managers and subordinates being involved.
The report, ‘Predicting who will be a successful expatriate’ looked at the feedback from an expat’s performance, including their ability to communicate, as well as personal success.
The firm’s director of professional services, Marinus van Driel, said: “Sending employees to work and live overseas is a tremendous opportunity, but it’s also an expensive one, and there is a substantial number of expats who end their assignment prematurely.
“Our research identifies the personal attributes an expat requires to succeed. We’ve created a model that predicts whether an employee will adapt well to a new culture and perform as expected. They must also cope with professional and personal changes and gain a high level of satisfaction from their assignment.”
Essentially, the research from expats around the world reveals that the key characteristics for their success are:
• Emotional stability
• Cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity
• Openness to change
• The ability to adjust to different customs
• Perspective about new business practices
• Strong interpersonal skills
• Respect for differing views
• High level of autonomy
Many expats reading this will also agree with the final key characteristic that was delivered by the study: expats need a sense of humour.
Marinus adds: “The study reveals that successful expats have a specific profile, with a successful expat viewing pressure as being a strong motivator, so they’re prepared to put effort and time into challenging tasks.”
Furthermore, expats are not too bothered about the aesthetic aspect of their workplace and all of the attributes mentioned above help an expat to adapt to their new environment, before taking the initiative and organising their work effectively.
The study also builds on previous research, mainly psychometric assessments, that can help assess and then develop the expat’s personal characteristics, to ensure that their work assignment is the success they want it to be.
Indeed, the employer will need the overseas assignment to be a success as well, since the move can be an expensive process; it can cost some employers around three times an expat’s average annual salary, according to statistics.
However, some employers lack the knowledge for helping to optimise the expat’s assignment, which means they may be left disappointed with the end results.
This means they need to take steps in the recruitment process which will include finding, and then developing the skills an expat will need, including cultural training for their new home country.
To help employers, one international relocation consultancy says they need to consider:
• Choosing an employee who is not only open minded, but committed to adapting to their new culture
• The specific skills the expat will develop through the assignment
• How these newly learned skills will benefit the organisation
• Help expats to succeed with their international assignment
Indeed, it is this element of careful management that will help expats to succeed with their international assignment and research by the consultancy, ECA, underlines this.
They say in recent years, the role and demographics of assignments overseas, has seen ‘significant changes’.
Essentially, the qualities an expat needed 20 years ago to succeed in their new roles have changed.
In addition, employers have seen a move away from a traditional three-year assignment, to shorter terms as well as commuter assignments, and fewer of these opportunities will see an expat being accompanied overseas by their family.
One of the issues highlighted by the ECA’s report is the handling of expectations between the expat and their employer, since this will help deliver a successful assignment.
One of the potential hiccups to a successful assignment, is how the family is involved on short-term assignments, since this will create concern for the expat. Also, it’s important for the expat’s spouse or partner to have a career or support network, to help ensure the assignment succeeds, if they decide to move overseas too.
The ECA says the failure of a family to adapt to their new country accounts for one in five assignment failures.
Delivering successful expat assignments
Other organisations with expertise in delivering successful expat assignments highlights these tips for success:
• A pre-move visit to help ensure the expat will be comfortable
• Cultural training to help avoid ‘culture shock’
• Help in dealing with the paperwork, such as visa applications
• A compensation package that suits the expat’s needs
However, there are some tried and tested tips on the skills and talents an expat needs for their move overseas to be a success as well, these include:
• Having a positive outlook to enjoy the assignment
• Enjoying the local culture and travelling around the new country
• Learning the local language
• Making friends.
While lots of people fancy the challenge of working and living overseas, it’s their personal characteristics and ability to adapt, that will help determine whether they have what it takes to thrive as an expat and, as cut-e’s Marinus explains: “Psychometric assessments help provide an insight to select the right candidate for overseas assignments and these insights help ensure the expectations of the expat and the employer both benefit from the opportunity.”
Essentially, for an expat to succeed, they need the personal characteristics to adapt to a new environment and culture as well as, possibly a new language, along with being enthusiastic and working hard; without these qualities, it’s unlikely an expat will enjoy their role overseas.
The study by cut-e can be downloaded from their website.