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New Study: Facing Increased Uncertainty And Volatility On World Stage, Employees On International Assignment Often Feel Left "On Their Own"
ORLANDO, FL (ots) -
Research Offers Multinational Companies 'Best Practice' Tips To
Help Expatriates Feel More Supported On Health & Safety Concerns;
Protect $1.3 Million Per Expat Investment
Faced with growing uncertainty about their health and safety while
on international assignment, a majority of expatriates feel that not
enough is being done to help them cope, a new workplace survey says.
According to the survey, fully 55 percent of expatriates said the
lack of information about health and safety issues was detrimental to
their peace of mind and performance on the job.
The findings were presented at the WorldatWork 47th Annual
Conference and Exhibition. The second annual study of expatriate
issues, conducted from January through March 2002, was sponsored by
CIGNA International Expatriate Benefits, a business unit of CIGNA
Corporation (NYSE: CI); the National Foreign Trade Council, which
supports open international trade and investment; and WorldatWork,
the leading global rewards association focused on attracting,
retaining and motivating employees.
Overseas and Overwhelmed
"With growing tensions around the globe, employees on overseas
assignment feel increasingly overwhelmed by health and safety
concerns, and think they aren't being provided with the preparation
and support they need," said Virginia Hollis, vice president of
Global Markets for CIGNA International Expatriate Benefits.
"Expatriates are looking for more peace of mind, and right now
they're not getting it."
Hollis noted that some 55 percent of expatriates felt they needed
more assistance "to keep them informed about current, changing or
potentially adverse health and safety conditions and how to cope"
with them. Only 20 percent praised their companies for maintaining a
"best-practice communications process that keeps expatriates up to
date and fully informed" with security bulletins, contingency plans
and emergency guidelines, she said.
Despite that, Hollis noted that 77 percent of the survey
respondents said recent events did not diminish the likelihood of
completing their assignments, and 74 percent saw no change in their
willingness to accept a future expatriate position.
Nevertheless, workers were disappointed more help was not made
available in light of international tensions. Nearly 40 percent of
expatriates felt their workplace did not do a good job preparing them
for their international assignment. Fifty-six percent rated
negatively the coordination between local-country and home-office
human resources departments. Also, 35 percent expected to leave their
current employer within five years.
These findings are worrisome in view of the investment
multinational firms make in expatriate employees - an average of $1.3
million per expatriate for a typical assignment. "Employers need to
realize that health and welfare issues play a crucial role in the
outcome of an international assignment and the ultimate return to the
company," Hollis said.
Anne C. Ruddy, CPCU, executive director of WorldatWork noted the
survey's strong indication that family can be an important component
in the satisfaction and success of an expatriate. "The data show that
family support is an essential part of the success quotient for an
expatriate," Ruddy said. "But at the same time, when more than one
out of two dual career expats report that their spouse or partner had
to make a sacrifice in their own career to enable the foreign
assignment, it shows how difficult this can be on the family."
According to Bill Sheridan, senior director of the National
Foreign Trade Council, expatriates represent a substantial
international workforce estimated at three to five million business
people. "Companies invest an average of $1.3 million for each
expatriate during the course of a typical three-year assignment,"
Sheridan said. "To protect that investment, managers should apply
best practices to attract them, support them on the job and
Lessons Learned: Five Best Practices
The survey asked respondents to suggest best practices for
companies to adopt in better handling expatriate family welfare,
community and on-the-job challenges.
Suggestions for best practices to be adopted by companies with
workers on international assignment included:
- Providing cross-cultural and language training,
- Maintaining ongoing communications regarding health & safety
issues for most host countries,
- Ensuring expatriate benefits packages are sufficiently generous
and tailored to the unique needs of employees on assignment,
- Providing cultural adjustment assistance for families of
business executives on international assignment, and
- Helping executives balance both personal and professional needs
while on assignment.
Who participated and How
A total of 709 expatriates, who were on active assignments outside
their home countries, participated in this year's study via an
in-depth survey posted on the Internet in five languages. The
respondents were qualified from 1,725 hits to the site with the
question, "Are you currently living and working outside your home
country?" They represented more than 200 multinational companies with
operations based mostly in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom,
Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.
