Location: The Biggest Challenge to Talent Management?
At Horton International, we are constantly asked to carry out global searches to find “the best person for the job”, no matter where the people are located around the world. Our clients usually have great roles that need filling, wonderful facilities and a brilliant company culture, but many of the people they are looking to attract are working in another country. This is where the biggest challenges can lie, and companies have to be aware of the issues facing candidates and their families when considering an international move. Here are 6 key issues that we, and our clients, have to negotiate around;
Family Support Networks
This could include moving away from the network of family members (including those who may provide childcare) or merely moving from a region that the candidate and their family have lived in since birth. These are not trivial decisions for people, and despite the fact a potential job may have wonderful prospects and carry a great financial reward, the break from the familiar surroundings may be too big a hurdle. The other issue for many senior managers, who may well be in their 40s or early 50s is the issue of ageing parents, and the unwillingness to move too far away from them. There are, however, people who will be working thousands of miles from their country of origin, where these issues may be the reverse drivers. For example, an ex-pat European working in the USA may have growing children who are remote from grandparents, and indeed parents who are aging. For these people, a move back to Europe (and therefore closer to family) could be a big incentive.
School Age Children
The education of the candidate’s children will inevitably be one of the major factors in deciding whether an international move is desirable. There are several factors to be weighed up,
- Are the children at a critical stage in their education (e.g are they about to take major exams)?
- Are the curricula and exam systems in the two countries compatible?
- What are the language implications – will the children have to attend an international school?
- Are the international schools of good quality and what will be the cost of schooling (a major issue if the children have previously attended a state school)?
Cost of Living
This is quite an interesting issue, as people become very aware that moving to certain cities (e.g. London or Paris) is going to be expensive, and will look for a salary premium to compensate for the higher cost of living. However, a move to less expensive location (e.g. Eastern Europe) does not usually result in a company being able to pay a lower salary, as people also seem to want to at least, maintain the monetary value of their previous salary, even if the buying power of a slightly reduced salary would be considerably greater.
The Spouse’s Occupation
Usually, an international move will require the other partner to find a new role. Certainly within the pharmaceutical sector, major international corporations use English as their business language, and consequently for the majority of the candidates, language does not become a barrier. For a spouse, however, this is not necessarily the case, and the inability to speak the local language will prevent them from gaining employment. (e.g. an administrator who is not fluent in the local language will not be employable). Even if there are no language issues, moving to a location that is remote from an appropriate job cluster will be very challenging.
Income Tax rates
As we know, different countries have different tax rates, and asking someone to move from, say, the USA to Scandinavia can be a major challenge and companies, therefore, have to look at people’s net take-home pay. There are certain tax schemes within the EU (for example the Netherlands) where EU citizens can receive a reduction in their income tax burden if the company can show that they provide skills that are not available locally.
Language and Cultural Barriers
Most international companies have English as the business language, so understanding the local language is not an immediate imperative at work. On the domestic front, however, living in an area where the family do not speak the local language (and there is not a large ex-pat community) can be quite isolating.
We try to address these issues at an early stage in the recruitment process, and find that the best organisations have good processes for dealing with most of these issues, and will be able to provide both financial and practical support to families making an international move. But sometimes, a number of the issues will become “show-stoppers” and it is best to address potential issues up front, and not wait until the offer stage, and have all the difficulties of the star candidates withdrawing after a verbal offer has been made.
Paul Edwards MBE
Horton International UK - Managing Partner Global Healthcare