Today, few corporations will send their employees overseas if at all possible. Why? The expats of today have a heavy burden of responsibility on their shoulders compared to their forerunners of the past two waves of globalization. These days, success in the eyes of an international venture is what can make or break any new start up or large firm just because those expats who fail can blemish its reputation and lose face. It may take many years to repair those relationships; especially one’s made in China.

Large corporations believe it is just the cost of doing business because of the high level of responsibilities involved, expertise, the need for engineers, technical expertise and the like, most firms tend to send their best performing and most promising people, unwittingly to the field. With that said, those sent fully understand that the notion of success or failure abroad will have a major effect on the future of their position within the company.

Studies have shown that the chances of a successful fit are on average 20 percent. Most will return before their assignment is up. In fact, Sun Microsystems experienced a failure rates up to 63 percent employees returning home. This is with the knowledge that expat benefit package may cost upwards to almost 4 times his/her salary! It also has been noted that with those remaining 50 percent that stay, most operate at a very low level of productivity and that fewer than 40 percent succeed in completing their posting abroad successfully. It is clear, an expat’s salary are a financial risk.

Other unforeseeable circumstances neither well known nor discussed in great detail but nevertheless very important if the success of the corporate professional oversees is to become a successful fit. One of the more obvious causes for failure of an expat overseas assignment is the inability of the candidate to acclimatize his/her persona or those with family to the environment overseas.   i.e.: inability to adjust to the new culture.   However this often becomes a game of “blame the expat”.  “He probably never met a Chinese person the whole time he was in China” is something I have heard often.  However, in my experience, the expats that come to Asia often do it with “cultural experience” actually being one of their top motivations.   They are excited about the new culture and do their best to acclimate.  Obviously different personalities have varying language skills and ability to morph into new situations.  However, this is very difficult to predict even for the employee himself much less HR.

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