International Assignments: Overcoming the Cultural Challenges Together as a Family

Matthew MacLachlan

22 Jun 2010

The increase in numbers of long-term international business assignments has led employers to look at family relocation as an important element of a successful international assignment.

Successful family relocation is increasingly recognised as a key factor in international assignments for two reasons. Firstly, one of the most common causes of failed international assignments is the employee’s partner’s unhappiness in the new location. Secondly, employees who relocate with their families usually feel more secure in their new environment and are less inclined to travel back to their native country as frequently as those whose families stay behind which saves the organisation time and money.

Sending employees and their families abroad can present a huge risk to international organisations. If the family members fail to adjust and fit in to their new cultural environment, the company risks huge financial costs. Some estimates put the cost to an organisation of a failed international assignment at $250,000 or more.

Providing global mobility programmes such as cross-cultural training for relocation, to the international assignee’s family can help prevent this direct cost to the organisation and lessen the emotional strain of the relocation on the partner and children. Participating in a Living and Working in Saudi Arabia cultural awareness training course, for example, helps families moving to Saudi Arabia anticipate any potential problems they might have in adjusting to the cultural differences while it also equips them with strategies to ensure they maximise their relocation.

Training the family of international assignees provides a unique opportunity for them to experience the target culture as a family and find ways to help each other through any problems during their adjustment to their new life and surroundings. Ensuring the whole family is happy and well adjusted will drastically improve the chances of a successful international assignment and save the organisation time and money.



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