How to Support Foreign Assignees to Be Happy and Productive Abroad

Categories: Global Mobility

The relocation support that foreign assignees receive from their employer, as well as the ease at which they settle in and find happiness abroad, largely varies between countries. These are some of the findings from the recently released Expat Insider 2018 Business Edition Country Focus, an InterNations Business Solutions report zooming in on foreign assignees, international hires, and relocating spouses in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, UAE, the UK, and the USA. The findings are based on results from the Expat Insider — one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive surveys on expat life.

The report takes a localized approach to look at some of the aspects of relocation that foreign assignees need more support with, providing valuable insights for organizations striving to facilitate successful foreign assignments and remain competitive in the global war for talent. Addressing gaps in employer assistance will help assignees to settle in and integrate into their host location, resulting in happier and more productive employees in the workplace.

Assignees in the Netherlands and Switzerland are Best Supported

The report looks at nine types of relocation support that foreign assignees receive from their employer (language classes, intercultural training, additional spouse support, access to networking opportunities, access to socializing opportunities, membership in an expat organization, information on local life, move organized by employer or service provider, and lump-sum payment for expatriation-related expenses). The findings indicate that assignees in the Netherlands and Switzerland fare best, whereas those in the UK are strikingly under-supported.

Of those in the featured countries, foreign assignees in the Netherlands are most likely to receive a lump-sum payment (76% received it compared to 65% globally), access to socializing opportunities (20% received it compared to 16% globally), and membership in an expat organization (14% received it compared to 8% globally). Assignees in Switzerland are most likely to receive an organized move (87% received it compared to 75% globally) and access to networking opportunities (20% received it compared to 16% globally). Furthermore, equal shares of foreign assignees in the Netherlands and Switzerland received intercultural training (35% received it compared to 24% globally) and information on local life (57% received it compared to 46% globally) — the largest percentage of expats to receive this type of training out of the analyzed countries.

Foreign assignees in the UK, on the other hand, are at the bottom of the list in terms of receiving support. On a global scale, they are least likely to receive intercultural training (13% received it), additional spouse support (18% received it compared to 31% globally), access to local networking (4% received it), membership in an expat organization (0% received it), and information on local life (29% received it).

Personal Relocation Support Lacking Across the Board

When comparing the more practical aspects of relocation support received by foreign assignees on a global scale, such as a lump-sum payment (65% received it) or assistance with organizing the move (75% received it), with the personal support types, such as access to socializing and networking opportunities (16% received both types), it is clear that the personal and social aspects of relocation are much less commonly offered by organizations.

This suggests that employers are overlooking the personal challenges faced by assignees moving abroad for work, and how important social interaction can be when an individual is taken out of their comfort zone and away from family, friends, and their daily routine. In fact, the report indicates that foreign assignees living in countries where they receive well-rounded practical and personal relocation support settle in easier and are happier with life abroad.

(Un)Ease of Settling In

When looking at the satisfaction with their personal life in the featured countries, the findings are quite mixed. In terms of feeling at home in the local culture, foreign assignees in the USA (59% are satisfied and 21% dissatisfied) and the Netherlands (57% are satisfied and 22% dissatisfied) have the best overall ratings (compared to 57% satisfied and 27% dissatisfied, globally). Assignees in China are the least satisfied with feeling at home in the local culture (only 39% are satisfied while 46% are dissatisfied), followed by those in Germany (49% are satisfied and 32% are dissatisfied).

Foreign assignees in the Netherlands are also very satisfied with the ease of settling down in the local culture, with the best overall rating — 80% are satisfied (compared to 57% globally) and only 8% are dissatisfied (compared to 25% globally). Those in the UAE are the second-most satisfied (59% are satisfied and 16% are dissatisfied). Again, those in China struggle most with this aspect (only 30% are satisfied while 51% are dissatisfied), followed by those in France (33% are satisfied and 36% are dissatisfied).

Finding Happiness Abroad

With such comprehensive relocation support and their positive experiences settling into their host location, it comes as no surprise that of the foreign assignees in the featured countries, those in the Netherlands are happiest — 86% are happy (compared to 80% globally) and only 2% are unhappy (compared to 8% globally). Assignees in the Netherlands are followed closely by those in Switzerland, where 84% are happy and 7% are unhappy.

Those in China, on the other hand, give the worst overall rating — only 67% are happy while 17% are unhappy. Gaps in relocation support, as well as difficulties settling in, could contribute to their unhappiness abroad and are areas that employers should focus on more strongly. Assignees in Hong Kong, who are also poorly supported and experience difficulties with settling in, are second-unhappiest — 74% are happy and 11% are unhappy.

Well-Rounded Support Needed for More Successful Assignments

These and other findings from the Expat Insider 2018 Business Edition Country Focus provide valuable insights for employers to consider, highlighting the challenges that foreign assignees struggle with when relocating for work, and indicating areas where relocation support is lacking. If employers want to facilitate successful foreign assignments and maintain certain countries as attractive destinations for global talent as a result, they need to understand the relevance of both practical and personal relocation support and adapt their relocation packages accordingly.

Want to help foreign assignees and their spouses socially integrate abroad?

Contact InterNations Business Solutions for tailored support. With the InterNations Corporate Membership, assignees and their spouses are empowered through peer-to-peer support, networking opportunities (online and face-to-face), events and activities, and expat guides and exchange.

About the Author

Theresa is the Head of Business Solutions at InterNations, which provides personalized solutions for global mobility and HR professionals to ensure successful foreign assignments and improved international talent retention. InterNations is the world’s largest expat network with 3.4 million members and 420 communities worldwide. Through the InterNations Corporate Membership, expat employees are empowered to quickly and easily integrate abroad through peer-to-peer support. Häfner has nine years’ experience in the expat field and working with international teams. Having lived abroad for long periods of her career, she knows the challenges of relocation first-hand and is an expert in the field of global talent mobility. She is based in Munich, Germany.