Given the enormity of the investment, why do upwards of 50% of international relocation assignments fail? In a word – culture.
Global businesses spend more on international relocation packages per employee than any other position in the company – except perhaps the CEO. The investment is huge – and it’s not just financial. HR leaders charged with relocation or mobility programs dedicate hundreds of hours to what is often a stressful bureaucratic process.
Given the enormity of the investment, why do upwards of 50% of international relocation assignments fail? In a word – culture. The primary cause of failed relocations in the US is assignee failure to adjust to new culture. With so much time and money on the line, what can multinational companies do to better prepare their relocating employees for success?
To illustrate the challenge more directly, take the story of Takashi-san, a Japanese professional who, along with his wife, relocated to America for a significant promotional opportunity. Takashi-san was already familiar with the professional culture in his workplace, and adapted quickly and successfully. Additionally, he formed personal bonds with others on his team through office social activities. His wife, however, struggled with the language and cultural barriers – this in spite of formal English language instruction and proficiency. Without a ready-made network of coworkers, she felt isolated and lonely – making friends was not as easy as they had expected. The result? Within six months, Takashi-san gave up his new position, and he and his wife returned to Japan.
The Global Mobility Director at Takashi-san’s company had put to work a robust relocation assistance program to help him and his wife relocate and adapt as quickly as possible. Support utilized during his relocation included Origin and Destination Services of Visa assistance, a house hunting trip, settling in assistance, a household goods shipment, temporary housing, home finding services, vehicle lease assistance, and tax and repatriation services. The company also offered “family services,” which have as their goal smoothing the transition for family members of the relocating employee. In the case of Takashi-san’s wife, these services included access to counseling and stress management programs. In all, Takashi-san’s company spent in excess of $500,000 on his and his wife’s relocation and repatriation services (more than the annual salary of any other company employee) – an investment lost when he returned to Japan.
What could Takashi-san’s company have done to better prepare his wife and make his assignment in America successful and in the process, protect their investment in his relocation?
The missing ingredient was cultural training – ideally prior to their move and focused on the practical and relevant real-life scenarios they would face daily upon arrival in America. With more and more multinational companies planning to increase the number of international assignments, and the resultant financial investment, in the next few years, the need to innovate ways to tighten up relocation package budgets and to address this cultural preparedness gap is more crucial than ever.
Standard international relocation packages and programs – even best in class programs – simply don’t provide the critical cultural and cultural-linguistic skills and/or foundation to prepare international employees and their families for the differences they will encounter when they arrive in America. Some will manage the change well and adjust on their own, but for others the struggle will lead to a feeling of alienation and loneliness – a key contributor to failed relocation assignments.
Cultural training options have historically been hard to find, and most relocating internationals endure a “trial by fire” of adjustment after they arrive. Apto was designed specifically to fill this gap in the market and offer internationals access to real-life, informal cultural-linguistic training scenarios and practice AND to make them available from anywhere, anytime. Informal language and regional/cultural training is the solution to most failed relocation assignments and offers multinational companies a significant ROI via relocation investment protection, enhanced employee productivity, and increased engagement and satisfaction. Ensure your employees adapt like pros with Apto!