Factors that Determine Success in International Assignments for Female and Minority Expats

Guest post by Oyindamola Adedokun

It is no gainsaying that globalization has truly changed the modalities of doing business in the 21st century. The increased rate of interconnectedness and global interdependence has generated the need for many companies to spread their tentacles abroad if they must have a competitive advantage and wield global relevance in today’s fast-changing global economy. The development and geographical expansion of international corporations are however not usually a walk in the park. 

There’s a wide array of expatriation processes that must be networked in order to manage a subsidiary or branch in a geographical territory or culture that is different from the headquarters. 

Before we explore the factors that determine whether or not an international assignment is successful, it is only relevant to examine some of the other reasons why international corporations send assignees abroad. 

The first reason is position filling (SHRM, 2017). Expats are sent on international assignment mostly if there is a position that no local could fill. This is mostly due to a lack of sufficient skills and expertise that allows one to function optimally in a given role. At this juncture, suitable expats are sent from the headquarters or sourced externally to fill an existing gap. This is mostly a common occurrence in the construction sector. 

The second reason expatriates are sent on international assignments is to have them develop their managerial skills by gaining access to an international context of doing business, thereby fostering career growth (UKEssays, 2018). Many multinational companies (MNCs) use expatriate assignments as a leadership development tool. These MNCs often send their managers and executives internationally in an attempt to develop their knowledge of the international economic environment and their ability to work and manage effectively across national borders (Tung, 1998). 

Repatriates, who have completed a global assignment, can help establish and expand an MNC’s international business because they possess first-hand knowledge of particular cultural contexts, including information about specific markets and customers. Repatriates understand how the company is perceived in another country and are part of a global social network that can advance the company’s business.

Another reason why multinationals send expats on international assignments is to enter a new market. Expats are sent on assignment to a new territory to analyze the market to see whether the company’s products or services will attract clients and users. 

The last reason is to control and coordinate the global activities of a company (Bonache et al., 2001; Harvey and Novicevic, 2001) as it is in the company’s interest to integrate its transnational activities. Through their expatriates, the companies seek to replicate the values and objectives of their home offices in the culture of the branch where the international assignment is taking place. 

Having discussed some of the reasons why companies send expats on international assignments, I will now examine five important factors that determine success in international assignments for expats. 

The factors that contribute to the success of expats on international assignment can be classified into 5 categories: job knowledge and motivation; relational skills; flexibility and adaptability; extra-cultural openness; family situation (Arthur, Bennet; 1995, cited by Weber; 2004).

    • Job knowledge and expertise. The importance of possessing the technical skills relevant to a role cannot be overemphasized. This is one of the major factors that guarantee optimal work delivery in an international assignment. As already mentioned, one of the reasons multinational enterprises send expats on a foreign assignment is to transfer skills and knowledge to a branch. Suffice it to say that one can only transfer the skills and expertise one possesses. 
    • Relational skills. Accepting to go on an international assignment is invariably accepting to leave the people you are already familiar with to interact with a new set of unfamiliar people and colleagues. Relational skills go beyond the knowledge of the business model and professional experience to include personal traits such as patience, trustworthiness and honesty, empathy and understanding, reliability and dependability, influence, and persuasiveness. 
    • Flexibility and adaptability. These refer to one’s ability and willingness to respond and adjust to changes by balancing your core beliefs to accommodate the norms in one’s current environment. An expat would only be successful to the degree he or she is able to adapt to new processes, methodology, and procedures. 
    • Extra-cultural openness. The concept of cultural intelligence captures an individual’s capacity for successful adaptation to new and unfamiliar cultural settings and ability to function easily and effectively in cultural environments worldwide including situations characterized by cultural diversity (Earley & Ang, 2003; Earley & Mosakowski, 2004). It is an individual’s capability to deal effectively with people from a different cultural background and understanding (Earley & Ang, 2003). International assignments involve going to a country with an array of different cultural preferences. In order to avoid stress and frustration, an expatriate must possess some level of global competency. 
    • Family situation. The family situation is a key factor that determines whether or not an assignment is successful. Organizations have the responsibility to cater to their employees during an international assignment. However, does this care and concern extend to the expat family? After all, the success of an international assignment cannot be taken into account separately from family support. As a matter of fact, people would choose to leave their international assignments in order to save their marriages (Weinberger; 2020). 

Getting a coaching session with Angie Weinberger could already be a step in the right direction of making an international assignment successful.  You can so sign up here to receive offers for free online workshops and updates on the upcoming HireMeExpress program.

OYIN
OYIN

About the Author

Oyindamola Adedokun is an experienced Mobility Professional with expertise in talent mobility across Africa. He is experienced in engaging proven measures to provide both SME (Small and Mid-size enterprises) and Large-size multinationals end-to-end support in on-boarding expatriates in Nigeria.

With his practical experience, Oyindamola manages a broad range of Immigration facilities such as STR visa, Temporary Working Permit, CERPAC, Quota Approval from the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Interior. He also consults potential foreign investors who are trying to explore the many untapped opportunities present in the Nigerian market on the legalities of establishing a foreign enterprise in Nigeria. 

With a demonstrated history in the oil and energy sector, Oyin currently manages the immigration facilities of well over 100 expats in one of the leading oil servicing companies in West Africa. 

References

Earley, P.C., & Ang, S. (2003). Cultural intelligence: Individual interactions across cultures. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Earley, P.C., & Mosakowski, E. (2004). Cultural intelligence. Harvard Business Review, 82, 139-153. 

SHRM. ( May 2017). Managing International Assignment https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/cms_010358.aspx 

UKEssays. (November 2018). Motive For Sending Managers Abroad As Expatriates. Retrieved from

https://www.ukessays.com/essays/management/motive-for-sending-managers-abroad-as-expatriates-management-essay.php?vref=1 

Weber, T. (2004). What Are The Critical Success Factors In Expatriate Assignments?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/34588

Weinberger, A. (2020). Assignment Failure on the Rise? The Solution is to Prevent Family Separation – Part 1 https://globalpeopletransitions.com/avoiding-assignment-failure-through-family-issues-seven-key-provisions-for-your-global-mobility-guidelines-part-2/



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