Tech & Work

Consider these factors before relocating outside the United States

Many tech leaders working for U.S. multinational enterprises have the opportunity to relocate to offices in often exotic destinations. Here are some tips to help you make the move with your eyes open to a new culture and a very different business world.


By Caroline Brown

So you've finally decided to move to that ultimate location you’ve been dreaming about for years. But before you pack up the house, give your notice, and get your tickets, there are some issues that tech professionals working in the United States need to seriously consider, and investigate, before relocating to a foreign country.

What’s the job outlook?
Most likely, the easiest and simplest move will be relocating through your existing employer, although this will often restrict your choice of destinations. If you do have the luxury of determining your own destination, Adam Bate, an IT executive recruiter specializing in CIO positions for TMP Worldwide, suggests following these tips:
  • Choose a country that has similar business values.
  • Select a location with a business culture that will appreciate your commercial experiences.
  • Go for an environment that has substantial multinational company influence.
  • Locate to a country where there is an undersupply of your skills.
  • Find an economy that is expanding (see Table A).
Table A

Region

Economic growth 1990-1999 average

East Asia

4.5%

ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations)

6.8%

United States

1.4%

Europe

1.7%


The (often hidden) costs of relocation
Most multinational enterprises (MNEs) offer employees a relocation package that includes pre- and post-move logistical support. While this can greatly ease the burden of relocation, tech leaders should be wary about hidden pitfalls in package deals and ensure that everything is in writing and meets standard-of-living requirements in the destination country before agreeing to the move.

Using professional international assignment and relocation management consultants can be expensive but are often well worth the money, particularly when dealing with local immigration and visa policies. In Australia, for example, it is difficult to obtain working visas unless you are sponsored by your host employer prior to arriving. Also, you cannot simply transfer your working visa to another company if you decide to leave your initial job post.

Get acclimated to new area beforehand
Serving as a tech leader in the United States doesn’t automatically translate to successful tech leadership in another country or region. If you are relocating via a multinational enterprise, you should request and receive employee preparation and training to ensure you'll meet performance standards and succeed in your new position. And be aware that not all prep training is equal. For example, recent studies about programs designed for expatriate multinational enterprise managers heading to the Asia-Pacific region clearly illustrate that some training works better than others (see Table B below).
Table B

Types of training programs deemed important for effective performance for expatriates in the Asia-Pacific region

uuu

Origin country of expatriate

Training program

USA

Germany

Japan

South Korea

Singapore

Cross-cultural training

3.4

3.41

2.83

3.13

3.43

Host country language training

2.85

3.09

3.45

3.61

3.50

Family adjustment orientation

3.33

3.11

2.84

3.05

3.28

Area study

3.06

2.68

2.97

3.43

3.07

Practical training on living conditions

3.11

2.74

2.55

3.00

3.02

Overseas acquaintance trips

3.35

2.61

2.61

2.64

2.97

1= Least important              5=Most important

Source: Developing Expatriates for the Asia Pacific Region: A Comparative Analysis of Multinational Enterprise Managers From Five Countries Across Three Continents


Good relocation preparation will help integrate existing managerial skills and technical knowledge into the new culture. Research focused on Americans who have relocated shows that cross-cultural training is considered most important when relocating to the Asia-Pacific region.

Overseas acquaintance trips were considered the second most important preparation venue. The study also revealed that U.S. tech managers should expect cultural and employment differences from human resources and labor factors to sociocultural and general management issues.

Realize that new regions bring different perspectives
While you may be doing the same type of job, doing business in the Far East or Australia, for example, is far different than in the United States.

Research on cross-cultural management and international business negotiation suggests that Western ideas about negotiations and business matters can be contradictory to Eastern approaches. Table C illustrates this point by examining common methods of strategic control between the United States, Japan, and Korea.
Table C
uuu

United States

Japan

Korea

Common method of strategic control

Systems and procedures

Hierarchical structures and personal control by management

Pragmatic approach or the results being more important than the system and strong internal controls regarding financial results—an understanding of accounting, financial, and taxation practices would be useful here

Relocation issues outside of the workplace
For CIOs planning to relocate families, there are several other issues to consider as well, such as education and cultural differences between the United States and the destination country.

As one ex-expatriate explains, sometimes the move is a good fit work-wise but a disaster for the family. The tech leader, who was initially reassigned to Singapore, requested relocation soon after his arrival there due to social and educational issues. He was dissatisfied with school systems and the hurdles to assimilation into the community. He and his family then went to Australia.

The second move was a “piece of cake” compared to settling in one of the “relatively closed Asian societies,” he said.

While it may be tempting to just pack and get moving toward a new region and new job, caution seems to be the best approach, according to research and experts. There is much homework to do in order to prepare and create a successful relocation experience.

Caroline Brown has worked in IT for a number of years across areas such as technical support, training, development, and process reengineering, as well as project and IT management.


 

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