Foreign Assignees Better Supported than International Hires — Both Lack Personal Support

20 Mar 2019

International Hires in Switzerland do not seem to be well-supported by their employers when it comes to relocation. While Foreign Assignees are more likely to receive practical support, such as the organized move or a lump-sum payment, International Hires are left behind. “When it comes to benefits for International Hires, international recruiting can learn from global mobility management,” says Theresa Häfner, Head of Business Solutions at InterNations. “Companies in Switzerland are in need of skilled professionals from abroad but in order to stay competitive in the war for talent, they have to support them more.”

On a global scale, employers in Switzerland lag behind with benefits for both International Hires and Foreign Assignees. Countries such as the Netherlands excel in supporting global employees. They set a benchmark for employer assistance and show that employees that are better supported with their relocation and integration experience an easier, shorter adjustment period and a higher satisfaction with life in general. “Moving abroad comes with organizational as well as emotional challenges,” says Häfner. “If Switzerland wants to stay an attractive destination for global talent, employers need to understand the relevance of both practical and personal support for their employees.”

In the newly released Expat Insider Business Edition Country Focus report, InterNations Business Solutions takes a closer look at nine different types of relocation support that global employees and their partners receive from companies. In addition to Switzerland, the report looks at the situation of expats who moved abroad for work and live in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the UAE, the UK, and the USA. The report focuses on the benefits that International Hires (found a job abroad on their own or were recruited by a local company), Foreign Assignees (sent abroad by their employer), and Relocating Spouses (moved abroad with their partner) received, as well as the types of support they would have wanted. It reveals the inequality in benefits received in Switzerland, and the negative impact that a lack of relocation support, as well as a lack of assistance with social integration have on the ease of settling in and happiness of global employees and their partners.

International Hires Receive Less Practical Support than Foreign Assignees

International Hires in Switzerland received considerably less benefits than Foreign Assignees in the country: while 87% of Foreign Assignees in Switzerland were offered an organized move, just 41% of International Hires received the same offer. The share of Foreign Assignees receiving this type of support is twelve percentage points higher than the global number (75%). It is also the largest share of Foreign Assignees receiving assistance with their move, compared to the other featured countries — those in the UAE and the Netherlands come in at close second (both 86%). This is just one illustration of how differently employers support these two expat types in Switzerland.

The list continues with lump-sum payments, which were received by 75% of Foreign Assignees and just 41% of International Hires, information on local life (57% vs. 37%), and additional spouse support (36% vs. 14%). The latter would be more than useful as Relocating Spouses are generally less supported.

In fact, only language classes seem to be a real consideration for companies to offer to International Hires: 40% received this benefit, which is 13 percentage points more than the global average (27%). Furthermore, International Hires in Switzerland are the third-largest share that received this, compared to other featured countries — more received it in Germany (50%) and the Netherlands (47%). However, the share of Foreign Assignees being offered language classes in Switzerland is again even higher (56% vs. 37% globally).

International Hires in Switzerland Receive Poor Personal Support

Moreover, employers are not likely to support their International Hires in Switzerland with more personal support types such as intercultural training, networking and socializing opportunities, as well as membership in an expat organization. The percentages of International Hires receiving these support types are all below the global numbers. For example, 20% of International Hires are offered the access to local socializing opportunities globally, but only 11% of those in Switzerland received this offer.

However, the survey results show that employers should consider improving existing support as well as venturing into a broader range of support for International Hires to ease their integration. Only 12% of International Hires in Switzerland received intercultural training but 51% would have liked it; 10% received networking opportunities but 67% would have liked it; and 11% received access to socializing but 66% would have liked it. Lastly, a mere 5% received membership in an expat organization but 62% would have liked it.

In comparison, Foreign Assignees in Switzerland are much better supported with these more personal and social types of relocation support. Of the Foreign Assignees there, 20% received networking opportunities (above the 16% global average), 19% received socializing opportunities (above the 16% global average), and 10% received membership in an expat organization (above the 8% global average). Out of the nine countries featured, Switzerland has the largest share of Foreign Assignees who received access to networking opportunities, followed by the Netherlands (16%).

The Lack of a Social Network

Even though employers sending Foreign Assignees to Switzerland are setting the bar for these more personal and social types of relocation support, both expat types still indicate a big need for it. In parallel to the support missed by International Hires, about two-thirds of Foreign Assignees in Switzerland (67%) also state that they would have liked local networking opportunities, and 69% state they wanted access to local socializing opportunities.

