Solvay Group Analysis

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Question 1 - Would you grant any of the special requests of the four expat candidates? Provide your rationale.

Solvay’s HR group wants to develop consistent policies for the International Mobility (IM) program and be more transparent about the expatriation process. Therefore, it is important to minimize the exceptions because exceptions require a deviation from standard protocol. However, HR must also remain flexible in order to meet the strategic needs of the company. As noted in the case (pg. 1), special requests are “not unusual for the expat process.” Standard protocols are essential when handling employees who work in similar environments, and who have similar roles. However, it is important to make exceptions when asking employees to move to a new country to gain experience of significant value to Solvay, and particularly when these individuals are future leaders whose expertise can assist the company with growth in specific markets. As such, we recommend a full exception for Fabrizio Ponte only. Fabrizio has been asked to transfer from Italy to China because he can greatly assist the company with growth efforts in China. China is a large emerging market with sizable and increasing domestic consumption. Moving into such markets is a top strategic goal for Solvay (pg. 3, case). As Fabrizio has an elderly mother who lives with him, he should be permitted to have her relocated to China with him. This exception will make it easier for Fabrizio to settle into his experience in China and his children will likely feel more comfortable in their new home if they have another family member to tend to their needs. The longer Fabrizio stays in China, the more likely it is that Solvay will obtain a return on their investment. This exception would serve the interests of the company and therefore makes sense for business reasons. In the case of Joel Marion, we would ask him to take the temporary “Special Projects” role until a more suitable role can be identified. Joel’s situation highlights one significant weakness in Solvay’s IM program. He has been in the program for thirteen years because his tour was extended several times. Due to his extended stay overseas, he has little connection to the current leadership in Brussels. Joel was promised a promotion upon his return (pg. 18, case), however there is not a suitable promotion available for him at this time. If Joel accepts this temporary solution, we will leverage his experience in the IM program, and work to find him a more permanent role that fits with his career aspirations. For Pedro Ribiero, it may not be possible to convince his wife to remain in Brussels with the children given that there is little Solvay can do to change EU requirements for practicing medical professionals. However, we will first assess if there is a position within Solvay where her skills can be utilized. If it is her preference to be a practitioner, we would propose a compromise whereby the family moves back to Brazil, and Pedro travels intermittently to Nizny to assist with the new venture. As his technical skills are needed for this venture and others, we will also encourage the use of technology to ensure that he remains connected with the team stationed permanently at the sites. For the last candidate (whose name is not provided), no exception will be granted. This situation depicts another weakness of Solvay’s IM program and we have decided that the best course of action is not to enable the misguided efforts of this candidate’s manager. It appears that there was little in the way of communication between the home and host country managers. As such, we recommend that Solvay cancel the plans for this candidate to go to Asia and start over. We need to assess the strategic need for this transfer and ensure buy-in from the host country. For all of these cases, it was important to consider the potential exceptions within the context of Solvay’s objectives for their...
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