10 April 2018

Tailored support needed to avoid overseas assignments failing

Business travel and relocation abroad used to be the preserve of older more experienced staff, but this has changed. Today, staff in their 20s and 30s are just as likely to work overseas. Towergate Health & Protection believes employers should consider the different needs of employees in different age groups and life stages to avoid overseas assignments failing.

Employers need to review the support that they offer during each stage of moving away, adapting to a new country and returning home, to ensure that everyone they send abroad, regardless of age or life stage, are properly supported.

Differing needs of different demographics working overseas

In the past, a move overseas would often include an employee’s partner and family, now the picture is far more varied. As we have a more globally mobile population, families are routinely left in the UK and maintain relationships by travelling more. The range of demographics among overseas employees adds a new level of complexity.

Research by the Global Business Travel Association* found that modern business travellers are well distributed across the different age groups, with half under the age of 45. Younger employees are more likely to marry later in life** than previous generations and are dedicated to wellness. Working for an employer who is prepared to support wellness is a high priority for this group.

Pressures differ across the demographic groups. The strains felt by someone who is married, trying to maintain a long-distance relationship can be quite different from those felt by a single person or by an employee who has travelled with their family and has a spouse who has given up their own job to relocate and may have children trying to adjust to a new school.

How can employers provide better support?

Given the range of demographics now involved in overseas assignments, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Employers need to prepare ahead of time and get expert advice about the support they should offer. Providing the appropriate support helps employees and encourages productivity.

There is a wide range of support to meet different needs. Pre-departure services can help organisations identify and prepare staff ahead of an overseas assignment. They also present a good opportunity to understand the likely support employees will need.

Destination services offer location, education and care support, which will be important for families moving overseas. Cross-cultural support that speeds up integration into a new environment may be particularly helpful for employees who are single and need to create a new social circle quickly to avoid feeling isolated in a new country. There are also 24-hour helplines that offer quick access to confidential counselling services which can be used to support different needs.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International said: “In order to avoid failed assignments it is critical that employers offer support for different demographic groups. Companies that try a one-size-fits-all approach are making it harder for themselves. The most successful companies we see offer tailored support according to the needs of different groups, and they reap the benefits in terms of staff engagement and productivity.”

Now that a greater range of employees are taking expat positions it is important that employers consider the types of support they offer to ensure they meet their duty of care to all demographics of overseas workers.

* https://www.gbta.org/news-and-advocacy/newsroom/business-travel-responsible-for-547-billion-in-us-gdp-in-2016-creates-over-74-million-jobs

** http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/millennials/