Not to be too much of a Debbie Downer, but let’s be real: some global relocations fail. Whether it’s simply a bad fit or there are extenuating circumstances requiring an assignee to head home, around 30% of relocations today don’t work out as intended.
As a global mobility manager, this can be pretty distressing. What’s going on that’s making these assignments fail? It turns out it’s rarely just one thing. Today, we’re taking a look at the top three reasons relocations fail.
In our previous white paper, we talked about how family stress and dissatisfaction with a move is the second most-cited reason for reassignment failure. Cut off from their own family and friends, an assignee’s family can experience a deeper—and often different kind of—culture shock. Spouses may be depressed at an inability to find work, and may be more aware of the difficulties of running errands, buying groceries or taking care of the family in a foreign country. Kids often have difficulties fitting into a new school, especially if they don’t speak the new language fluently. With all this stress, it’s not uncommon for relocating couples to separate or even divorce.
Oftentimes, these difficulties cause the family to draw in on themselves, making it hard for a global mobility manager to see, let alone address, these issues. However, it’s important to take notice and ask questions about how the family is doing. Take the time to get to know the spouse and kids of assignees. Understanding their needs will allow you to take proactive care. And don’t forget to provide them the language and culture-learning resources to help them adapt to their new home.
Inability to navigate the culture
Oftentimes, it’s not the biggest cultural differences that cause an assignee trouble. It’s the small things others forget about or deem unimportant. For example, an American assignee may be thrilled when a meeting with her Indian colleagues ends in everyone agreeing to her ideas, but confused and hurt later on when nobody acts on it. She needs to understand that in India, saying “no” in a business meeting is highly impolite, so people will often say “yes” but temper it in ways Americans may not pick up.
If an assignee is unable or unwilling to adapt to these new norms, it’s a serious sign the assignment might fail. Failing to understand cultural norms can result in alienation from new friends and co-workers, which impacts their business and personal life, making it difficult to interact within the new culture. Take the steps to help them understand the new culture as soon as possible in order to ensure they can communicate, and ultimately adapt, to their new home.
Today, most global mobility professionals are aware of the importance of language-learning in helping adjustment. However, it remains one of the top reasons relocations fail. Language is key to understanding culture; and as we’ve already discussed, cultural understanding is essential to the success of any relocation. Without that key, an assignee is left locked out of their new home country.
Set your assignees up with the language and culture-learning resources that go beyond giving them basic grammar or phrases. Ensure they are equipped with the vocabulary that will be most useful for navigating their day-to-day life, from business vocab to the words they need to know at a dentist appointment.
Want to hear more about how to make global relocation a success for the entire family? Check out our white paper on how to keep family front and center in your relocation strategy!