Senior management have to be able to work and manage teams across European borders if they are to succeed in an open market, writes Leah Larkin
Long gone are the days when you went to college, came home, got a job at a local company and worked there until retirement. Now you are likely to work for several companies, in different cities, different countries, and on different continents.
Mobility is the name of the game. "It's very important with the development of the European market," notes Patrice André, vice-president of HR at UPS Europe. "We see the European market quickly developing into a single market. We need to develop senior management that has the ability to work and manage teams and be successful across European borders."
A British citizen is in charge of the engineering and technical aspects of UPS's operation in France, a German manages the company's Spanish unit, and the company's country manager in Italy has German and US citizenship.
The ball really got rolling within Europe when borders started to come down in the early 1990s, says Maury Peiperl, a professor at the London Business School (LBS), who studies the career paths of European executives. Researchers at LBS did a study of more than 200 chief executives in 15 countries. They found that international experience among the group was substantial, with the average CEO, who speaks 2.8 languages, having worked in four countries, half of these outside of Europe.
Peiperl spoke of a European zeitgeist "of actually needing to spend time in a foreign country as part of one's development as a human being". Individuals want to be global citizens who can successfully move in different cultures and spheres, he said, "as if that is something that is essential to function in our age".
It seems essential if one wants to move up the corporate ladder. "People who have international experience make more effective managers. They have a better feeling for the organisation," says Elaine Hughes, head of international assignment services for UBS, a financial services company.
Dr Elisabeth Marx, a search consultant and psychologist with the Norman Broadbent Group, an international consultancy, echoes her remarks. "Anyone ambitious needs at least one overseas assignment. Some companies even make it a prerequisite to go on to board level."
Fran Wilson, man