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.

Natasha Vorompiova – Using Systems to Streamline her Life and Create a Business

Natasha Vorompiova – Using Systems to Streamline her Life and Create a Business

Natasha Vorompiova is the woman to go to if you want to make your business life easier. Her company, Systems Rock, helps small businesses to systemise to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Natasha is a Ukranian expat living in Belgium. She set up a consulting business after moving to Belgium, where she struggled to find a job and where it is tough to secure positions unless you speak both French and Flemish. Initially challenged by juggling all the tasks on her plate, she realised she could bring the systems knowledge from her former career to her new business and life. In our interview with Natasha she shares her inspiring story of building a business as an expat. She also gives us a few of her favourite tips and tools for using systems to make your personal admin easier. 

We are big fans of Natasha and Systems Rock and have applied a number of her suggestions in our own business. You can listen to our interview on the player above.  If you enjoy the interview, don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes and leave us a great review.

If you want to learn more about systemising your business, join Natasha for a free 5-part training to ensure that what you spend your time on today brings you closer to your big, audacious goal several months from now.  Once you register, you will also receive a free mini-guide “10 Things That Make Your Business Unique” Register Here

Rachel Yates – Walking the Walk to Expat Entrepreneurship

Rachel Yates – Walking the Walk to Expat Entrepreneurship

We’ve known Rachel Yates, founder of The Expat Lifeline for a long time, before Thriving Abroad was created in fact. She’s on a mission to make moving internationally easier and to help expat partners to keep their agenda and financial security in the conversation. What makes Rachel really stand out though is the humour she brings to what she does, which helps to make difficult topics more manageable. In our interview, she shares her inspiring entrepreneurship journey including these highlights:

  • How she’s applied the skills she learned becoming a pilot to preparing for an international move.
  • The challenges for expat partners of keeping themselves in the conversation and renegotiating the balance in the family when changes are made.
  • How her realisation that she wasn’t walking the walk led to her becoming an expat entrepreneur
  • Her epiphany on how cognitive dissonance applies in expat life
  • Why expat partners should always have a backup plan
  • What expat relationships and furniture have in common

We certainly had a wide ranging conversation and you can listen to all of it on the player above. If you’d like to learn more about Rachel and her business you can find her at The Expat Lifeline. You can also learn more about how The Global Girls Guide to Creating a Backup Plan can help you to look after your own financial needs and you can purchase the Expat Family File which is an indispensable tool for organising the exponential amount of admin that seems to come hand in hand with expat life.  You can also find Rachel on Facebook and Twitter.

If you enjoy the interview, don’t forget to subscribe and leave a great review on iTunes. If you’d like to continue the conversation about making expat life work for you, ask to join our closed Facebook group.

Inspiring Expat Interviews – Kristin Louise Duncombe

Inspiring Expat Interviews – Kristin Louise Duncombe

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An interview with Kristin Duncombe about her expatriate life and also her book; Trailing – A Memoir.
Kristin shares stories of her life as a “chronic american expat” as the child of a career foreign service officer and wife of a Doctor working in the field of humanitarian aid

Inspiring Expat Interviews – Alison Cornford-Matheson

Inspiring Expat Interviews – Alison Cornford-Matheson

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is an expat partner who accompanied her husband Andrew to Belgium. The career she created as a writer and photographer has changed their lives and they are about to start their new adventure travelling around Europe in an RV. As well as continuing to share Alison’s beautiful photos, they’ll be writing about their adventures and they food they enjoy as they go.

Global Mobility: Will My Partner Be Able to Work?

Global Mobility: Will My Partner Be Able to Work?

Need a job

This must be one of the more challenging questions any global mobility practitioner must face in relation to the “expat partner”.

The answer “how long is a piece of string?” springs to mind here.

Certainly long enough in most cases to mean that a simple answer is not on the cards. Tempting though it may be to make promises in order to “seal the assignment”.

The truth is that promises can’t be made because of course the reality will depend on a variety of situational and individual factors such as the:

  • location
  • partner career direction, profession and qualifications
  • duration of the assignment
  • flexibility
  • language skills,
  • resilience and determination when it comes to job search.
  • partner propensity or openness to reinvention and career development rather than replication of their job “back home”.

Because, let’s be honest, for most expat partners the chance of finding the same job abroad, with the same pay and responsibilities will be slim, VERY slim!

So what to do?

Honesty right from the start followed by support to find a role that fits with skills, experience and circumstance.

Partners are going to need to think again about career. Of course a good connection with a few recruitment consultants will probably secure some kind of job – but is that likely to result in real career satisfaction? We’ve all seen the top class engineer turned embassy administrator, lawyer turned parent teacher association director. Fine if this is really what the partner wants BUT for the majority it means simply biding time, minimal career satisfaction and declining professional confidence whilst hoping that the next relocation will bring a more appropriate and all together better career option for them.

This is not the best way to be building sustainable international global talent. Where the job goes the partner goes and without career support each successive relocation is likely to be more and more difficult.

Setting realistic career expectations at the start is where it all begins. The truth is career may be tough, it will likely require innovation, imagination, experimentation and perhaps even career reinvention.

We believe that part of the opportunity for expat partners when relocating abroad lies in the time and space that the relocation gives them to “rethink and reinvent” their careers. We love this quote from our survey Career Choice and the Accompanying Partner (2012) when asked what was fulfilling about the relocation experience this respondent said:

“The chance for complete reinvention of yourself and your life. It forces you to develop skills that you didn’t know you had, helps you grow in creativity and resilience, allows you to identify what you really want in life, and opens up a whole new world of opportunities. it also kicks the s**t out of you repeatedly, but boy, do you get stronger.”

And for some, career is not the focus, the chance to do other things is the gain:

“Being involved with volunteer activities at my children’s school, helping me make friends. Making a difference in the local community through volunteer opportunities in 3rd world environments.”

Need a job

This is why when we start working with expat partners we take it right back to fundamentals. We ask them to reflect deeply on what makes for a fulfilling life, for them. This varies widely from person to person. This explains why a few short consultations with a recruitment consultant to put together a quick CV just won’t pay dividends for most partners.

We encourage partners to think about who they are and most importantly who they want to be given their new international lifestyle. Time to reflect on strengths, skills and achievements (you can gain a sense of this from our current blog on the expat partner side of our website HERE). Then an open minded analysis of where what they love to do and are good at intersects with the opportunities available. Of course the details, exercises, opportunity for reflection, group and individual coaching adds additional layers of support and opportunity for reflection.

International relocation brings with it new experiences and one of those we strongly believe is the opportunity to expand careers beyond what is, to what could possibly be given a global view. Discovering Global You and Empowering Global You are the two cornerstones of our THRIVE programme.

We will be running a new group programme in September. If you are interested in hearing how we could support your Expat Partner’s to achieve their own personal brand of global success then contact us HERE and we will be in touch to arrange a time for us to talk.