What most companies don’t consider when hiring expat staff

With the globalized world we now live in, it’s hardly a surprise that more and more people move countries or regions to find better opportunities for work, study or try a different lifestyle for a while.


Some relatively recent research shows that there were roughly 50.5 million expats globally in 2013, an increase by about 2.4% per year since 2009. That’s a lot of people! The majority of these expats were individual workers (73.6%) with corporate transferees being only 1.0%. Other expats (defined as non-employed spouses and children) made up 12.8% of all expats. If we were to use these stats conservatively it means that at least 505,000 corporates get relocated internationally every year for a specific role.


To drill down further, only 28% of companies have tools in place to measure if the relocation is successful or not. That means that 72% of companies don’t even measure it! Most senior relocations costs a company at least $150,000, but often way more than that. And the return on this huge investment of time and money is only measured by 28% of companies?


These stats don’t even capture all expats. As more and more people move overseas for a part of their life, I can’t help but notice that many companies who end up hiring expat staff, don’t fully understand how a big move impacts a person and their family.


The three biggest issues I see time and time again when talking to expats who have moved internationally:


  • Moving to a new country is much more than just finding a home. If you’re lucky the company will cover shipping of your most important items and furniture, some help to find a new home and maybe your flights as well. This is part of a big move, but certainly not the whole picture.
  • The majority of people who relocate don’t get any support with cultural integration or coaching before, during or after their move. There seems to be an expectation for the individual expat to ‘just deal with it‘. According to Ernst and Young’s study, 50% of the companies participating said they had cultural coaching and support in place. Based on what I hear from my network and clients this is actually very rare.
  • It’s not just about your staff member! Most people relocate with a partner or family. They too have to some extent been uprooted and they won’t be able to get active at work or in social circles straight away. The partner going to work everyday often has to deal with the guilt of ‘dragging the family with them‘ whereas the partner at home often struggles socially and culturally to feel like they belong. If companies provide support for the whole family to some extent, the family will be happier and the employee can focus more on work and worry a lot less about how things are at home. Failed relocations are very costly for everyone involved!

You might feel that “If someone decides to move far away, they must surely be prepared to pay for it, bit financially and emotionally.” Yes, they have to be willing to invest time, money and effort to create change. But this should be matched, if not exceeded, by a smart employer. Imagine how much more the staff member can contribute to their new role if the pain points above are covered!


Relocation support and coaching is a very small cost to pay to help your investment in the person, their family and your own company grow.


Relocation strategist, blogger and speaker, Emmy Petersson is passionate about helping expats to a balanced and happy relocation, regardless where in the world they are moving to and who is coming with them.


Emmy offers individual and corporate relocation mentoring services and you can connect with Emmy here.