By making partner support optional, companies risk repeating the mistakes of the past and losing the hired talent they have worked so hard to attain.
The buzz word
In recent times, there has been a lot of attention given to DE&I and its importance for global mobility. Extra attention is also being dedicated to the Gen Z mindset. The buzz word is flexibility. Companies feel they need to offer more flexibility to cater for the talent that is out there. If flexibility means partner support is optional, I believe this strategy will backfire.
Pampered but unfulfilled
As a provider of partner support, the above might sound like a self-serving statement. But hear me out. We began our work in the ‘old times’, when the term ‘trailing spouse’ was used to describe partners. All ‘she’ needed was a cash out. We all know the cliches. A glass of white wine by the pool. Shopping trips and spa sessions. This didn’t protect the partner. It just pampered them. Noting the number of unfulfilled and frustrated partners in Singapore in the 1990s, when I was an expat partner, is what inspired me to set up Global Connection.
‘What are your needs?’
We were the first to ask partners: what are your needs? This strategy not only increased the satisfaction of partners but also decreased costs. That’s why this finding in Airinc’s recently published ESG Benchmark Survey – The Role of DE&I in the Social Pillar caught my attention: 58% of surveyed respondents plan to introduce more general flexibility to increase diversity of their multinational. Now more flexibility is fine for things like car rental or shipping. Not having a rental car or missing your favourite cutlery won’t have a negative impact on the success of the assignment, but not having partner support will (and yes, we have surveyed that). Why? Because, partners never know what’s coming around the corner and starting from scratch isn’t easy for anyone, even for a partner with a plan and a glittering CV. Partner support is necessary because it alerts them to the pitfalls and potential challenges ahead, which in turn helps them avoid nasty surprises.
A flexible program
I once read that the core flex approach was ‘more about the employee than the company’, a statement that seems to overlook the importance of a partner. But as we all agree that partners have a huge impact on the success of the posting then who can say that making partner support flex will ‘deliver a superior experience’? No one has the same needs, after all. Now I certainly agree the program should be flexible. But the topic itself – partner support – should not.