Reduce the Risk of Managers Failing in Overseas Assignments

In a new study we conducted at Right Management of over 200 CEOs and senior human resource  professionals, we learned that a worldwide average of just 58% of overseas transfers were judged to be successful by their organizations with little variation across regions. That means 42% fail. It’s a serious issue.


This has to be one of the most disappointing findings of our survey on global leadership development. Given the investments being made in bringing along a new generation of leaders and their growing need to be able to think and operate globally, for 42% to fail when they’re sent abroad is hard to fathom. But it’s also worth noting that the failure rate is more or less a constant whether it’s Asian, European or North American managers.


The survey, moreover, found disparities in the preparation given managers before an assignment. A global average of 25% of organizations gives language training, but the average drops to 18% for North American employers, while it’s closer to 33% among European, African and the Middle Eastern companies. Even harder to believe, an average of 16% of companies globally give minimal to no preparation at all, and for North American employers it’s 22% that do virtually nothing. No wonder so many managers don’t perform well outside their home country.


What type of preparation do you provide to managers before a transfer outside their home country? (global averages)


Language training


Overview of cultural differences


Personal coaching


Minimal to none


In-depth cultural awareness training




Ongoing mentorship



Language or cultural training alone is not adequate. The latest from our research suggests that the best companies utilize good assessments with the candidate to indicate whether or not an expatriate assignment will actually work. Being aware of potential derailers that could stand in the way of success are critical elements to understanding and adjusting to an international role.

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