Is your organisation unknowingly set up for international assignment failure?

Has your organisation experienced high churn in your international assignments and international assignment failure?

Then perhaps you’re unaware of the ‘derailers’ that cause this high rate of failure, disruption to your workforce and financial loss to your organisation.

A recent survey conducted on 202 CEOs and senior HR professionals found that up to two in five managers fail their assignments when relocated (often with their spouse and family) abroad.

The survey, conducted by talent and career management organisation Right Management, found that just over 50 percent of overseas assignments were considered successful.

That’s a huge failure rate, considering the high and increasing number of international assignments that require professionals who are skilled in thinking and operating globally.

Organisations often focus on cultural awareness training and language training to help employees adjust to an international role and for the organisation itself to do business internationally.

But this, together with the technical expertise and in-country success history relied on by HR, recruitment and talent management agencies to select the right international employees for the role, can be inadequate to inform their choice and support their candidate to carry out their role.

Successful companies, on the other hand, make use of a range of pre-assignment assessments and during-assignment support to make sure that their candidate is the best fit. In principle it’s a no-brainer that all the preparation in world cannot fully support the employee once the reality of their new placement hits them. Yet in-country support mechanisms may be overlooked or inadequate.

One widely applied assumption is that success in one cultural setting can automatically translate to success in another cultural setting using the same approaches and the same hidden assumptions about what ‘does’ and ‘should’ work. This illustrates how cultural awareness training alone will not support individuals through the much more challenging and confronting process of adjusting their behaviours and approaches in different cultural settings. Language training – while extremely important – is likewise insufficient if the learner has not learned to adapt their cultural mindset as well.

Rather, individuals need to develop a mindset of ‘cultural dexterity’ which will enable them to adapt across different cultural settings.

Is your organisations aware of the potential ‘derailers’ for choosing and supporting your international employees, and how are you addressing them?