The benefit that the lowest share of global employees in Switzerland received, but most of them wanted, is membership in an expat organization. In fact, just 5% of International Hires and 10% of Foreign Assignees were offered this type of support, but 62% and 66%, respectively, wanted it.

Struggles with Settling In and Making Friends

The fact that International Hires are not too well supported with their relocation by employers, especially in areas of social integration, may be a reason why they rate their general ease of settling in poorly: 38% state that they do not feel at home in the local culture, compared to 30% of International Hires globally. Of the nine featured countries, this is the second-lowest rating — only International Hires in Germany feel less at home in the local culture (44%).

Additionally, out of the nine countries featured, International Hires in Switzerland struggle most with making friends. In terms of making new friends, 42% find it hard, and an even higher 66% find it difficult to make local friends. “It is very difficult to integrate with locals,” says an Italian female International Hire. A British male shares a similar sentiment: “It is hard to meet people and make friends.”

The same is true for Foreign Assignees with 60% indicating difficulties with becoming friends with locals. Only Foreign Assignees in France are even less satisfied (63%). “Socializing with locals is difficult,” says a French female Foreign Assignee. An Indian male Foreign Assignee agrees: “I do not like the socializing opportunities.”

International Hires Are Unhappier than Foreign Assignees in Switzerland

The share of International Hires in Switzerland being happy with their life in general is just about global average (72% vs. 71% globally). While this is a relatively high percentage, it does not look so well in comparison with the other featured countries:  International Hires in the Netherlands (84%), China (76%), the USA (78%), and France (74%) are even happier.

Despite their similar struggles in terms of settling in, Foreign Assignees are significantly happier with their life abroad. In fact, 84% of Foreign Assignees in Switzerland are generally satisfied, which is twelve percentage points higher than the share of International Hires (72%). The fact that Foreign Assignees received more practical, personal, and social support, could be a reason for this higher positive rating.

In comparison, Relocating Spouses in Switzerland are not as happy — only 66% indicate happiness. They are also less supported with their relocation than the other two expat types.

Global Employees in the Netherlands Are Best Supported and Happiest

Compared to the other countries featured in the report, employers in the Netherlands are at the top when it comes to supporting their global employees. They offer their International Hires and Foreign Assignees a variety of both practical and personal benefits — and set a benchmark at that.

For example, 50% of International Hires received the organized move, and 49% received the lump-sum payment, which is both higher than the global average (43% and 36%, respectively). Additionally, close to one-third of International Hires in the Netherlands (32%) received access to local socializing opportunities, compared to just 20% globally. Another 22% received access to networking opportunities (vs. 17% globally), and 12% were offered the membership in an expat organization (vs. 8% globally), which are the highest among the featured countries.

The survey results indicate that the well-rounded support by their employer is beneficial for global employees. In fact, 74% of International Hires and 80% of Foreign Assignees find it easy to settle down in the country — again the highest shares among the countries featured. It might be no surprise then that they are also happiest: 84% of International Hires indicate happiness with life in general (vs. 71% globally) and 86% of Foreign Assignees say the same (vs. 80% globally).

About the Expat Insider Business Edition Country Focus
The very first Expat Insider Business Edition Country Focus zooms in on Foreign Assignees, International Hires, and Relocating Spouses in nine featured countries (China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United Stated of America). It is an extension of the Expat Insider Business Edition, launched at the end of 2018. It provides valuable insights for global mobility and HR professionals supporting expats. All findings are based on the InterNations Expat Insider survey, one of the world’s most comprehensive expat surveys — 18,135 expats from across the globe took part in the 2018 survey. Important: The choice of the nine countries was solely based on having a big enough data sample. These countries are not ranked in the report, but comparisons are made between the countries. Global percentages for the expat types are also compared.

About InterNations Business Solutions
InterNations Business Solutions provides expert insights and personalized solutions for global mobility and HR professionals to ensure successful foreign assignments and improved international talent retention. InterNations is the world’s largest expat network with 3.4 million members and 420 communities worldwide. Through the InterNations Corporate Membership, expat employees and their families are empowered to quickly and easily integrate abroad through peer-to-peer support. This helps them through the most critical onboarding phase and seamlessly integrates them into their new home country for the entire time abroad. In turn, they are more productive at work and save global mobility and HR professionals time and costs.

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