International Relocation – What would a framework for success look like?

International Relocation – What would a framework for success look like?

I’ve moved location 7 times and house 12 times in the last 17 years. I know this is not a winner in terms of number and frequency of moves amongst the international community, but it does mean that change has been a pretty big constant in my families lives. In fact, having now been back in the UK for nearly three years I do find myself gazing interestingly at international removal lorries and wondering, with a modicum of jealousy about their upcoming transitions. There is something addictive about new beginnings…. Book Cover

International relocation is a massive undertaking, one that is not always recognised as such at the outset – you can’t know what you don’t know. In this podcast this week, Evelyn and I talk about how our experiences lead us to write our book THRIVING ABROAD, which is launched today. 

I (Louise) remember our first move to Madrid as an exciting but challenging time. My early euphoria at not having to get up for work, soon morphed into a sense of aimlessness. There are only so many times you can go to the gym in any one week, and with a husband who was working looooong hours I was initially home alone far too much. Spanish lessons were a distraction -but I soon found verb conjugation on my shady balcony was no substitute for real conversation.

Relocating to live in Lisbon several years later, admittedly not a huge distance away, was enough to unsettle and mean starting all over again. We battled with bureaucracy and unpleasant neighbours (a very long story) – suffice to say it was not the best start. We were responsible for the entire move, no company support at all… yep it was a stressful time. 

What I realise now looking back is that over time we developed a process and way of coping with the change. Each move is bitter sweet, saying goodbye is sad, not easy way around that, but fortunately it is balanced with the excitement of new beginnings and opportunities. While the emotions are never easy, over time the template for relocation grows and each move becomes more automatic and hopefully organised.

Our greatest relocation moment was when we managed to organize a move out from one house in 24 hours, from phoning the removal company, to packing up furniture, possessions and kids – all gone overnight – we were seriously impressed with ourselves. And no, we were not running from the law, well not directly. Our landlord was about to have all possessions repossessed by the bailiffs and ours were not differentiated from hers. My husband managed to sweet talk the bailiff into returning just a few days later – giving us time to make a very quick exit.

But I digress, back to international relocation:

There is a flow to the whole process. A rhythm and sequence of practical and emotional ups and downs. No two moves are ever the same; culture, location, jobs and life stages account for that – but there are similarities and we can learn certain things from one move that can be applied to others.

THRIVING ABROAD the book was born from this experience of change and the lessons learned along the way. It is the book I would have loved to have all those years ago in Madrid. The Framework for Thriving Abroad reminds us to put ourselves at the centre of the relocation process. To gain clarity about what makes it a valuable experience for us from a professional, personal and family perspective. Professional clarity would have certainly helped me in those early years, I drifted for more years than I care to remember.

It also emphasises the importance of setting realistic expectations. Ensuring that the decision is founded on an understanding of both the opportunities and challenges of such a massive life change.

Written with input from expat experts, experienced expats and global mobility professionals, THRIVING ABROAD offers a guide to thriving professionally and personally through the experience of international mobility.

It is relevant to anyone who is:

  • considering embarking on an international relocation with their organisation as an international assignee.
  • considering embarking on an international relocation with their partner.
  • preparing to relocate abroad.
  • living abroad already but wondering where the experience will take them next, professionally and personally.

Also, available to all owners of the book is the accompanying workbook – a helpful tool to support you through the relocation process.

You can learn more about THRIVING ABROAD: The definitive guide to professional and personal relocation success HERE

What people are saying:

‘I wish this book had been written sixteen years ago when we first relocated; it could have saved us learning a lot of lessons the hard way! This book will prove invaluable for anyone considering an overseas move and will help them organize their thoughts in what can be an entirely overwhelming process.’ Suzanna Standring, Chartered Accountant, USA.

It’s an indispensable read for the assignees and their partners, a book to keep handy in the messiest moment of a family’s life. With its check lists and adaptation strategies, it’s a great tool for coping with rationality and order to change and transition.’ Marta Guarneri, expat with 20 years of experience both as assignee and partner

You can listen to the authors: Louise Wiles and Evelyn Simpson talk about the book HERE on iTunes

Go straight to AMAZON to buy the book online.


What should expat organisational support include and does it really matter?

What should expat organisational support include and does it really matter?

When managing home based employees the extent of the employee, employer relationship is usually clear. The organisation may run a few family days, invite partners to celebratory meals from time to time, but generally work and family life have clear(ish) boundaries.

Put an international relocation into the picture and suddenly the delineation between work and family begin to break down. The employees work and role takes the lead and in a way that impacts on every family members lives. The partner often takes on a supportive role, facilitating many aspects of the relocation. That is not to say their career necessarily dies, but for the majority it is put on hold. In this weeks podcast, Marta Guarneri shares her research into the impact of family dynamics on the expatriation cycle, and how organisations can better support the relocation process.

The future of the whole family, their expectations and lives become inextricably linked to the assigning organisation. The psychological contract; the unwritten set of expectations of the employment relationship, encompasses not only the now more complex expectations of the employee, but also those of the partner and family. Denise Rousseau talks about the psychological contract including informal arrangements, mutual beliefs, common ground and perceptions between two parties. It is something that is not fixed, but evolves constantly based on communication.

So, imagine the impact these two different perspectives on HR involvement and connection with partners might have on the psychological contract and the level of engagement and commitment to the assignment experience.

  • One HR manager was clear that they needed to know people so they could offer the best support. They wanted to know what they were dealing with, to offer support that was valued, develop family loyalty.
  • Another HR manager was loathed to create an open channel of communication with anyone other than the assignee. They feared that should they encourage a connection with the partner, the partner would exploit it and become a nuisance.

Which opinion was right?

Well, in my opinion the first, although I am pretty sure the second HR Manager would do a good job at justifying the need to keep the relationship at a distance. After all, the written contract is with the employee, lines should not be crossed and resources are not limitless.

And yet, over the years I have heard partners talk so many times about the role they play, the support they provide, and sadly in many cases the absence of any recognition. Often it is the small gestures that make the difference.

Marta’s research: The Impact of Family Dynamics on the Expatriation Cycle, aimed to understand the common factors that foster the success or failure of international assignments and to isolate some of the best HR practices that could impact performance, retention and organisational commitment. 

Her results were fascinating. Here are some soundbites to spark you interest:

  • It is the ineffectiveness of organisational support that is the issue.
  • The key is to know what makes an efficient package, to maximise it, not waste it.
  • Understanding the needs of the assignee and family is key.
  • Relocation support in situ so often is inadequate and represents wasted resources.
  • Flexibility is key when meeting the needs of a new generation who expect flexibility.

Want to listen to more PODCASTS? Head over to the Thriving Abroad Podcast channel – HERE.

Please feel free to share amongst your networks. My goal is to grow this podcast audience 10 fold by the end of 2017.