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Adapting to a Dynamic Global Economy

To help your leaders adapt to this diverse, hypercompetitive marketplace, you should seriously consider expat assignments. Immersion is by far the most effective way to forge the critical business relationships that will fuel your company’s growth.

August 8, 2013

Dear As the World Turns:

Success in a dynamic global economy depends as much on the strength of our relationships as it does on good technology, available credit, and a strong supply chain.

To help your leaders adapt to this diverse, hypercompetitive marketplace, you should seriously consider expat assignments. Immersion is by far the most effective way to forge the critical business relationships that will fuel your company’s growth. And you don’t need to open a satellite office to make this work.

This is a high barrier: you are asking some of your leaders their families to move to a foreign land for a year or two. Obviously this won’t work for everyone, but living in the market is important. Sporadic visits won’t be effective in helping your leaders forge the critical relationships your business needs to fuel its growth.

One part of helping your leaders adapt: ensuring they learn to be as effective as possible with your company’s foreign partners and prospects. There are no shortcuts, but you’re likely to get the best return on your investment with an expat assignment.

Offer an overseas assignment in a location that serves your company’s specific needs in the global economy. The expat gets the experience of a lifetime while your company gets a wealth of knowledge and stronger relationships where you need them.

In addition to putting one of your leaders on the ground overseas, it’s important to create internal practices that facilitate communication that ensure knowledge sharing isn’t lost along the way.

Rather than go it alone, you’d be wise to work with a professional-services firms that specializes in making expat assignments work for all parties involved, preferably one with experience in your chosen geographic market. This helps to minimize the inevitable disruption for your employee, trailing spouse and family.

Expat assignments constitute a large investment in the global economy, but they are the most effective way to establish and grow business relationships overseas. Making a strategic move like this can be daunting, but many companies make it work very successfully.

For example, one of our clients based in the Netherlands uses expat assignments regularly at all levels of the company. It is viewed as a fast-track approach to advancement for ambitious leaders, who in turn bring a wealth of knowledge and experience back to their respective home offices.

Strong relationships really do matter in this dynamic global economy. Despite powerful technology and the relative ease and availability of air travel today, social dynamics such as trust and confidence take time to build. Simply teaching your leaders about cultural norms and government regulations in a classroom barely skims the surface. There are no simulations that can truly replace the in-person human factor. Expat assignments are a powerful way to help your entire leadership team adapt to our global economy.

Source: Alan Preston, Preston HR, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Aug. 6, 2013