Supporting the Family – A Wise Investment

Despite ongoing economic concerns, corporations remain focused on expanding their global footprint by building business in new markets. Toward this goal, global talent management and workforce mobility remain key factors in accomplishing business objectives.  As increasing numbers of companies establish sites worldwide and forge relationships with international companies via mergers and acquisitions, the need to develop global leaders through strategic international assignments continues to grow.  Addressing employer and employee and family needs to assure successful international assignments will continue to pose an increasing challenge to corporations especially in these volatile times.

Organizations acknowledge that they must have both competitive compensation packages and substantive relocation benefits in order to attract, develop and retain top talent.  Dual career and partner issues are of paramount importance in motivating key talent to accept an international assignment and assuring the success of that assignment. The Permits Foundation recently conducted a study on the impact of dual careers on international mobility.  An independent not for profit initiative, the Permits Foundation supports international mobility and promotes work authorization for expatriate spouses and partners worldwide. According to its survey, 66% of employer respondents agreed that dual career and spouse/partner issues are increasingly important in their organizations, and cited the growth of dual career partnerships as more women continue to enter the workforce.

The Permits Foundation survey also revealed that nearly two thirds of employers (66%) report that partner career and employment issues impact their organizations’ ability to attract employees to international assignments, and over half of the employers (51%) surveyed report that employees have turned down international assignments due to partner career and employment concerns.

Even when moving within the US, increasing numbers of transferees are asking for spousal career assistance as more couples rely on two incomes for financial security.  The need for spousal assistance has become more pronounced as dual career families face major challenges on the economic front.  Poor housing markets significantly impact a family’s decision to accept a relocation. This situation is further complicated by family separation as the spouse and children typically stay in the home location until the house sells.  Dramatic changes in the mortgage market often require both partners to work in order to qualify for a mortgage.  Lack of job security and a competitive job market may require a career change in the new location which is a daunting prospect for many accompanying partners.

While international assignments may pose work restrictions for expatriate partners in some countries, career and transition assistance can certainly help the accompanying spouse or partner to explore other meaningful pursuits while in the new location.  There are often satisfying alternatives available to the spouse/partner such as telecommuting, internships or self-employment opportunities that are feasible to engage in from the home country.  In addition, activities like furthering their education, learning the local language or new skills or getting involved in volunteer work that expands upon their background and experience may be very rewarding and facilitate greater assimilation into the new country and culture.

Failure to address the career concerns of both partners has a negative influence on the management of key talent and economic outcomes for employers, employees and families.  Survey results indicate time and again that spousal career and transition support is critical for the success of an assignment or relocation.  For a minimal investment corporations can obtain a bit of “insurance” to protect the ROI of their assignment and relocation expenses and gain a cost effective solution to the dual career talent management dilemma.  Employee productivity and performance is greatly influenced by the family’s adjustment to the new location or country and partner career and transition assistance can help assure a positive outcome and experience for both the corporation and the relocating family.

Lorraine Bello, GMS, is CEO and President of Ricklin-Echikson Associates (REA).