Are you qualified to work oversea?


Although companies differ in how they conduct assessments for oversea assignment, research shows that they seek the following similar characteristics in their expats.


A Drive to Communicate. Most expats will try to communicate with local people in their new country, but people who end up being successful in their jobs are those that don't give up after early attempts either fail or embarrass them. To identify such people, the most effective companies in our research scanned their ranks for employees who were both enthusiastic and extroverted in conversation, and not afraid to try out their fractured French or talk with someone whose English was weak.


Broad-Based Sociability. The tendency for many people posted overseas is to stick with a small circle of fellow expats. By contrast, successful global managers establish social ties to the local residents, from shop-keepers to government officials. There is no better source for insights into a local market and no better way to adjust to strange surroundings.


Cultural Flexibility. It is human nature to gravitate toward the familiar that's why many Americans overseas find themselves eating lunch at McDonald's. But the expats who add the most value to their companies by staying for the duration and being open to local market trends are those who willingly experiment with different customs. In India, such people eat dal and chapatis for lunch; in Brazil, they follow the fortunes of the local jai alai team.


Cosmopolitan Orientation. Expats with a cosmopolitan mindset intuitively understand that different cultural norms have value and meaning to those who practice them. Companies that send the right people abroad have identified individuals who respect diverse viewpoints; they live and let live.


A Collaborative Negotiation Style. When expats negotiate with foreigners, the potential for conflict is much higher than it is when they are dealing with compatriots. Different cultures can hold radically different expectations about the way negotiations should be conducted. Thus a collaborative negotiation style, which can be important enough in husiness at home, hecomes absolutely critical abroad.


Consider the approach taken by LG Group, a $70 billion Korean con- glomerate that takes a more formal approach to assessing candidates for foreign assignments. Early in their careers, candidates complete a survey of about 100 questions designed to rate their preparation for global assignments and their cross-cultural skills. Afterward, LG employees and their managers discuss how specific training courses or future on-the-job experiences could help them enhance their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. From this discussion, a personalized development plan and timetable are generated. Because LG's potential expats are given time to develop their skills, about 97% of them succeed in meeting the company's expectations when they are eventually sent on international assignments. 


- Extracted from the original paper 'The Right Way to Manage Expats' by J. Stewart Black and HalB. Gregersen 

Date: 1 Nov 2013
Author: Tien Luong

Once a creative advertising copywriter and winning writer of a public contest on the Youth Newspaper, now an aspirational blogger on various topics with a deep passion for life and human potentials. 

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