The scarcity of qualified managers and specialise workers within an organisation has become a significant constraint of the speed at which multinational companies can expand their market and sales.

Global companies now recognise that their human resources and intellectual investment is as significant as their financial assets when building a sustainable competitive edge.  This means it is more important than ever to get the right people into the right job.

Companies new to the global scene are quickly discovering that finding knowledgeable and trustworthy managers for their overseas markets is a huge challenge.  This means local managers in multinational corporations are going to have to become more mobile if the company is to perform effectively in all markets.

But what is the best way to manage these overseas postings?

There are recognised difficulties with retaining talent during overseas postings. 

Some managers end up leaving before their post completes and others underperforming or disrupt the already established workforce. 

Other issues include retaining the talent after the posting.  Many managers end up leaving their employment as they feel disadvantaged by being away from their substantive position for so long.

The way to manage this is to carefully oversee an expat’s exit and re-entry by implementing these strategies.

  • Afford overseas postings the same high priority as other business assignments.  Don’t sell it as a place to work towards their retirement or a change of scenery.
  • Ensure the posting is long enough for the employee to make an impact.  It usually has to be more than three years.  The first year is often about unpacking and getting to know the region, the last year is spent organising and packing for the family to return home. This leaves the second year being the only productive period.
  • Fit the candidates’ hard skills, soft skills, cultural experience and hobbies with the demands of the position and location.  An English manager who attends Judo three times a week and competes in national tournaments is going to adjust to Tokyo easier than someone who is an avid kayaker and prefers spending his time camping in the wide-open spaces.
  • If the position is high-stakes, consider spending on some insurance against people becoming disengaged or underperforming in medium to long-term assignments.  Send the final contenders to visit the country where the post is based.  Preferably with their spouses. Give the local managers they will be working with some input into the final selection.
  • Give the appointee and their family cultural and language immersion training.
  • Appoint a mentor from headquarters who will stay in touch with the manager throughout the posting.  Ideally, the mentor will have had similar overseas experience and can help them navigate the potential pitfalls and opportunities.
  • Establish clear objectives for the appointee’s integration into the local business environment.  Let them know what the expectations are for networking and local involvement.
  • Continue offering the manager professional development opportunities that are afforded to their colleagues at home.
  • Always discuss the next steps before departure and before returning home.

Most multinational companies do an excellent job of globalising their supply chains, but they aren’t good at human resources. 

Competition is intensifying, and companies are going to have to put into place programs that recruit, train and retain managers.  This includes handling the challenges of valuing their overseas postings and encouraging managerial mobility.

Categories: Business


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