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Globalization has opened up exciting prospects for companies but Cranfield study suggests that, while economic opportunities are well understood, best means of staffing overseas operations are not. Companies need a much more holistic view of costs of an international assignment: costs of relocating somebody (financial, emotional, physical) and local costs of bad placements, cultural misunderstandings and inefficiency, all of which can be reflected in poor year-end results.
How can companies achieve this overview? Will they want to? To answer second question first, it seems obvious that those companies that take issue seriously are ones likely to have greater success in global economy. As to ‘how’, it will need a strategic approach that matches company’s goals. However, a strategy can only be implemented after a proper study of all factors involved:
•How long will it take a manager to become proficient in overseas branch? •What preparation does manager need before taking up posting?
•What support does manager need in post?
•What are impacts on family life and how can they be mitigated?
•What are behavioural adjustments needed by manager and family in order to function in new environment?
•What will process of repatriation entail?
•How can knowledge gained form each posting be garnered and used for next assignments?
•How can local branches be supported while they adjust to a new manager?
Undoubtedly there are many more questions that need to be raised. But one thing is clear: globalization is here for long term, and if companies are to succeed they need to take issue of overseas appointments very seriously indeed.
Brenda Townsend Hall is a business communications and cross-cultural trainer. She is an associate member of the Itap International Alliance (www.itapintl.com).