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How to optimise working abroad opportunities

Exploring new environments and cultures, all while advancing your career, is certainly appealing, and for many employees, travelling abroad is a lifelong dream. Employers, in turn, view offering relocation as a way of both attracting and retaining talent. However, relocation also in fact possesses the power to enhance employee motivation, productivity, and engagement.  

The opportunity to work abroad can be an attractive prospect for the employees of today. Exploring new environments and cultures, all while advancing your career, is certainly appealing, and for many employees, travelling abroad is a lifelong dream. Employers, in turn, view offering relocation as a way of both attracting and retaining talent, especially as employees often view this as a huge advantage to working as part of a business. However, relocation not only has the potential to attract and retain talent, but it possesses the power to enhance employee motivation, productivity, and engagement.  

We spoke to over 250 global HR decision makers about the pivotal role that relocation plays in engagement and productivity, drawing together key insights to highlight this. With a remarkable eight out of ten HR decision makers reporting that employees are indeed more productive when they are on assignment than when they work in their home country, it’s clear that relocation has transformative power when it comes to motivating employees and reaching business goals.  

An exciting and motivating opportunity
When businesses spend significant sums of money on a member of staff’s relocation, it’s not unreasonable to assume that they want to ensure that employees are working optimally while on assignment – particularly with costs on the rise.  

Luckily for the increasing number of businesses offering relocation to employees, staff exhibit increased productivity and engagement while working away from home. This could be attributed to the idea that employees feel gratitude towards their employer for the opportunity and wish to work that extra bit harder in return; people intrinsically want to do a good job, and when it comes to assignees, a positive outlook is common. Being on assignment, employees feel trusted, valued and supported by their company to fulfil a specific role, which gives them a boost in motivation.   

If an organisation offers sufficient support to a member of staff on their relocation journey, sending the right people who are likely to thrive professionally in new and unfamiliar cultures, productivity and engagement is significantly boosted. Relocation is a fresh start with exciting possibilities and is generally met with enthusiasm by employees.    

Adopting new working patterns
The significant rise in productivity and engagement when employees relocate on assignment can also be attributed to the adoption of new working styles in the host location. They may take cues from the new, wider culture in which they find themselves, adopting a new work ethic in the culture in which they have relocated, and may replicate this as they assimilate into new ways of life. When working overseas, an employee may have less going on in their social life, too, which can lead to increased focus on their work.  

While on assignment, working patterns can shift in other ways, too. During and after COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, evidence pointed to the success of homeworking, despite concerns surrounding productivity. As restrictions have eased, hybrid working has become increasingly appealing to new candidates in search of work, including those looking to relocate on assignment.  

As a result, two-thirds of HR decision makers reported that they have agreed to hybrid working policies with assignees, which is likely contributing to the increase in productivity when employees relocate. Interestingly, 56% of HR decision makers said that they would be comfortable with their employees working from home full-time while on assignment, particularly when employees are working from different time zones. It has also been suggested that home working can allow employees to learn their role faster, maximising productivity in the long run.    

Career advancement and measuring performance
When productivity and engagement while on assignment is enhanced, employees’ careers can progress significantly in the time spent on assignment. With the age group with which relocation is most popular being 26-to-35-years-old, it could be the case that those only at the beginning of their careers want to capitalise on the opportunity provided to them and immerse themselves in their work to kick-start their progression. Often, individuals will see assignments as an opportunity to grow and develop, and even prove themselves as a member of their organisation, performing to the best of their abilities.  

Yet, despite the increased productivity of employees, it can be difficult to ascertain how well employees are actually performing, even if they are going above and beyond expectations. 65% of decision makers agreed that it is challenging to identify whether candidates qualified for promotions while they were at work on assignment, and this often depends on the company’s criteria for promotion and their organisational structure in the relocation country.   

The solution to this dilemma? Setting expectations for the assignment and the work that will be carried out, and subsequently creating measures for the performance and being able to evaluate it objectively. Balancing this enhanced productivity while on assignment with the appropriate performance assessment is key to a clear measure of success. When an employee is relocated to an office with local managers and peers who can provide input on to an individual’s performance, then an assignee’s success can be evaluated accurately, and career progression can be fairly assessed.   

It’s clear that HR leaders appreciate the value of relocation, leveraging it as a tool for not only employee retention and attraction, but engagement and productivity. And, when employees are supported throughout the entire relocation journey, and evaluated closely, they can significantly advance their careers while on assignment, making it a win-win for everyone.

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