So 2010 is upon us and we’ll all undoubtedly be spending some time sorting out challenges, opportunities, and priorities for the coming 12 months. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions or the like but after the jet lag, fruitcakes, bowl games, lutefisk
, turkey dinners, get-togethers and reunions with friends and relatives, and snow and cold, recovering on the couch while indulging in stuffing-induced dreams of what could be seems attractive. So in no particular order, here are my Top 10 mobility wishes for this next year:
10. Companies maintain or increase their investments in mobility. 2008 and 2009 were tough years with companies cutting back on relocations, training, shortening assignments, and just generally retrenching in light of the economic tsunami. Completely understandable from a western perspective. But in China, which maintains strong growth and values long-term relationships, the consequence of those (hopefully) short-term cutbacks is the loss of organizational knowledge and loss of image for foreign companies as preferred employers in the eyes of many talented Chinese staff. Many companies don’t have the bench strength in China as it is to afford such losses; continued cutbacks will only exacerbate the problem.
9. Assignee selection processes improve. Global mindset anybody? Too many organizations continue to make expatriate staffing decisions on the basis of “the best technical person” gets the job, even though management, staff motivation, influencing partners, and working cross-culturally may have little to do with technical or operational skills. Also, giving out “plum” foreign assignments as rewards to successful domestic managers doesn’t always work. What makes someone successful in one assignment may not work at all in a foreign assignment. And what made someone successful in a previous foreign assignment may not make them successful in a foreign assignment in China.
8. Organizations improve (create?) meaningful repat processes. Fifty percent of repatriated assignees leave their employer within a couple of years of repatriation. This is successfully leveraging the often large investment already made in relocating the employee (and family)? This year in southern China, a number of firms laid off expats who had volunteered for foreign assignment without first repatriating them. Aw, c’mon. The message to (any remaining) employees in the home office will be “Don’t take a foreign assignment because the company will strand you there.” Finding competent employees to take on challenging foreign assignments is already difficult enough. Don’t make it worse.
7. Expatriate assignments are used to build organizational capability. See comments above on selection and repatriation. Organizations which plan to succeed in China – and probably elsewhere – not only need to develop and maintain their capabilities within China,
but need to institutionally incorporate those learnings in the home office. That’s hard to do unless there are sustained and meaningful job exchanges.
6. The Year of the Tiger results in more than a few roaring successes. Okay, okay. Not a heavy new year’s wish. But after a tough couple of years for western businesses, seeing some of those little green shoots of hope turn into something stronger will be exceedingly welcome for all. More next week!