The Two Halves of Assignment Preparation


We can break down international assignment preparation into two distinct halves – daily life and work life – with a cultural component bridging the two.

Research has shown that the number-one reason for failed assignments or early return is partner dissatisfaction and/or the family’s inability to adapt to their new home. If the assignee is relocating with their family, making sure daily life in the new location runs fairly normally is paramount to the success of the assignment. Daily life includes the day-to-day management of family concerns; learning about the host country’s education system, banking system and food; meeting the expatriate community; taking up sports and hobbies; making friends; mastering social protocol and etiquette; and learning the language.

The employee and their spouse or partner should both take an active role in preparing for the daily-life adjustment process. This will allow for an understanding, by both parties, of the challenges they will each face on the personal and professional levels.

While daily-life considerations are important for the larger family’s adjustment, for the assignee being able to communicate, interact and work within a new work culture will ensure success in the office. This means mastering the host country’s business etiquette, dress, gender roles and organizational structure, as well as the locals’ use of eye contact, silence and personal space. It is also important to gain knowledge of how people conduct appraisals and feedback, negotiate, motivate employees, make decisions and resolve conflict in the new corporate culture. 

Being prepared on both fronts – daily life and work life – can help an international assignee make sure that they and their family adjust well to the new location and work environment.

Diana Anderson