Global mobility is on the rise, and in some industries a stint abroad is becoming an essential requirement in order to move further up the corporate ladder. Executives see it as an opportunity for personal growth, and although the “expat life” has been significantly watered down with the majority of people on local contracts, it can nonetheless still be financially lucrative.
It is however no longer the sole territory of the seasoned executive. In international companies, there are increasing numbers of middle managers going abroad for shorter term or commuter assignments. These do not require people to uproot their families and can often prove to be hugely worthwhile in terms of their personal and professional development.
One key reason for the increase of these types of assignments is employee engagement. In a candidate led market, these initiatives undoubtedly serve to cement loyalty and increase employee retention. What could be more motivation than a potential six-month project in Singapore or Dubai?
With improved technology, the global workplace is becoming ever smaller, but national cultures are as different as ever. If increasingly more employees appreciate the ways that their global colleagues do business, then it will be easier to find a common ground. Those who argue that the global business culture is US-led, are misled. It is basic politeness to take into account local cultural practices and not to ride roughshod over centuries of tradition.
There is lots of market research that supports this trend.
According to a Towers Watson study for 2014, most multinationals saw their international assignments increase through 2014, and only 18% saw them diminishing. More than half (54%) of multinationals headquartered in the U.S. and 43% in Asia - saw the number of international assignments rise.
The study found that sixty per cent of Asian companies and 40% of U.S. organisations transfer employees to China for traditional expatriate assignments. Europe-headquartered companies transfer their expatriates to various locations - most frequently the United Kingdom and then Singapore.
Digging a little deeper, on short-term assignments, European companies prefer to keep their transfers local: 50% move short-term assignees within Europe. However, Asia is the most popular region for short-term assignees at both Asian (85%) and U.S. (58%) companies.
Going to a glamorous job abroad is not something that just happens to other people on LinkedIn. Gone are the days of you looking wistfully at someone’s profile to notice that they work in Hong Kong. This could be you. If you are successful in your role, and your company has a history of sending people abroad, then there is something to aim for.
Talk to your HR team, make it clear during your appraisals that you would welcome a foreign move, and network with your colleagues abroad to understand the needs of their business. You may even be able to create an opportunity yourself if you can come up with a business case for it.
Put yourself in a position to take advantage of any opportunity. Adventure awaits!