Archive for April, 2017

Reducing The Repatriate Career Lag

April 24th, 2017

“Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity”

– H. Jackson Brown, Jnr

As the demand for globally experienced leadership continues to grow, many organisations recognise the importance of providing international opportunities to their employees. Not only is it a way of attracting, developing and retaining the most talented people in the market place but it can offer significant competitive advantage in how and where organisations do business.

However expatriate assignments don’t come cheap with average postings costing three to four times more than an employee’s salary back home. Given the scale of the investment, there is a critical need for organisations to not only carefully consider the initial opportunity, but also how they will leverage and integrate the experience of their repatriates upon their return. Failing to do so is both a missed opportunity for both individuals and organisations alike.

With industry statistics suggesting that up to 24% of returning employees leave their organisation within the first 12 months and up to 30% within the first 2 years of arriving home, is it any wonder that this loss of potential future leadership is of concern to many business leaders. Coupled with the fact that many who do remain often struggle to re-engage and meaningfully apply – let alone leverage – their experience, the impact can be even more costly.

With most repatriates citing loss of meaningful career opportunity as the number one reason for their departure, it is apparent that there is a misalignment between individual expectations and the organisational reality. Whilst it would be unrealistic to expect organisations to guarantee a certain type of role for expats upon their return, the value of transparent career discussions throughout each stage of the assignment can go along way to help with the transition ‘home’.

Whilst it is clear that there is a very real need for a more robust talent management process for managing expatriate careers, the recent 2016 Brookfield Global Mobility Trends Survey found that only 10% of organisations surveyed reported an alignment of the Global Mobility function with the wider talent agenda and actively engaged in workforce planning and people effectiveness. Furthermore only 23% of organisations had a specific process for engaging in career planning after an assignment had been accepted; and most were only re-engaging with an employee three to six months prior to their return.

As CEO’s and business leaders work to build greater alignment between their mobility practice and talent agendas, there is a strong need for pragmatic, forward thinking conversations that allow for both repatriates and organisations to translate their global experience with local relevance.

3 tips for managing repatriate careers:

  1. Establish Career Partnerships: As with any successful partnership, a clear understanding of common goals, responsibilities and ownership are clearly communicated and established early. It is only when individuals and organisations truly understand each other’s objectives and ambitions that meaningful and purposeful plans can be enacted.
  2. Formalise Career Development Plans: Not only does a formal development plan demonstrate commitment and value in the employee it also helps drive career ownership, motivation and engagement. It also affords both parties with the opportunity to remain informed, relevant and proactive in identifying mutually beneficial opportunities.
  3. Build A Repatriate Induction Program: With most organisations, business units and teams undergoing regular change, it is dangerous to assume that a repatriate can simply ‘slot back in’ to the way things operate. Not only are there often significant ‘people changes’ to be navigated but also potential operational, regulatory and industry changes to be considered.  Repatriates are returning to a different business and bringing with them newly acquired knowledge, skills and networks, all of which need to be recognised.

Repatriation has long been considered the problematic component of the expatriate lifecycle. However when organisations and individuals engage in meaningful career and leadership discussions from the outset, both parties stand to reap the benefits of international experience and global thinking long after the assignment has finished.

If you are are interested in knowing more about the Career Resiliency For Expats program that Margot runs or her advisory services please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the details below.

As always I would also love to hear your thoughts.

Margot BLACK Signature

Managing The Repatriate Blues

April 20th, 2017

“Never let a stumble be the end of the journey” – Anon

Expats are largely pretty resilient folk. Whilst most of us acknowledge that moving house is a fairly significant move in and of itself, moving countries, cultures and lives takes it to a different level. And whilst many seasoned expats are experts at preparing for international moves, very few are adequately prepared for the final move ‘home’. Unfortunately though so too are the organisations that they work for.

With an ever-increasing demand for globally experienced leaders, the challenge of managing and supporting the repatriation process looks only set to increase unless we look to change the way we have supported it to date. Most of us are all too familiar with Einstein’s definition of insanity: ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result’. Unfortunately this adage all too often rings true, with the issues surrounding repatriation being well documented over decades and little change to the approach taken to reduce the pain individuals and organisations continue to experience. A significant part of the problem is the debate over who owns what in the transition and as a result the potential to move forward is often stalled and thus compromised.

Whilst many individuals grossly underestimate the challenges involved or don’t believe they will apply to them, organisations know only too well the difficulty of this transition period with high turnover, disengagement and employee wellbeing all at consistently high and/or negative levels. Coupled with an emerging challenge where employees are now failing to take up international assignments within their current organisations after seeing how their peers’ careers have stalled upon their return, the issue is now extending to an attraction and retention issue. Employees who are keen for international assignments are proactively seeking out organisations that not only offer the initial opportunity but also demonstrate how they effectively leverage the experience and foster ongoing career growth post assignment.

With statistics suggesting that up to 30% suffer depression during repatriation many would argue that there is also a massive duty of care that is failing to be addressed. Part of the challenge lays in the fact that living and working overseas changes you fundamentally as a person and not just as an employee. For this reason repatriation support needs to ensure that it addresses individual needs as a whole and not just one or two parts. It requires raising awareness, pragmatic open conversations and a partnered approach to navigating the journey. With this in mind the debate of who owns what should be redundant as both individuals and organisations look to define what is needed and who does what in order to maximise opportunities.

