Global assignment of managers

Global assignment of managers

Global assignment of managers has been a traditional method of operating far flung commercial empires since the days of Robert Clive and the British East India Company. The importance of transferring knowledge, upskilling remote or local managers and instilling best practice throughout a multinational organization has long been recognized as a source of competitive advantage for those firms able to expand successfully. The failure of rate of global assignments, and indeed international expansion, has throughout history been nothing less than fantastic. The vast majority of firms have been unable to master operations across multiple cultures, political systems or levels of economic development. The need to simply find out what is going on has, in the past, been the major motivator for global assignment.

The advent of modern communication and travel technology has arguably reduced the need for “inspection” style assignments; however this role has been upgraded to the “mentoring” vocation of international managers whose primary purpose is to transfer knowledge. The plethora of technological marvels that enable cooperative endeavor expanding around the globe do little to change the fact that knowledge is “person bound” – acquired overtime through interaction with either tacit or explicit sources. Firms must transfer people between host and home countries because it is arguably still the only effective way to exchange culture, knowledge and experiences.

A number of issues arise for those individuals who are selected for, or who choose to embark upon international assignment. These issues may include practical, emotional/psychological or professional hurdles that limit the employee’s effectiveness on assignment, or lead to early repatriation. Options for reducing the risks these potential dangers pose are only limited by finance and imagination, and extend to careful selection of employees for expatriate assignment, pre-departure training, and familiarization visits, mentoring from both the home and the host country, post-arrival training, regular return home visits, repatriation training and extensive communication between home and host.

The focus of this training program is on pre-departure training; i.e. preparing potential expatriate candidates and their partners for the experience of global posting before they embark on assignment. Pre-departure training is important because it is at this stage that candidates must determine their personal objectives within the context of the assignment and the firm’s overarching goals. Training at this stage can equip expatriate candidates with the questions they need answered to ensure both the employee and the firm gain from the assignment. The advantages of pre-departure training lie in the safety of the home culture training environment, the ability to catch misapprehensions or poorly formed perceptions before they become costly mistakes. Pre-departure training provides those candidates who do go on to expatriate assignment with a point of reference between their new environment and their home culture – a way to recognize the totally unfamiliar.

The Training Program

The devised program has been designed for potential expatriate candidates and their partners, to be conducted by independent consultants for multiple firms simultaneously. It is culturally non-specific because it seeks to provide tools that can be applied in a range of cross-cultural situations. Clearly there are limits to the range of non-specific instruction; however the aim is not to provide lists of norms or stereotypes, but rather to teach recognition of unfamiliar cultural circumstances, no matter the national, ethnic or religious environment.

The program is intended to be starting point for those employees and firms contemplating global assignment. As such, the program will lay the foundations of service policies, employment contracts and job descriptions, as well as remuneration and repatriation agreements. The program will also provide practical advice for both firms who must manage from afar, and expatriates who must deal with local situations whilst keeping the home office happy. An inescapable factor in global assignment is a change in cultural environment for the expatriate, and the inevitable feelings of unease or stress commonly associated with coping with this change. There is arguably little any course can do to offset this hurdle, yet pre-departure training allows opportunity to raise the candidates awareness of this problem, arguably increasing their ability to cope.

The program is not intended to be intensive, nor is it intended to be long. It is structured for 15 to 20 candidates with their partners and will be conducted over the course of a day. The program is divided into three, 2 hour sessions; therefore the participants will also be divided into three equal groups and rotate through each session in turn. Partner’s well be kept together within groups to ensure they gain the same insights.

Sessions will be divided as follows:

,Candidate selection and firm / expatriate expectations

,Culture Shock and Practical Problems

,Relocation, on-going support and repatriation.

Session A: selection and expectations

Part A: Country Briefing

The development of overseas business, markets and customers requires multinational companies to adapt to the unique demands of each country. As
no two countries are alike, the ability to understand the language and culture of a country can invariably make the difference when building profitable relationships.

In contemporary business environment, it is not unusual that an employee mainly based in China has more connections with his colleagues in Paris or Washington DC. The globalization makes the constant transfer of staffs from a culture to another necessary and essential. Not surprisingly, if a company is planning to send staffs overseas, they will find the whole working style not like the one they are used to. In a study of Elizabeth Marx in 1999, approximately 14.3% England and 25% American expatriate managers were not as successful as they used to be. (Elizabeth Marx (1999) Breaking Through Culture Shock)

How to prepare for a totally different culture is crucial to an expatriate manager’s performance. Any stereotypical and inaccurate preconceptions may lead to the international assignment a disaster. That means at corporate level, it is important to prepare the expatriate managers for their new, unfamiliar business environment. This training program is aiming to challenge those managers with the culture and social environment they are going to face. The following is a list of the areas our training course may cover:

1.Background of the country


Political System

2.Current Economic System

3.People and Society

4.Population Profile

5.Current Economy Data

6.Working Relations


8.Media and Communications


10.Trade and Industry

Part B Candidate Assessment Program

Source: Pappas Stanoch Will global trotting help your career (

In this part, we are going to help the employee to evaluate their potential for success on an international assignment. By accepting this part of training, it will help to promote assignment success by supporting a candidate and partner in determining their suitability for living and working internationally.

