Thursday, October 28, 2010

Expat Partner Support Is Crucial When Families Are Posted Abroad

Hi Everyone, Here is a piece from Global Connection that might interest you, especially if you are an expatriate partner or if you service expatriates and their families...

Expat Partner Support

"Partner support is crucial when families are posted abroad, and will only become more so over the coming years. That is the main conclusion of the survey that media organisation Global Connection had MonitorGroup carry out among its panel of expat partners around the world. The panel is a representative cross-section of Global Connection’s full membership of mainly traditional expatriates, although the ‘expat-light’ trend is starting to emerge. The expats surveyed were posted abroad by a total of more than 50 organisations.

The results of the survey show, first, that expat partners appreciate all types of support. We asked the respondents to rate a large number and a wide range of support initiatives, excluding those related to children and the actual move. These were rated on a 5-point scale: from insignificant [1] to very significant [5].

The average score for the 15 different types of assistance was 3.8. The scores scarcely vary, which means that the ranking order has only limited value.

The remarkably high rates alone demonstrate how much the importance of partner support has grown. Additional data serves only to confirm this trend:

• Expat partners have become a highly diverse group, but overall they tend to be critical, independent, generally highly educated (1) and typically, they were working on their own careers prior to their spouse being stationed abroad. The large majority of expat partners are still women, who would like to receive relevant information on which to base their decisions for creating an enjoyable, meaningful life abroad. Assistance in compiling that information is therefore a prerequisite for the success of the posting.

• The trend towards expat-light (2), which involves employees being stationed abroad for a shorter period of time or with a less comprehensive package of perks, also places huge demands on expat partners. Some stay behind with the family, while others who do go abroad are more or less forced to find work there in order to maintain their standard of living. In such cases, it is essential that the expatriating company or organisation provides support.

• Increasing numbers of expat partners undertake daily activities that are not, as in the past, primarily focused on the family. Global Connection surveys held in 2007 (3) and 2010 (4) demonstrate that over a period of just three years, the time that partners spend on non-family-related activities has soared by 34%. This, too, indicates a growing demand for support and information, among other things in looking for a paid or volunteer job.

ROI is hard to quantify

The above data takes on even greater significance when taking account of the fact that many dispatching companies have been taking a more critical look at their costs – including the costs of partner support – since the 2008 credit crunch. The problem is that the Return On Investment with respect to the costs of partner support is hard to quantify.

There are, however, good commercial reasons for taking partner support very seriously indeed. A number of these reasons are listed in the Brookfield Global Relocation Trends report (5), which was published earlier this year. The large quantity of statistical material in this report indicates, among other things, that 7% of all postings end prematurely. In another 7 % of all cases, the family returns home early, while the expatriated employee remains abroad alone.

Family or partner-related trouble is the main reason to return home for a third of the cases in which the employee and the family leave prematurely. For the latter 7% (family returns home, employee does not), the decision to go back often has to do with education, but the report also cites: “The real reason is often the fact that the family has difficulty adjusting.”

One must also keep in mind that many intended expatriations never even take place at all on account of the family. According to Brookfield, ‘partner and/or family’ is the main reason for a refusal to be stationed abroad in 83% of all cases.

The report refers to this solid, continuously reoccurring data, as a ‘challenge’ and further states: “With such widespread agreement about the nature of these challenges over such a long period of time, the lack of apparent success in addressing them is puzzling.”

Reprinted with written permission from Leo van Haaften of Global Connection, an international media company focusing on expats and their partners.  Special thanks to Expatica for alerting us to this article by sharing it on their site today as well.

Warmest regards, Andrea.

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