More expat assignments leading to failure, reveals ECA

More and more expat assignments aren’t working out for either party, a new report reveals.

Global mobility company ECA International’s latest Managing Mobility Survey showed that the number of assignments terminated early in 2016 was 7.2%, up from 4.9% in 2012 – a difference of around 50%. The failure rate was highest in big companies (more than 10,000 staff).

Unsurprisingly, the cause of these early terminations was “a mismatch between expectations and reality”. Nearly three in five employers reported that assignments ended early because of assignees underperforming in their new role. The second most common reason given was the international assignee quitting early over dissatisfaction with their new role.

Partly this is down to not fitting in: assignments are failing because of families not adapting to cultural differences. According to the report, only 18% of employers offer cultural training for the family (which is quite astonishing, as getting it right culturally is critically important, as evident here and here.)

While the report doesn’t appear to explain why the failure rate has gone up, the following solution is offered:

The key to improving an employee’s ability to adapt to assignment and, later, post-assignment life is making sure they are well prepared for what is to come.

It’s common sense: preparation is everything. But rather than consult guides and websites, try before you buy. Get out to the overseas destination in question, interact with your new colleagues in person rather than through email, and get a feel for the culture.

And if everything goes very terribly wrong, at least you’ll have something to talk about down the pub, or at your local Fuckup Night if you’re more entrepreneurially minded.  And let’s face it, you can’t be any worse than this guy, right?:

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