“Surveys have indicated the high importance of the family,” Key Kutt, managing director of relocation services at Asian Tigers Mobility, told HRD. “If they are not happy, it impacts on the transferee, who will also be unhappy.”
One key way for HR to help families settle into a new location is through cultural training and spousal support.
While these are seen as “nice fluffy things to have”, Janine Barnes, director at Santa Fe Relocation Services Asia, told HRD that they were in fact absolutely critical for HR.
Although most companies offer advice on basic matters such as how to open a bank account or get your driver’s licence transferred, providing additional cultural training has a huge impact on assignment success, she added.
Even when these programs are offered however, HR may find that uptake is rather low.
“When it does get initiated for a transferee and family, do they take it up and do they know the value of it?” Kutt asked. “If you have never taken part in it, you really have no idea what the value for a relocation can be.”
One issue is that couples feel they are too busy to take part, Barnes said; “The take-up rate can be quite low, as it is often not perceived as being valuable enough to give up that time for.”
It is up to HR to highlight the benefits of these programs and encourage families to undertake them, especially since they can actually save firms money over the long term.
“Quite seriously – for organisations that don’t have it as part of their policy – I’ve seen assignments fail because assignees just don’t settle in, or there is staff turnover because existing staff don’t want to work with the new expat,” Barnes said.
“It’s a nightmare for HR, and it might not happen in the first place if these programs were given and the acceptance rate wasn’t so low.”
While relocating that rising superstar to an office abroad can be a great way to boost their skills and improve business results, it’s important not to forget about the ‘forgotten stakeholders’ involved: the future expat’s spouse and children.