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HBR: Short Overseas Assignments

HOW SHOULD ONE REPLY TO THAT seemingly casual email detailing titillating offer of servicing the client from onsite or onshore location for a few weeks or months to take the project to the next big level? The short answer is, reply by sleeping over it a couple of days, especially while one is been-there-done-that category. The recent HBR research article however goes on to urge you to deny it flatly.

It is apparently less costly for the company to push for short-termed, employee-only transfer compared to a two-year global assignment having a settled designation for the similar tasks. The research running for a couple of years shows that these propositions are riddled with marriage troubles, depression, child behaviour issues, and other difficulties.

Surprisingly, the main reason that comes out among all is financial: While the offer may come with a certain advantage in remuneration as a special consideration from the organization, and if the transfer is from a low-cost region to the high-cost geography the currency advantage of conversion may suffice in itself, the people left behind and made to pay for things that you used to do so far creates the financial strain. The survey also shows that, on an offer basis, the approach that most of the organizations take is more of authoritative and given rather than flexible, negotiated and "offered".

HBR proposes following steps to lessen the troubles associated with short-term transfers.

Negotiate flexible terms. Helps the employee feel more positive and in control of the assignment and thus help reduce familial problems.

Negotiate a realistic per diem. It is important to feel that the family is taken care of.

Ask for cross cultural training. Employees who receive it can hit the ground running, and report less trouble with communicating and working with the locals.

Ensure communication. It's a good idea for companies to offer to put spouses in touch with each other.
  • See also:
  • Go here for the HRB article: The Problem with Short-Term Overseas Assignments
  • Go here for "Managing risk to employees on overseas assignment"

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