Foreign assignees receive more comprehensive assistance than relocating spouses when it comes to moving abroad for work, however personal aspects of support are largely lacking for both expat types. These are some of the findings from the recently released Expat Insider 2018 Business Edition Country Focus, a report zooming in on these expats in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UAE, the UK, and the USA. The report shows that the employer support offered, as well as the ease at which expats settle in and find happiness abroad, largely varies between countries.
These findings are important for employers to consider, taking a localized approach to shed some light on the aspects of relocation that assignees and their spouses need more support with. Addressing gaps in employer assistance can, in turn, help companies to facilitate more successful foreign assignments and remain competitive in the global war for talent.
Assignees in the Netherlands and Switzerland are Well Supported
In terms of overall relocation support, assignees in the Netherlands and Switzerland fare well, whereas those in the UK are strikingly under supported.
When compared to those in the other featured countries, assignees in the Netherlands are most likely to receive a lump-sum payment (76% compared to 65% globally), access to socializing opportunities (20% compared to 16% globally), and membership in an expat organization (14% compared to 8% globally). Assignees in Switzerland are most likely to receive an organized move (87% compared to 75% globally) and access to networking opportunities (20% compared to 16% globally).
Furthermore, equal shares of assignees in the Netherlands and Switzerland received intercultural training (35% compared to 24% globally) and information on local life (57% compared to 46% globally) — the largest shares of this expat type in the featured countries.
With such comprehensive relocation support, it is no surprise that of assignees in the featured countries, those in the Netherlands are happiest — 86% are happy (compared to 80% globally) and 2% are unhappy (compared to 8% globally), followed closely by those in Switzerland, where 84% are happy and 7% are unhappy.
Assignees in the UK, on the other hand, are least likely to receive six of the nine types of relocation support and are unhappier — only 73% indicate happiness while 5% indicate unhappiness.
China Sets a Benchmark for Supporting Relocating Spouses
In comparison to foreign assignees, relocating spouses are much less supported, with most global averages equal to or below 50% (the organized move is the only exception, with 54% of spouses receiving this globally).
China is one of the few countries where supporting spouses appears to be a real consideration for employers. Of this expat type in the featured countries, spouses in China are most likely to receive spouse assistance (45% compared to 26% globally), language classes (42% compared to 25% globally), intercultural training (37% compared to 15% globally), membership in an expat organization (18% compared to 8% globally), information on local life (47% compared to 35% globally), and the lump-sum payment (68% compared to 50% globally — alongside spouses in Hong Kong).
This more comprehensive relocation support might contribute to the high happiness ratings of spouses in China — 83% are happy (compared to 72% globally) and only 10% are unhappy (compared to 13% globally). Of the featured countries, this is the second-best overall rating, following Hong Kong where 81% of spouses are happy and 9% are unhappy.
Conversely, spouses in the UK and the UAE are some of the worst supported. For all nine types of relocation support, the shares of spouses in the UK that received it are lower than the global averages. The same is true for eight of the nine support types for spouses in the UAE. Spouses in both countries also have some of the worst overall happiness ratings. In the UK, 61% are happy and 21% are unhappy, while in the UAE 69% are happy and 13% are unhappy.
Personal Relocation Support Lacking Across the Board
When comparing the more practical aspects of relocation support, such as providing a lump-sum payment (65% of assignees and 50% of spouses received this) or assisting with organizing the move (75% of assignees and 54% of spouses received this), with the personal support types, such as providing access to socializing and networking opportunities (16% of assignees received both types, while 15% of spouses received socializing and 12% received networking), it is clear that the personal aspects are much less commonly provided.
While practical support is important for assisting with the logistical aspects of relocation, employers seem to underestimate the personal challenges involved when moving abroad for work — taking the assignee and their family out of their home and away from established social networks. In fact, the report indicates that assignees and spouses living in countries where they receive well-rounded practical and personal relocation support settle in easier and are happier with life abroad.
Employers must accept that it is their responsibility to ensure that assignees and their spouses are happy, well settled, and integrated abroad, and provide local networking and socializing opportunities to rebuild social networks. To do this, they need to see the person behind the employee, and understand the human need for belonging and connection with others. It is only through meeting these innate needs that employees can feel sufficiently supported and find happiness abroad. This, in turn, has a direct impact on business goals, with heightened workplace productivity and more successful foreign assignments.
These and other findings from the first Expat Insider 2018 Business Edition Country Focus provide valuable insights for companies striving to facilitate successful foreign assignments and remain competitive in the global war for talent. If employers want to keep certain countries as attractive destinations for global talent, they need to understand the relevance of both practical and personal relocation support, for assignees and their spouses.
This article was originally published by Worldwide ERC in April 2019.
Expat Insider 2018 | Business Edition Country Focus