The self assessment is important to the business performance as well as the personal life of the expatriate. For many executives, though, whether to take an international assignment boils down to three key issues: personality, timing and motivation.


Doing business in a new setting, under different rules and possibly in a different language, requires flexibility. Frequently, employees with Type A personalities are chosen for these kinds of assignments because they’re ambitious, vocal and successful. However, Type B personality are often more adaptive and relaxed about the challenges they’ll encounter abroad.


Families adjust better to the difficulties of an expatriate move at certain times in their life cycles than others. A single person might seem ideal for such a transfer because he or she doesn’t have a family to consider. However, single people lack the emotional support other family members provide, which can be important to facing the stresses of working and living in another country. You have to consider the possibility of your children’s education and your spouse’s career before the decision to move abroad.


How strongly do you want to go, and will you be adequately compensated? Given cost-of-living issues, the assignment may not provide a significant monetary gain. Also ask yourself how your company treats returning expatriates? What types of positions are offered? Is their experience valued?

Re-Entering Successfully

Many repatriates have difficulty readjusting and maintaining career momentum after their return. As a result, 25% leave their original companies within two years of returning from an overseas assignment, according to a survey by Windham International, a New York-based relocation firm, in conjunction with the National Foreign Trade Council Inc. and the Society for Human Resource Management.

To avoid problems, planning your re-entry before you leave for an international assignment is essential. Establish ways to stay in touch with your home office while you’re overseas. This can help you to combat “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” syndrome. Also, find a company mentor to keep an eye on your career path while you’re out of the country. Be flexible about the timing of your re-entry, since the ideal position may not be available when your assignment is scheduled to end.

This part of the training will take about one hour. And firstly the tutor will present the four factors affects the decision to relocate. After that, the following questionnaires are handed out to the trainee. Let them discuss the 10 questions in 4-5 people group for 30 minutes. At this stage, tutors will attend the group discussion and try to lead the group discussion to the points mentioned in the bold words following each question. At the end of the discussion, each member will be asked to present the necessity to be relocated.

1 Do I handle stress constructively?

Some people feel frustrated, confused or lonely when surrounded by people from other cultures. Expatriates need to manage these sometimes negative and stressful emotions as well as any job-related stress they experience.

2 Do I rebound quickly from disappointments?

It’s common to make mistakes and cultural missteps and experience failures in a foreign country. Being able to laugh at yourself and remain focused are important characteristics of successful expatriates.

3 Am I open to risk?

Trying new things is inherent in an international experience. Every day there are new people to meet, new foods to try and new places to explore.

4 Am I comfortable during periods of uncertainty?

You can’t learn all the new social and business norms immediately. Accept that you’ll learn as you go and that you can’t be expected to figure out everything as quickly as you would in your home culture. It’s estimated that expatriates operate at 65% of their normal level of productivity during the first three to six months of an assignment. This may disappoint or frustrate you, but it’s perfectly normal.

5 Am I flexible and open to new situations and relationships?

You’re certain to encounter ways of thinking and behaving that differ from your own. Being open and flexible will help you enjoy interacting with people who think and operate differently.

6 Am I curious about differences in other cultures, and am I discriminate and accepting of other types of people?

While on an international assignment, you need to maintain a positive attitude toward the unfamiliar. While living in a host country, you’ll encounter many people unlike yourself. Learn to understand where they’re coming from and try to interact with them in an effective manner.

7 Do I have a strong sense of self, and am I self-directed?

As an expatriate, you may not get the reaction and reinforcement you’re accustomed to. During difficult times, your identity needs to come from within. You must maintain a strong sense of self, especially when others aren’t reinforcing your values. Recognize your personal power and set your own goals, so that you can feel at home in any culture.

8 Am I sensitive to how others interpret my behaviour, and do I appreciate others’ feelings?

When communicating in another culture, you need to have confidence in your ability to accurately perceive the feelings of others. Verbal language is sometimes a cultural barrier, and another culture’s subtle, nonverbal cues aren’t always obvious.

9 Does my family support accepting this international assignment?

Having the support of family members helps you to focus on whether the move will be good for your career and them as well.

10 Is this a good time in my life to be far away from family, friends and my career network, and can I maintain ties with my home office while on assignment?

Living away from your native country can be stressful. It’s helpful to be at a phase in life when important relationships can withstand unusual and challenging circumstances. Having a company mentor in the home office to help you stay abreast of any changes and remain visible also is important. Coming home can be harder than leaving, since you’ll have changed a lot, but your company may have stayed much the same.

Session B: Preparing expatriates and their families

Purpose: To prepare selected expatriates and their families before going overseas. The program is aimed at building trainees’ recognition of culture shock, and providing them with basic knowledge of living and working in a new environment of cultural difference.

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