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Developing International Talent 

Louise O’Grady, VP, Global Services
FGI; tel 1.905.886.2157 • logrady@fgiworld.com

Most economists expect that the current sluggish economy, particularly in the U.S., will show continued signs of improvement in the next few months. Despite this hopeful prediction, a key question remains whether accelerated growth will translate into many new jobs.

The truth is that more and more businesses are embracing offshore outsourcing in their drive to stay competitive by taking advantage of lower wages overseas. In fact, according to a recent study by Forrester Research, U.S. companies are expected to send 3.3 million jobs abroad in the next 12 years.

What does this mean for U.S.-based operations? Well, as more of the jobs moving abroad are highly skilled and highly paid, North American-based companies will ultimately need to increase their emphasis on recruiting international talent to replace the talent that’s relocating. For HR and Relocation professionals, this will undoubtedly bring new challenges as well as opportunities for skilled leadership into their workplaces.

NEW WORKPLACE CHALLENGES
As North American-based workplaces begin to feel the effects of a skilled leadership shortage that includes top performers, they will also likely soon realize the impact of absent leadership skills required to motivate teams and identify and respond to troubled employees. After all, recruiting global talent will only result in workplaces that are increasingly culturally diverse. While the benefits of a culturally diverse team are many, negative outcomes may include:

ADAPTATION CHALLENGES for ‘inpatriates’ and their families. These can manifest in marital and family conflict due to the stress of the move, concerns about family left behind, isolation and loneliness, and personal and emotional problems that may be exacerbated by the relocation. For the organization, these kinds of issues can impact on business – and business costs. EAP experience indicates a 20% decline in productivity with troubled employees, and the relocated employee conservatively experiences similar declines in productivity as a result of the unique adaptation challenges and stressors.

CULTURE SHOCK generally sets in 3 to 6 months after arrival, as inpatriates begin to experience fatigue, loss of self-esteem and a level of hostility towards the host culture. For weeks they have been struggling to communicate effectively, build relationships, settle agreements and learn the local business jargon. Symptoms of culture shock include demonstrated irritability, hostility, and inability to concentrate. Without intervention and support, these issues can lead to increased absenteeism, substance abuse problems, and early repatriation.

MISCOMMUNICATION among work teams, affecting workplace performance and relationships. The behavior exhibited by employees in your workplaces may prompt you to think that they are personal or project-related. But if issues such as misunderstandings, adversity and even hostility appear in combination and with regularity, cultural differences may be the root cause. For the employer, the end result can be missed deadlines, stalled projects, difficulty motivating, and a high level of stress that will ultimately impact productivity, absenteeism and employee turnaround.

SOME RECOMMENDED ACTIONS
Certainly, the level of flexibility, communication skills and hands-on management required to maximize effectiveness in these new diverse workplaces will be high. As a result, international talent recruitment, retention and leadership development becomes paramount. Managers and team leaders will need to learn how to interpret signs of troubled or stressed employees, as well as find ways to effectively address any issues that arise in order to support them. There will be a need to develop awareness, communication skills and facilitate education. Here are some recommendations for doing just that:

* Provide your recruitment and management teams with an understanding of the impact of culture on values, behavior, learning styles and communication. Ensure that they’re not misreading cultural differences and cultural cues and missing out on top talent.

* Provide your managers with training on managing troubled employees – give them the skills to identify the symptoms and the solutions to reposition them for workplace effectiveness.

* Incorporate policies and resources that support multiculturalism, work-life balance and employee effectiveness.

* Proactive interventions such as preparation services for newly relocated employees provide education as well as practical strategies for enhancing the adaptation process.

* Country-specific cross-cultural training will help inbound expats navigate cultural differences with ease. To improve workplace relationships, provide cross-cultural team training and include the receiving workgroup, as well as managers, to enhance a two-way level of sensitivity and awareness.

* Provide access to support through specialized, confidential counseling and information for inbound expatriates and their dependents, with counselors who understand the impact of culture shock and cross-cultural differences.

THINKING AHEAD
As offshore outsourcing continues to be a growing global business trend, the time is now to start building an international recruitment strategy that takes into consideration the education and development that will be required to ensure optimal team functioning and effectiveness. Employers who are proactive and provide education and support up-front to employees relocating to North America are certainly taking a huge leap towards ensuring the success of the in-bound assignment and reducing the risk of its failure.

FGI’s U.S. headquarters is in Parsippany, NJ; offices in San Francisco, Minneapolis and across Canada.

Reprinted with permission from

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