AuthorDena Waggoner, Betty Punnett

Page 274

An expatriate is an employee sent by his or her employer to work in a foreign country. The firm is normally referred to as the parent company, while the country of employment is known as the host country. If General Motors sent one of its U.S. executives to oversee a new development in Brazil, the executive would be an expatriate, General Motors would be the parent company, and Brazil would be the host country. Equally, if an employee from Brazil was sent to the U.S. or an employee from Canada were sent to the People's Republic of China, they would be expatriates.

Many corporations are sending expatriates to their overseas operations. In fact, expatriates have and the need for internationally competent managers is expected to rise as more and more firms face global competition. Organizations need to understand the dynamic relationships between staffing and outcomes, and how these relationships change over time.

Expatriates provide a number of benefits for companies, including greater parent control and particular expertise. International experience is also seen as providing opportunities for personal and professional development and career advancement. Expatriates are very expensive, however, and this can discourage extensive use of expatriates. Many companies have also experienced relatively high failure rates, with failure often being attributed to the family's inability to adapt.

Surprisingly, give the high costs, and likelihood of failure, companies often make these expensive commitments with little or no preparation for the need for cross-cultural transition. Expatriate success and job performance is closely related to intercultural adjustment and the same is true of families.

Given this, it is critical that companies use a rigorous selection process to identify which employees would likely succeed as expatriates. The selection process should also include consideration of the family.

Several characteristics determine an expatriate's expected level of success: job skills, motivational state, language skills, relationship skills, and family situation. Technical competency is most often used as the selection criteria for expatriates, but that is rarely the best selection technique. The technical skills of an expatriate are of course important, but other skills can be as important. For example, an expatriate is likely to make more progress at the overseas location if he or she has effective managerial skills and administrative competencies. Strong relationships with the host country and headquarters' operations also make the expatriate's assignment more productive. Conflict resolution skills are also important to the expatriate. Expatriates must also have a strong belief in the assignment if it is to be a success, and they must believe that the assignment will be advantageous to their careers.

Motivation is likely to be higher if the person has an interest in the specific host country culture as well as in an overseas experience. To be successful the expatriate must be willing to acquire new behavior patterns and attitudes. The most successful expatriates enjoy the challenge of forging their way through new situations and are comfortable networking and...

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