What expat partners want

Recognition and acknowledgement. These are the two critical words for Global Mobility teams when it comes to supporting the partners of highly-skilled international employees.

‘Let’s go home’

In my previous editorial I addressed the first part of Permits Foundation’s International Dual Careers Survey Report 2022. The second part features feedback from a demographic even closer to my heart – the partners of highly-skilled international employees. The first key finding that jumped out – over one quarter (26%) of respondents were considering leaving the host country because of restrictions on their work access.

Managing expectations

Drawing from 29 years of experiences with Global Connection, my instinctive reaction is to wonder if these partners knew about restrictions before  they relocated. Managing expectations is the key to our approach to partner support. That’s why we preferably perform a ‘Needs Assessment’ with expat partners in advance of relocation. If finding paid employment is their ‘Plan A’, a consultant then has an opportunity to divert their attention to any obstacles. Even when getting a work permit is possible it might take months to receive one; the job market might be limited, or salaries / working conditions might not meet the expat partner’s standards; cultural differences or language barriers might be considerable.

All is not lost

Through our work, we know all is not lost, when an expat partner is made aware of such challenges (or even when they can’t find paid employment). What’s critical is that the expat partner feels ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ – if they don’t, they may indeed ‘pull the plug’. Many of the respondents’ quotes in the report underscore the importance of this: “The information available to me was so poor and I felt like I had no one to turn to…”; “For so long I feel like I’ve been screaming into the void…”; “Being told to just work as an English teacher or yoga instructor for expats is not the support I want.”

Unrealistic expectations

There’s another quote in the report that caught my eye: “We gave up two salaries in our home country and – if we had known how badly affected my employment continuity would be – my spouse may not have accepted the assignment overseas.” Being highly employable in one’s home country does, unfortunately, not guarantee success in another part of the world. However, at Global Connection, we have supported many high-fliers to find work or follow another path in their host country.

A perfect vehicle

Last but not least, I might also highlight that the report concludes: “There is no one size fits all definition of a dual career couple. For this reason, global mobility partner support can provide a perfect vehicle for employers to better understand the varying needs and experiences of the diverse mobile family and to help ensure inclusive company policy.” Now there’s a statement which made me smile because I couldn’t agree more.