Families rarely considered when posting staff overseas

Companies are failing to take family issues into consideration when selecting candidates for expatriate assignments, according to the Industrial Society.

The society found that only 49 per cent of the 291 companies surveyed took dependants into account when selecting candidates for expatriate assignments, and only 10 per cent interviewed spouses or partners for their views. The companies surveyed included Shell, HSBC, IBM and Ford.

Alex Swarbick, HR consultant at the Industrial Society, said, “This figure is surprisingly low given that an unhappy partner is often one of the main reasons for the failure of a placement.

“With increasing numbers of dual-income families, it is harder to persuade someone to give up their interest to help their partner’s career.”

Mike Fleming, international HR manager at Nalco/Exxa Energy Chemicals, said, “Make sure the employee and spouse have a visit beforehand and are given the opportunity to discuss issues with fellow expatriates.”

Other HR professionals questioned in the survey urged companies to continue to provide career development and training to expatriated employees.

While many of those surveyed favoured flexible payment packages for expatriates, the report warned not to overpay them.

Fleming agreed, “Don’t move away from consistent policy application to tempt an employee to the job. Precedents are set and expatriates talk.”

Separate research by William M Mercer confirmed the Industrial Society’s findings, claiming that 65 per cent of all companies have no formal expatriate selection process.

The 104 participating companies were European multinationals with headquarters in 15 European countries.

When assessing candidates, companies listed technical expertise, leadership qualities and organisational skills as the most important factors when selecting candidates.


By Richard Staines

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