Family Matters

When it comes to addressing the needs of expat family members, there is a large disconnect between policy and implementation

One surefire way to find out what matters to expatriate assignees and their families is, simply put, to ask them directly. For companies interested in attracting and retaining employees with families, and ensuring overseas assignments are a success for all involved, this should be a simple enough proposition, right?

Not quite.
Ironically, in our age of easy telecommunication this seemingly straightforward exercise is rarely done. A variety of industry surveys appears each year highlighting the latest trends in international assignment management, including the needs and challenges of the mobile family.

They report that great strides are being made in relocation support for families on international assignment. There are more look-see visits than ever before, for instance, and companies are recognising the needs of the male accompanying spouse. Indeed, issues that weren't even on the radar a few decades ago - health and security, work permits for accompanying partners, even elder care - are now addressed.

This is a good thing. But the down side is this: how reflective of the real story is data collected for surveys if it's only provided by senior HR professionals or global mobility divisions? The accompanying family members are typically excluded from providing input and are rarely if ever asked what they need to succeed as a moveable family.

As well, while professional practitioners may know what is contained in a company's relocation policy, many are unaware if the policy is being implemented through pre-departure training and briefings or support on the ground at the new locale.

When I'm out in the world on one of my international lecture tours, I continually hear comments about the lack of support.

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Family Matters
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