So what does a true repatriation partnership look like? I would encourage you as business leaders or as individuals considering an expat opportunity to consider the following (and engage in the necessary planning and conversations!):

Place repatriation at the beginning of the expat lifecycle: Repatriation should be considered the ‘pre-nup’ in any assignment agreement. Engaging in frank, open conversations prior to commencement reduces the risk of confused expectations upon return, drives individual ownership and accountability and opens the door to ongoing conversations and check-in’s throughout the assignment.

Foster career ownership as part of the employee partnership: Ensure that there is absolute transparency around why individuals are being considered for an international assignment and where the organisation sees it offering mutual value in both the short and long term. Whilst no company can guarantee a future role for any employee – expat or otherwise – individuals who understand how they are regarded by the organisation and what the business needs are, are more likely to own their future potential and engage in meaningful conversations both during and at the end of the assignment.

Provide equal consideration to the 3 primary zones of repatriation: Too often the focus for repatriation is on the logistics of relocation rather than on the professional and wellbeing aspects. The number one frustration cited by repatriates is the lack of opportunity to leverage their knowledge, experience and networks that is all too often the result of insufficient planning and support frameworks.

Invest in the debriefing process: Formal debriefs can offer a win win for both individuals and organisations. Individuals have a chance to showcase their current knowledge, skills and ambitions, share challenges and explore the relevance of their experiences. Organisations are afforded the opportunity to understand how an employee regards their experience and key insights into any potential retention and engagement risks.

Identify a sponsor and support network: Given that repatriation is fundamentally about reconnection it is imperative that we identify both opportunities and individuals who can support this process. Sponsors can offer insight into the operating rhythms, dynamics and up to date company and industry knowledge. Network groups such as Insync offer individuals (and their partners) support by helping them connect with others who are navigating a similar journey.

Provide training and mentoring programs: Tailored repatriate training and mentoring programs can help individuals and organisations not only reconnect faster but also with greater confidence, clarity and purpose. Aimed at raising awareness and equipping individuals with the skills to proactively manage their return raises engagement and productivity whilst reducing the risk of turnover.

With the recent Brookfield Global Mobility Survey suggesting that 88% of organisations expect their international assignment population to either increase or stay the same in the near future, the issue of repatriation seems likely to stay a hot topic. How we choose to prioritise and address it is likely to underpin both our individual and business success.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot BLACK Signature

How Comfortable Is Too Comfortable?

April 11th, 2017

Comfort … Let’s face it most of us enjoy some degree of comfort in our lives. Life just seems easier, simpler and less complicated with a little bit of comfort in the mix. BUT can we be too comfortable?

Absolutely we can!

For many of us some of our richest experiences and greatest achievements have come from stepping outside of our comfort zone. Pushing the boundaries of our circle of comfort more often than not brings new knowledge, new networks, new opportunities and lessons that sustain us well after the experience has ended. It also invariably lights a spark and fuels a passion for what we do.

In talking with many business leaders the greatest challenge they face is managing and facing an attitude of indifference…. indifference about careers, indifference about business and indifference about opportunities. It’s this lack of ownership that is dangerous.

It’s not so much a case of loving or hating your role. If you hate your job, quitting would be easy. What’s more common is the lull in between – the comfortable zone. It’s the going through the motion feeling; the response of ‘fine’ when someone asks you how your day was; or the shrug of the shoulders followed by ‘what’s the point?’.

The most dangerous path is the apathetic path and it is a frighteningly easy one to fall into.

By definition, apathy is a lack of feeling, interest or concern. It is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as excitement, motivation and/or passion.

As Jane Goodall says, it is the greatest danger to our future. Dangerous to both our personal future and that of the business’s that we lead.

We’ve all had moments of apathy about our work but if we aren’t mindful of it, it can easily become a perpetuating cycle that we can get caught in. The key to not ending up in the cycle or to breaking it is firstly recognising that you are in it and knowing that there is an alternative way of operating.

What is the apathy cycle?

  • You become indifferent about what you do, your impact and contribution and you start operating at a lower level.
  • You mentally shut down.
  • The people around you lower their expectations of both your capability and you personally.
  • You become discouraged by the negative nature of the cycle and easily slip between indifference and outright resentment.
  • Your performance levels really slide greatly impacting your ‘career currency’ reputation and future career opportunities.
  • Cycle begins again, only this time rather than being indifferent, you actively dislike your role.

Apathy is like a disease and when it starts to grow it infects all who come in to contact. It transfers from one person to the next and if we aren’t careful across teams, spreading like wildfire.

Thankfully though for every force there is a counter-force; for every negative there is a positive. Just as apathy can easily be a perpetuating cycle, so too can a passionate cycle.

What is the passionate cycle?

  • You are inspired and actively engaged in your work and produce better results.
  • These results become the driving force to grow, learn and raise your level of contribution.
  • Your professional reputation and ‘career currency’ is elevated.
  • Your network grows because people want to work with inspired and positive people; and your results attract interest in what you do and how you do it.
  • Your confidence is elevated allowing you to continue to bring more of yourself to both the role and the business you lead.
  • Cycle begins again, only this time you are more passionate about your role, your value and the possibilities of greater success.

The apathy cycle drains and the passionate cycle builds.

We all have the power to break the cycle of apathy. Finding yourself in a situation that sucks your passion and zest for what you do is exhausting and debilitating. Creating and placing ourselves in situations that inject fresh energy and passion though is ultimately within our control. The choice is ours.

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