The dual career issue is one that strikes terror in the heart of many an International HR professional, and it’s not going to go away any time soon. Faced with the loss their career, many partners are balking at the prospect of becoming an expatriate “Plus-One.” The numbers bear this out: dual career concerns are cited as the reason for refusing an international assignment 58% of the time, and a partner’s inability to settle in the host culture is the number two reason for early return.
Evelyn Simpson and Louise Wiles, expat coaches with 40 years of expat experience between them, recently questioned 312 accompanying partners in 59 countries to learn more about the factors affecting the choices they make about their careers. The results of their survey, entitled Career Choice and the Accompanying Partner, were released today.
The work permit is obviously the biggest hurdle to employment for an accompanying partner, but according to the survey’s respondents, it’s not the only one. Language ability, childcare concerns, and ignorance of local networks all conspire against the job-seeking partner. Interestingly, another barrier to finding work was a lack of support by the sponsoring organization. Respondents thought HR should step up to the plate and provide more assistance in this area.
Other key findings:
- (53%) of accompanying partners were either fulfilled or very fulfilled by their expat experience. 47% were either ambivalent, unfulfilled or very unfulfilled. “This is a finding worth consideration,” the authors note. “Partners who have no strong affiliation with the assignment are less likely to be a positive supporter of the assignment experience.”
- 68% of the employed partners and just 42% of the non-working partners said they were fulfilled or very fulfilled.
- 68% of working partners described their life satisfaction as above average, compared with 48% of non-working partners.
What’s the bottom line?
Most accompanying partners want to work, although not all necessarily want full-time jobs. Their ability or inability to find meaningful employment while overseas can have a huge impact the success of the assignment. Most importantly for HR departments, it’s clear that these partners could use some help — obtaining work permits, understanding local job markets, and finding jobs or other avenues to fulfilment.
“International assignments are increasingly part of a strategic talent management process,” the authors said in a statement. “With 90% of accompanying partners working before they relocate, organisations recognise that effectively supporting them through the transition is an issue they need to address. The Career and the Accompanying Partner Survey helps them to move beyond viewing accompanying partners as a tricky or difficult issue, providing them with insight into the needs of accompanying partners and enabling them to structure their programmes accordingly.”
Many thanks to Evelyn and Louise for highlighting such a relevant issue. And congratulations on their success — the study has been shortlisted for a European EMMA award, given by the Forum for Expatriate Management.
If you’d like to learn more, you can find a free summary report at www.accompanyingpartner.com. The full report can be purchased for €147.