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The missing link to successful expatriation

Expanding globally? Get full Value!

You and perhaps your family will explore many new adventures, and you are all, for good reason, excited. You know that life is not a smooth ride, but you are a high performer and a troubleshooter so you will, of course, also manage whatever comes your way the next couple of years you are in ‘foreign territory.’

So, with all those skills and all that willpower why is it that up to 20% of US managers sent abroad return before agreed end of term due to various difficulties, and 33% do not perform to expectations?

Success highly depends on the expat’s individual performance

Market analyses and strategic plans are made; housing and schools for the kids are in place. Maybe, you and your family have even received some cultural training. Everything is well planned. So what goes wrong?

Being in foreign territory requires a myriad of things to go right: Your family has to adapt; the market has to perform; the support from headquarter has to be sufficient; success criteria have to be aligned – just to mention a few.

Nobody can foresee what obstacles and challenges you will face along the way – personal and professional. The way to handle the challenges will most likely have to be very different from how you would have to take care of it at home where you have your colleagues and your personal network.

From our experience and coaching, here are a few real life examples of what went wrong which nobody expected:

  • The spouse did not adapt and wanted to move back home before term expiration.
  • A $2 million marketing campaign did not generate the expected return because the expat was overwhelmed with running the day-to-day operation.
  • Communications with headquarter were lacking and expectations were not aligned, giving severe delays and frustrations.
  • Teamwork in the US was not the same as work in teams in Denmark, so employee performance was far from potential.

Expatriation costs anything from $100,000 per year to millions of dollars. No matter the organizational level Return on Investment (ROI) is to a great extent up to your performance. As such, it is in direct correlation with your well-being and personal career and life balance on location.

Little or no training or coaching

Through our research, we have uncovered that expats, in general, receive little or no support (training or coaching) before and during being sent to a new culture to build residual value for the company. This trend continues throughout the assignment, and expats receive significantly less leadership development than their colleagues in the headquarter.[2]  Putting it bluntly, the company hands over a tremendous responsibility for success or failure to the expat without giving the expat the necessary personal support.

Optimize performance

Optimizing and enabling the expat’s individual performance and growth in unfamiliar territory can significantly increase the success and ROI of an expatriation. It will also substantially increase the personal success and satisfaction, again leading to better performance.

Here are some examples of areas that can be clarified through personal training and coaching:

  • Clarification of the individual’s unique strengths.
  • Anchoring of plans and development directly to the company goals & mission.
  • Ensure consistent drive of performance.
  • Get full clarity of continued mutual expectations between individual and company.
  • Enable a smooth communication of performance expectations.
  • First hand support when the going gets tough.

We have done the math and figures never lie. Saving money due to less failure and generating residual value due to stronger performance is a no brainer once you explore the potential and have done the math. It costs far less to prevent value destruction than you think.

Who we are

Lena Beck Rørvig and Tomas Bruun, the authors of this article, and executive coaches, have both lived through expatriation multiple times in various challenging settings. We know what it takes and how it feels.

The combination of international experience from larger companies and smaller start-ups, combined with starting own businesses gives our coaching an extra high level dimension and quality.

We work internationally and are frequently present in New York, Copenhagen and Cannes, if not on assignments in other parts around the world.

Authored by Lena Beck Rørvig
Compliments of Beck Global Consulting- a member of the EACCNY