Why Corporate Culture Can Make Or Break A Successful Expat’s Employment
Getting the formula right for successfully placing, retaining and seeing the most value out of an expat employee seems as much an art as it is a science. There are so many variables to contend with that it can make even the most veteran of recruiters, HR managers or consultants feel as though their heads are spinning.
The cultural shift, the needs of the staff members’ families, the language barriers that might exist and more, are all variables that need to be taken in mind nowadays, and they’re likewise high on the agenda of expats themselves.
It seems expectations are higher than ever, but with the right information, there’s every reason why expat employees can settle into a new life overseas prosperously – both for themselves, and for the business.
Why expat satisfaction goes hand in hand with corporate culture
Money talks, but it’s far from the only thing on most expat workers’ minds, no matter where in the world you look. Taking into account the opinions of some 2,000 expats from every corner of the map, The International Workforce Well-Being Survey 2019 from Aetna International recently delved deeper into what rubbed expats the wrong way about overseas placements, as well as what ticked all the boxes.
The survey analysed several professional and lifestyle points – social and civil safety, the ease of integrating a family into a new culture, healthcare, community, overall quality of life,and so on. But it was found that it is actually the corporate culture of a given company that, almost universally across the world, is among the most likely thing to trigger a negative expat reaction and inspire in them an urge to return home.
While this echoes the oft-trodden sentiments of rising flexible working and a healthier work/life balance, there’s no denying that certain countries have an ingrained corporate culture that is less adaptive to these changes. Understandably, this can make them more likely to create culture shock and dissatisfaction in expats overall.
In some parts of the world, there are indeed examples of entrenched corporate culture in which working long hours and giving it your all to the point of exhaustion, even without overtime pay, is not only seen as normal, but as something to be applauded. Locations like Hong Kong and Japan, are often places in which this extreme approach to work is expected of expats as much as locals.
Likewise, seemingly smaller details like dress codes for office workers, structured breaks in the day, and gender roles that might not match more open-minded ones back home, can all prove factors that expats relocating to countries with stringent corporate cultures will prove alienated by.
With 21% of the 2,000 people surveyed by Aetna International describing corporate culture as a negative impact on their expat experience, this is definitely a factor to consider. Similarly, 13% of those expats surveyed described working practices to be detrimental to their well-being in their foreign posting.
Expats want a foreign assignment to enhance their quality of life
It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that wages were seen as one of the top reasons why many surveyed expats meshed well with an overseas role. The International Workforce Well-Being Survey reports that 28% of the 2,000 professionals interviewed worldwide highlighted a decent wage as central to an enhanced sense of well-being.
Yet this is far from a challenge at which businesses can just throw money to solve – there are other barriers to keep in mind and overcome.
For example, while 80% of those surveyed feel as though their new home country welcomed expat employees into the fold, friction still remains in settling larger families and helping single expats to find a partner or circles of friends.
These are all areas a smart HR manager or recruiter can help to smooth the journey in.Reassuring workers who are heading overseas that a community, some effective healthcare and a constant link to the team back home helps hugely in reinforcing both their personal goals as much as those of the business. And while some countries are more easy to adapt to than others, the common consensus worldwide is that working smarter, not harder, is the key to employee happiness both at home and away.
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