Empirical research has demonstrated that there are many difficulties which expatriates may experience as a result of having to adjust to a foreign country's culture. Consequently, these difficulties are known to have had a negative effect on the expatriates' work performances in countless cases and many organisations struggle as requests to be returned to the mother country early and failure rates pile up. This raises the question whether or not organisations are actually investing enough time in readying their employees for a position abroad. This paper investigates what sort of measures organisations could take – and perhaps should take – in order to improve the performances of their employees before they are challenged by an international work environment.
'By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.' The words in this quote belong to Benjamin Franklin and they ring true for many circumstances, including the theme discussed in this paper. In turn, this would imply that organisations which fail to prepare their employees for an international environment, should also prepare to see their employees failing to function well in a working position abroad. When examining practical examples, there is evidence that organisations may have either neglected to properly prepare employees for international work environments, or otherwise may have underestimated what possible consequences there are for an individual's success when faced with culture shock. The purpose of this paper is to provide answers as to what sort of procedures organisations could undertake in order to enhance the performances of their employees before transferring them to a foreign country.
Firstly, the necessity for organisations to address their current way of working will be emphasized. Then, a brief introduction on the concept of culture will be provided, followed by steps organisations may take with regard to the selection of a potential expatriate. Assumptions about similar and dissimilar cultures, and how these assumptions may influence an expatriate's adjustment to the culture, will be discussed, as well as why organisations should value expatriates' opinions more. Finally, the conclusions from this paper are drawn.
Organisations do not take enough measures in order to improve business expatriates' adjustment to and performances in foreign work environments
As global competition continues to grow, one would expect that firms have begun to take serious measures to ensure that their staff is well prepared to function in an international environment. However, it has become apparent that this may not be the case. More specifically, most American firms have not been successful in selecting, supporting and retaining effective managers in international assignments (Black & Gregersen, 1991). Some estimated that between 50-80% of American expatriate managers are considered ineffective by their firms (Adams & Kobayashi, 1969; Copeland & Griggs, 1985; Seward, 1975). America is one of the world's key players when it comes to global competition, meaning that if they are failing to produce adequate expatriates, what could that say about the rest of the world? And what exactly is causing the failure rates? One of the biggest obstacles that stands in the way of success appears to be poor communication. That is to say, communication errors as a result of insufficient adjustment to cultural differences. Culture has a massive impact on communication. Not only the language but also the beliefs, values, customs and even the tiniest habits that one has been born and raised with may communicate obvious meanings within a certain culture, whereas stepping into that same culture as an outsider with a different cultural background may completely cripple some, if not all, communication. But what is culture? Throughout the years, culture has been described in many ways, for...