Theresa Häfner, Head of Business Solutions at InterNations, shares findings from a recently released expat report and gives employers of global talent some insights into their needs abroad - as well as the needs of their partners.
International Hires Need Holistic Relocation Support
Relocation support - a necessity in today’s job market
The recently released Expat Insider 2018 Business Edition Country Focus, a country-specific report based on the InterNations Expat Insider survey of 18,135 expats, identifies the needs that international hires and their partners have in terms of both practical and personal support.
With a war for talent going on, many employers have started looking abroad in search for top talent.
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This research provides valuable insights on expats who moved abroad for work-related reasons and live in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States of America (USA).
Among other topics, the relocation support that international hires (survey respondents that found a job abroad on their own or were recruited by a local company) and relocating partners (survey respondents that moved abroad with their partner) received are explored in the report.
Zooming in on relocation support
The nine types of relocation support that was covered in the survey are:
Additional spouse support
Access to local networking opportunities
Access to local socializing opportunities
Membership in an expat organization
Information on local life
An organized move by the employer or a service provider
Lump-sum payment for expatriation-related expenses.
These were structured around discussions with and feedback from employers regarding the types of relocation support that companies offer.
From the survey results, it is clear that employers tend to offer international hires more practical types of support, such as moving assistance and a lump-sum payment for expenses incurred, than personal support, such as networking and socializing opportunities.
Practical support is more commonly offered
When looking at the nine types of relocation support offered to international hires globally, the organized move and lump-sum payment stood out with having the largest shares of international hires receiving them - 43% received moving assistance and 36% received financial assistance.
Looking specifically at employer support in the featured countries, employers in the UAE provided the best moving assistance to international hires, compared to those in the other featured countries - 52% of international hires received it (nine percentage points above the global average for international hires). Furthermore, employers in the Netherlands supported international hires best with the lump-sum payment - 49% received this support (13 percentage points above the global average for international hires).
On the more negative side, employers supporting international hires in Hong Kong fared the worst in offering moving assistance - only 15% of international hires received it (28 percentage points below the global average). Those in the UK fared the worst with offering the lump-sum payment as only 19% of international hires received this (17 percentage points below the global average).
Personal support is greatly lacking and more desired
In terms of the personal types of assistance, the shares of international hires that received these are low when compared to the aforementioned practical assistance - globally, 14% of international hires received intercultural training (52% wanted it), 17% received access to local networking opportunities (62% wanted it), 20% received access to socializing opportunities (59% wanted it), and 8% received membership in an expat organization (63% wanted it).
Employers in certain countries do however set certain benchmarks with the personal support that they offer. Employers in China and the Netherlands, for example, stood out most positively in terms of offering their international hires the more personal types of support with the largest shares receiving them when comparing the nine featured countries. Even so, large percentages of international hires still indicated needs for these support types.
Of the international hires in China, 24% received intercultural training (57% wanted it) and 33% received access to local socializing opportunities (51% wanted it). Of the international hires in the Netherlands, 22% received access to local networking opportunities (62% wanted it) and 12% received membership in an expat organization from their employers (59% wanted it).
International hires in the Netherlands were also happiest of those in all the featured countries. While employers with international hires in China and the Netherlands offered some of the better personal support, those in countries such as the UK, France, and Hong Kong, provided some of the poorest support - below the global averages.
Even though employers in some countries are providing good support, the findings indicate that employers supporting global talent still have quite some room for improvement in offering balanced relocation support.
What about partner support?
The survey findings indicate that relocating spouses also tend to receive more practical support than personal support.
For example, on a global level, 54% of partners received the organized move and 50% received the lump-sum payment, compared to 12% receiving access to networking opportunities, 15% receiving access to socializing, and 8% receiving membership in an expat organization.
Of the featured countries, employers in both China and Hong Kong stood out for providing the best support to relocating spouses. In China, 68% of partners received the lump-sum payment, 16% received networking opportunities, and 18% received membership in an expat organization. In Hong Kong, 68% received the lump-sum payment (equal to those in China) and 74% received the organized move. All of these percentages are significantly higher than the global averages.
As with international hires, the partners also indicated bigger needs for personal support - globally, 53% wanted intercultural training, 68% wanted access to networking, 65% wanted access to socializing, and 67% wanted membership in an expat organization.
Furthermore, in the UK, 83% of partners would have liked access to networking opportunities and 75% wanted access to socializing, while in the UAE, 76% wanted membership in an expat organization - all much higher than the global averages.
What international hires and relocating spouses think of settling in abroad
Survey comments from international hires and relocating spouses shed some light on their personal opinions about life abroad.
A German male international hire living in France, stated:
“I dislike the language barrier and closed social circles, which are impossible to get into”.
An Italian female international hire living in Switzerland said:
“I don’t like the very poor social life. It is very difficult to integrate with locals”.
An American female international hire living in China stated:
“The cultural differences are very difficult to adjust to”.
Of the relocating spouses, A South African female living in the UAE said:
“Meeting and socializing with people my age is difficult”.
Another, a Polish female living in the USA, stated:
“I dislike my poor social life”.
An Italian female living in the UK indicated that she doesn’t like “not having friends around,” while a Greek female also living in the UK said she finds “socializing difficult”.
Why employers should focus on the balance
Why is it important for employers to close the gaps in relocation support and focus on a holistic approach which takes both the professional and personal aspects of these individuals into account? Because these types of support can ultimately help international hires with their social integration and to really feel at home abroad.
Most aspects of life are about having a sense of community and belonging - whether through a sport group, online chats, professional networking, receiving practical information, or connecting with other parents. International hires are no different - they need to rebuild their sense of community when abroad and a balanced approach of practical and personal support helps them to really do this.
This should be a core focus for all HR teams that are responsible for international talent acquisition and retention. If international hires don’t receive support with these aspects of life abroad there is a great risk of unhappy employees, low productivity levels and talent loss.
About the author
Theresa Häfner is Head of Business Solutions at InterNations, which provides personalized solutions for global mobility and HR professionals to ensure successful foreign assignments and increased international talent retention.
InterNations is the world’s largest expat network with more than 3.5 million members and 420 communities worldwide. Through the InterNations Corporate Membership, global employees and their families are empowered to quickly and easily integrate abroad. Theresa has nine years’ experience in the expat field.