152. Human Resources Management: The Cost of Expatriate Failure

07 takeaways from this video:

“Many (international) assignment failures are probably due to the wrong candidates being picked.”

Ernst & Young, Global Mobility Effectiveness Survey, 2012 (page 21; paragraph 3)

00:03:18 “Coffee pot recruitment,” or “water cooler recruitment” refers to any inter-company grapevine conversation whereby an expatriate employee is selected through informal back channels rather than through formal recruitment/interview process channels.

“Jim in accounting took his family to the Philippines for 2 weeks over the summer and said he loved it. He’d be the perfect guy to head up their accounting department.”

While the employee might seem to be the ideal candidate for an international mission ‘on paper,’ this isn’t necessarily so. But to save time and money, and because the candidate is perfect “on paper,” that “ideal” candidate cruises through the recuitment process and in short order finds him/herself along with his/her family as expatriates on that foreign mission and in that foreign country without the correct questions being asked.

00:06:05 The “old boy network” refers to business decisions made through closed and often male-dominant network connections. Modern human resources connections tend to be selected through culturally-exclusive “work-related behavior and skill-based competencies.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following cognitive biases suggest that the “old boy network” is still very much alive and well:

  • The mere-exposure effect, or the familiarity principle, argues that “people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.”
  • The shared information bias argues that “group members tend to spend more time and energy discussing information that all members are already familiar with (i.e., shared information), and less time and energy discussing information that only some members are aware of (i.e., unshared information).”
  • The illusiory truth effect argues that humans “are more likely to identify as true statements those they have previously heard (even if they cannot consciously remember having heard them), regardless of the actual validity of the statement. In other words, a person is more likely to believe a familiar statement than an unfamiliar one.”]

00:07:14 The most modern human resources buzzword is intercultural competency.

+40% of companies find that the expatriates sent on missions were disappointed with their placement. Further, between 2-11% of all the expats sent overseas have failed, with 61% of those expat failures being due to the expat’s family not adapting to the new culture.

Consider the cost to the corporation as well as the disappointment, demotivation, and career damage to the expatriates returning home labeled as “failures.”

00:11:20 A problem intercultural trainers face is employees unreasonably demanding that their full-day (or longer) cultural initiation to their future mission abroad be quickly summarized into the few key do’s and don’ts and the traps to avoid. But intercultural training and mission preparation cannot be so easily defined, and must address the following areas:

  • Cultural etiquette – knowing how to address your superiors, subordinates, and clients respectfully in their culture is an important key that can delay contracts being signed from 3 months to up to 3 years.
  • Cultural knowledge – knowing the national and local celebrities, hardships and accomplishments can help you bond with the local population and solidify trust and business dealings beyond that of what cultural etiquette could ever hope to.
  • Competencies – those behaviors, experience and problem-solving techniques and norms you unconsciously rely upon also play a role in how the local population accept your authority.

00:14:39 Four key intercultural competencies needed in an international workplace:

  1. Intercultural sensitivity – How competent are you at actively listening and understanding the real message being conveyed in the person’s communication, both in form and in content? Do you understand how and where your learned your own cultural views and beliefs?
  2. Intercultural communication – How adaptable and accomodating is your communication style when it comes to communicating, bonding, and persuading others outside of your cultural upbringing?
  3. Leadership competence – How good are you at developing commitment in a foreign environment?
  4. Managing uncertainty – How well do you manage unknown variables. This competence is one of the most powerful predictors of expatriate success.

Psychometric and personality test aren’t infallible, and their scores MUSTN’T be evaluated as black and white, but rather as a subtle guide.

00:22:30 With regard to cultural awareness, there are four basic approaches:

  1. Cultural intolerance – “Bloody foreigners! Why don’t they go home!”
  2. When in Rome – “If they come to our country, they should follow our rules.”
  3. Minimization – “We all share the planet and we’re all the same.” Looking at the great disparity between 1st world, 3rd world, and developing economies, not every economy and situation is equal, and we are not equally sharing the wealth on the planet.
  4. Recognizing and respecting differences – Agreeing to disagree and a willingness to see and work with the best in others.

00:24:40 People form habits and judgments quickly and unconsciously. You need to be able to take a step back, recognize those habits and judgements both in others, and more importantly in yourself, and then be open to challenging them.

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