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expat characteristics

Top 5 expat allegiance patterns

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Top 5 expat allegiance patterns

Last week we talked about 6 successful expat characteristics. What about once they're on assignment? Black and Gregersen (1992) grouped them in the following five allegiance patterns.

"Hired Gun Free Agents" feel neither particularly committed to their home nor host country company, but are always open for newer and better job opportunities. They are hired international experts who might cost slightly less than a home country expatriate, but at the same time might leave the assignment on short notice if a better offer presents itself.

The "Plateaued-Career Free Agents," as the name implies, tend to not show high commitment to neither home nor host country due to their feeling of having reached a career plateau. They typically come from inside the home country and might be attracted by the financial package an overseas assignment entails, but do not see themselves achieving promotion in the home country.

In the case of an expatriate showing signs of "Going Native," the allegiance pattern shows high levels of commitment to the local operations but not to the parent company. These expatriates are able to identify strongly with the host country's culture, language and business practices. The parent company might be able to prevent "losing" an expatriate to the local operation, or indeed another company in that country, by establishing a mentor program. The mentor will be in the home country, keeping in close contact with the expatriate during his or her assignment and help them with finding a position upon repatriation.

Contrary to the previous pattern, expatriates can also leave their "Hearts at Home," feeling highly committed to the home country but not so much to the local operation. They will find it hard identifying with the host country's culture, language and business practices. "Hearts at home"rs tend to have lived and worked for the parent company a very long time and have strong ties. Their expat deal will be sweetened by using modern telecommunication, video conferencing, and regular home visits.

Probably the most desirable pattern is called "Dual Citizen." Expatriates falling into this category are highly committed to both home and host country operation and feel responsible for and comfortable with serving both "masters." It is interesting to note at this point that depending on the culture the expatriate is from, he or she might be culturally 'programmed' to be uncomfortable with having to obey two leaders.

Companies can help their expatriates become "dual citizens" by thoroughly preparing them for their assignment, giving them very clear objectives and a clear repatriation plan from the very beginning. Autonomy in how to achieve the objectives help the expatriate develop a flexibility that will make the assignment easier.

Black and Gregersen (1992) found "Dual Citizen"-expatriates to be less likely to end an assignment prematurely and to have a higher probability of staying with the firm after repatriation. They also concluded that the expectations, demands and objectives of the assignment can determine the form of commitment. If a "role conflict" occurs, it is hard for the expatriate to feel responsible for the outcomes and he or she will thus be less committed to either side of the company.

A similar effect can be witnessed with "role ambiguity." Hence a clear set of expectations and objectives as well as a clear repatriation plan are most important for the expatriate to feel safe and concentrate on a successful assignment. The authors found the "most powerful factor in creating dual allegiance" being "role discretion." The freedom to decide what has to be done how and when in order to achieve the objectives gives expats a sense of ownership and thus makes them feel responsible for their actions and the outcomes.

Any personal opinions and experiences you'd like to add? Thank you for leaving a comment!

Resource:

Black, J. Stewart and Gregersen, Hal B. (1992) Serving two masters: Managing the dual allegiance of expatriate employees, Sloan Management Review, p61

Image by tiffini, flickr, Creative Commons license

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Six characteristics of a successful expatriate

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Six characteristics of a successful expatriate

Hello! Thanks for visiting and please enjoy the free info below! 

Just fyi, you can find me over at www.dorisfullgrabe.com from now on, where I'm making custom lettering and calligraphy. 

This archive will be discontinued next month. 

When selecting a potential expatriate, corporations should look at competencies as well as personality and character traits of the employee. Pucik and Saba (1998) define expatriate managers as "an executive who is able to assume a leadership position fulfilling international assignments across countries and cultures." To start us off, here are the skills according to the "The 21st-Century Expatriate Manager Profile" by Howard (1992): Skills

  • Multidimensional Perspective
  • Proficiency in Line Management
  • Prudent Decision-Making Skills
  • Resourcefulness
  • Ability as Team Builder

Managerial Implications / Core Skills

  • Extensive multi-product, multi-industry, multi-functional, multi-company, multi-country and multi-environment experience
  • Track record in successfully operating a strategic business unit(s) and/or a series of major overseas projects
  • Competence and proven track record in making the right strategic decisions
  • Skillful in getting himself or herself known and accepted in the host country's political hierarchy
  • Adept in bringing a culturally diverse working group together to accomplish the major mission and objective of the organization

Augmented Skills

  • Computer Literacy
  • Comfortable exchanging strategic information electronically
  • Prudent Negotiating Skills
  • Proven track record in conducting successful strategic business negotiations in multicultural environment
  • Ability as a Change Agent
  • Proven track record in successfully initiating and implementing strategic organizational change
  • Visionary Skills
  • Quick to recognize and respond to strategic business opportunities and potential political and economic upheavals in the host country
  • Effective delegation skills
  • Proven track record in participative management style and ability to delegate

If these skills are still valid in today's selection and need developing for a certain candidate, they can be improved through targeted coaching.

Rothwell (1992) heads our list of six characteristics successful expatriates possess. He defined

1. "international knowledge"

as "general knowledge about the world and global economy; national information about conditions in a specific country; and business understanding of strategy, process, and leadership style."

Black and Gregersen (1999) found in their research that companies differ in how they assess candidates, while looking for the following characteristics:

2. "a drive to communicate,"

which includes not being afraid to use rudimentary foreign language skills and being embarrassed.

3. A "broad-based sociability,"

which allows expatriates to move out of close expatriate circles and form ties with all kinds of locals.

4. "Cultural Flexibility" and

5. "Cosmopolitan Orientation,"

which both describe the open mind an expatriate needs to have when experimenting with different cultures, understanding and practicing them. The final characteristic they mention is

6. the "collaborative negotiation style."

Expatriates need to be aware of the 'do's and don'ts' of international negotiation. For example, people coming from a low context culture like the Germans and Scandinavians appreciate explicit and clear forms of communication, whereas high context cultures, like Spain, divulge less information officially but tend to be better informed than their counterparts anyway due to informal networks (Leeds et al, 1994).

These findings were publicized over 10 years ago. Do  you still believe in choosing expatriates based on personality characteristics and past performance? How does your company choose international assignees? Which training programs are in place to allow potential candidates to bridge the gap and obtain necessary qualifications? Thank you for leaving your comments below!

Resources:

Black, J. Stewart and Gregersen, Hal B. (1999) The right way to manage expats, Harvard Business Review

Leeds, Christopher, Kirkbride, Paul S. and Durcan, Jim (1994) Human Resource Management in Europe: Perspectives for the 1990s, London Routledge

Pucik, Vladimir and Saba, Tania (1998) Selecting and developing the global vs. the expatriate manager: a review of the state-of-the-art, Human Resource Planning

Rothwell, S (1992) The development of the international manager, Personnel Management

Til next week, when we'll talk a little bit more about candidate selection, have a good one!

Image by Boris Lechaftois, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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