Having experienced life as an expatriate can be a key part to your career success

14 February 2016

International work experience is increasingly seen as essential to long-term career development, according to a recent global study of expatriates. But more needs to be done to help employees adjust to the language, culture and customs of their new host country. 

The overwhelming majority of 2,700 MENA-based expatriates (84%) believed an international assignment was essential to their career progression with just over half (51%) saying that they were willing to accept another international assignment in the future.

Globally, professionals are increasingly working abroad out of choice rather than necessity, according to the survey. The number of expats who have served five or more international assignments has seen a marked increase from 18% to 25%.

MENA-based expats are very mobile too, with nearly a third (32%) saying they have accepted five or more overseas postings.

Working abroad is increasingly seen as an investment in one’s career development, and employers need to adapt to meet the expectations of quality talent accordingly says the report, with personalised services and proactive communication at each stage of the assignment lifecycle contributing to the success of overseas postings.

When asked if the compensation and benefits offered by their employer were attractive, more than half of MENA-based expats agreed (54%) and a third (33%) strongly agreed. However, financial compensation isn’t the only incentive. The adequacy of health insurance cover, financial support for schooling and leave entitlements were also rated ‘very important.’ Quality of life, housing, security and the environment were also seen as ‘very important’ factors. Access to healthcare through insurance that pays for services directly was also seen as a top priority by MENA expats. 

However, employers were less likely to disclose information on language and cross cultural training. Only a quarter (25%) of professionals in the region who responded said they had received language training prior to their deployment, while a third (34%) said they had undergone cross-cultural training.

There is an obvious gap for employers seeking to ease the transition for foreign nationals into the Middle East work environment where sensitivity to local customs and traditions can have a profound impact on business relationships, says the report. Repatriation support is also a relative weak spot for employers, according to the results. Only a third of those surveyed said their employer was ‘good’ at meeting the needs of staff upon their return from an assignment, while a tenth (11%) said they were ‘very good.’

Noting a dramatic shift to online communications in recent years, MENA-based respondents still feel the quality of employer communications could be improved. More than 40% said their company did a ‘good job’ communicating with its globally mobile employees, but only 18% described the dialogue as ‘very good.’ A fifth said communications needed to be more frequent and more personal.

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