Tips for Achieving Family and Assignee Success

A key foundation of assignment success is personal – it is entirely related to the happiness of the assignee and his or her family. Assignments can fail when the family is not happy. Busier expats on the move are looking for more mobile-friendly, streamlined and integrated ways of supplying necessary data to the companies working with them. Assignees want to receive information in bite-sized pieces that can be easily absorbed while commuting.

While children can often be the most adaptable on assignment, the spouse can be the most inflexible. When a spouse or partner moves to the host location and is unable to work, finding a local support network can be a significant challenge. A collaborative survey between NetExpat and EY (to be released later this month) of more than 2,000 mobile employees and over 1,000 spouses finds that 31 percent of employees felt that their employer wasn’t paying enough attention to partner support, while 39 percent of the spouses indicated this was an issue. In addition, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely important, addressing relocating partner needs was rated at 6.9 by a field of more than 300 corporate mobility contacts.

There is an interesting and positive convergence of interests as companies are finding that they would like to see future leaders have a more “global” mindset, and millennial employees are more interested in global experiences. Millennials think and work globally, are ambitious and versatile, and seek flexibility in terms of work time and location. In response, more progressive mobility programs have introduced scaled-back assignment policies and international leadership programs, offering flexible forms of assignment support that recognize that fewer incentives are needed to encourage mobility.

Without a doubt, traditional mobility programs must evolve and adapt to the new needs of multiple generations of employees and their partners. The ask of today doesn’t necessarily require higher mobility costs; in fact, low- or no-cost solutions are available that have high value in the eyes of the employee and his or her family.

So how do companies, employees, and mobility programs come together to meet everyone’s needs?

Create a Digital Experience

The idea of setting up a social media group or an app is not a new one. What is new is the idea of developing a way in which the employee can have a complete digital and integrated experience with both the mobility team and its providers that minimizes their time and maximizes their ability to gather relevant information in a streamlined way.

Spending time to evaluate what information is truly necessary for international assignees and determining when they need to receive it is critical. Leveraging the different media available helps to optimize the experience from the assignee’s perspective. The ability to access this information in a concise way and while on the move has become essential for anything that we actually want the assignee to read, as emails and other information fight for priority.

Support the Partner

Understanding the best support that the company can provide for the spouse or partner—within a given cost—and following through are critical to assignment success. The NetExpat and EY survey highlighted that the most impactful way to change the partner support policy is actually to improve communication to partners, and thus enhance the visibility and awareness of the support available. The challenge is that when this information is contingent on the employee, it may or may not reach the partner.

One idea to improve the knowledge and usage of programs, while also improving community connectivity in the host location, would be to consider a spousal “peer” program for accompanying partners. For implementation, partners of existing assignees would be asked to be a part of a network to aid newly arriving partners. These individuals would spend time orienting the arriving spouse to the local environment and culture. They could also provide a handout containing information about the company’s spousal support policy.

Embrace A New Way of Thinking

Without question, the mobility function must recognize that employees are looking for a streamlined, simplified, digital experience that will not take up too much of their time. The mobility team must evaluate its tools and partners to see how the end-to-end experience for the assignee and partner can be improved. This doesn’t have to require significant additional ongoing investment, but it does mean spending time to evaluate which communication methods, family benefits, and data management will have a profound effect on the assignee experience. The good news is that solutions exist—and many are not costly—but they do involve a new way of thinking about and supporting mobility.

This information is excerpted from a March 2017 Mobility magazine article.

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