About the Sponsors
CIGNA International Expatriate Benefits is a unit of CIGNA
International. With operations in Europe, Latin America and Asia
Pacific, CIGNA International, the global business division of CIGNA
Corporation (NYSE: CI), provides health care, medical care management
services and defined contribution pension products to the workplace
and consumer markets, and life, accident and health insurance to
The NFTC was founded in 1914 to work on behalf of member U.S.
companies (now numbering more than 550) to expand exports, protect
U.S. foreign investment, enhance the competitiveness and
profitability of U.S. industry and promote and maintain a fair and
equitable trading system. NFTC members represent 70 percent of all
U.S. non-agricultural exports and 70 percent of U.S. private foreign
WorldatWork, formerly the American Compensation Association and
the Canadian Compensation Association, is the world's leading
not-for-profit professional association dedicated to knowledge
leadership in compensation, benefits and total rewards. Founded in
1955, WorldatWork focuses on disciplines associated with attracting,
retaining and motivating employees. In addition to providing
professional affiliation, WorldatWork offers highly acclaimed
certification (CCP(r), CBPTM and GRP(r)) and education programs, the
monthly workspan(r) magazine, online information resources, surveys,
publications, conferences, research and networking opportunities.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Additional materials regarding this study of
expatriate issues are available upon request.
A Closer Look: Success on the Assignment
The goal of the Global Expatriate Study 2002 was two-fold. First,
to ascertain the primary interests and concerns among a wide
cross-section of expatriate employees currently on assignment.
Second, to use these experiences of working expatriates to determine
a short list of best practices that could help employers select,
retain and motivate their employees working away from their home
Preparation and Support
Employers are falling short before, during and after assignments
according to expatriate expectations of preparation and support.
- Only one out of five expatriate workers rated the preparation by
the company for the assignment as good.
- Expatriates who rated preparation favorably were three times as
likely to have had cross-cultural training.
- 63 percent of those expatriates whose family had cross-cultural
training rated the experience favorably.
- 58 percent of expatriate families (and 40 percent of expatriates
themselves) were never given language training.
- Of those expatriates and their families who received language
training, 75 percent found it very valuable.
The Impact of Current World Events
Expatriates seem committed to continuing their assignments or
accepting new assignments, even despite volatile world events
- 77 percent saw no change in the likelihood of their assignments
terminating early as a result of volatile world events.
- 74 percent saw no change in their likelihood of accepting
another international assignment.
- 25 percent said recent world events would make it more likely
that they would keep their family together while on an
- At the same time, of those who would not have family accompany
them while on assignment, 22% said they were now even more
unlikely in light of recent world events.
- Less than 25 percent reported that their company ended
assignments because of political or safety concerns.
A Question of Fairness
Expatriates have a more positive experience if they believe their
benefits are sufficiently generous and include perks similar to those
available at home
- 50 percent felt that their total compensation and benefits
package was favorable.
- 40 percent of expatriates rated their sick leave; health, life
and disability insurance; and pension benefits less than
- Local club and Internet community memberships, dual career
allowances and home leave were cited more than other areas as
not meeting expatriates' needs.
A Difficult Balancing Act
Expatriates also would appreciate more assistance from their
employer with work/life balance issues while on assignment
- Two-thirds of expatriates agree that international assignments
were difficult on dual-career families.
- 59 percent of spouses/partners were employed full-time before
the assignment, yet 53 percent were not working while on
assignment. Only 7 percent were looking for work.
- There was a strong correlation between satisfaction with the
expatriate experience and family immersion in the local culture
- The most highly satisfied group is very social in and out of the
- Expatriates who took an assignment for purely professional
reasons were somewhat less satisfied than those who had both
personal and professional reasons (85 percent versus 93
- 50 percent said they expect to be on another international
assignment in the next 5 years. More than 30 percent believe
they will be working for the same company.
Perspectives from Women versus Men
Women especially view expatriate assignments as career-building
opportunities, and do not feel their companies are prepared to reward
their experience upon return.
- Married women are more likely than married men to find home
leave, mobility allowance and employee assistance programs
- Single men appear to be more likely than single women to find
benefits inadequate for their needs, with the exception of home
Background on Survey Participants
A little more about the participating expatriates
709 expatriates participated via an in-depth survey posted on the
Internet in five languages.
- 39 percent were working in the European union.
- 17 percent were in the Pacific Rim.
- 9 percent were in the United Kingdom.
- 6 percent were working in Mexico, Central and South America.
- 6 percent were working in the United States.
- 3 percent were working in Canada.
- 19 percent were working in other countries.
- 62 percent of the expatriate companies are based in the United
- 19 percent are based in the European union.
- 10 percent are based in the United Kingdom.
- 9 percent are based in other countries
- 76 percent of the expatriates were males.
- 73 percent were age 44 or younger.
- 45 percent were between age 35 and 44.
- 54 percent indicated this was their first international
- 51 percent indicated the duration of the assignment was three
years or less
- 66 percent considered themselves in middle management.
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