A couple of weeks ago we farewelled some friends who have moved overseas for work. It’s only temporary, maybe twelve months maybe eighteen. We will miss them of course and look forward to the time when they return home.
For many senior executives and managers, moving for your work is generally accepted to be part of the deal. You do it because it is requested (read: expected of you) and you comply. But think about the costs involved not only to the company of relocating an entire family to another country, with all their belongings for a relatively short period of time, but also for the individuals themselves.
Partners may have to quit their job, children will have to change schools and say goodbye to friends.
There has been a lot of discussion around the stresses involved living the FIFO life and I would not underestimate the stresses and challenges that presents. But how often is consideration given to this other tier of work related movement?
The reality is that while that lifestyle may suit some expats, the toll is high on relationships and families and business.
Up to 30% of executives who are transferred from one country to another terminate their contracts early or just survive to scrape through their term.
Hiring, firing, retraining all costs money, lots of it, so moving staff around the world needs to be undertaken with care and consideration to what is expected of the individual and what they can expect from the move itself.
Moving to a new country means being exposed to a new way of life, perhaps a different climate, a different language but above all a different culture.
Leadership and personal development often discusses the relevance of social, emotional and general intelligence, yet cultural intelligence is often overlooked. Cultural intelligence implies the ability to recognise that the game plan of where you have moved to may be very different from what you currently know. Rules, procedures, expectations, the ways of interacting and doing business can be vastly different across a border.
As in any new situation, your brain scans for signs of danger, looking for patterns and familiarity to make you feel safe and reassured.
In a new country this may take time, yet first impressions matter enormously and will contribute the likely success of not, of such a move.
Which it is why it would seem vital to ensure that a transition between cultures is managed (from both sides) to maximise the ability to establish new patterns, learn new skill sets and adopt the routines, rituals and practices of the country in which you are being temporarily immersed.
Do you have to travel for work in your organisation?
How well does your workplace handle intercultural exchange?
What have your experiences been?