Have you estimated the cost impact?

As an organisation moving people abroad, you probably already know not every posting ends well. Many assignments fail, affecting not only the project or activity, but also in the long term the family.

Most organisations have long ago developed clear policies and processes, in fact many have dedicated mobility teams, focused on ensuring employees can be moved from their home country to their new host country with minimum angst. You want your assignees to start delivering on their assignment as quickly as possible.

You ensure they have somewhere to live, both temporary and long term accommodation, you have a list of great schools for their children to attend, you provide access to health care, you assist in setting up bank accounts, you probably even provide language and/or cultural training.

This is all fantastic, and it allows you to regularly move people to ensure all the practical aspects are taken care of and they can live comfortably.

But who’s looking after their emotional needs? Who’s looking after the assignee’s partner’s emotional needs?

The wellbeing of an assignee and their family is one critical element that needs to be addressed in the process of international assignments, but is so often overlooked. The individual’s wellbeing at home has a significant influence on their productivity and performance, and their engagement at work. You need them to be delivering on their assignment, but they’re distracted by what’s happening at home.

The emotional experiences of one family member can severely influence the experiences of the other(s). Furthermore research confirms this, family/partner concerns are shown to be the number one reason why international assignments fail or succeed. For companies wanting to hire, move and retain the best talent, effective support provisions for the family are critical to consider.

  • It is estimated between 10 and 45% of all assignments fail (Braseby 2010)
  • Failure is usually associated with premature departure from location
  • The most common reason for early termination has remained constant over the past decade – partner dissatisfaction (BGRS 2016, EY2018)
  • The cumulative costs of a failed assignment is estimated US$400,000 (Chipman, Asian Tigers)
  • In addition, 56% of assignments are rejected outright due to influence of the partner, especially in dual career couples (BGRS 2016)
  • Post COVID, 25% of organisations are developing principles focused on care to support mobile employees (PWC COVID-19 Report, 2021)

Have you estimated the cost to your organisation of failed assignments?

You could be surprised at how just the right support at the right time can completely turn around an entire family’s experience abroad, subsequently impacting positively on the work assignment. When organisations focus on the assignee and their family’s emotional wellbeing, the assignee is in a better position to be more productive and present in the workplace.

As someone who supports mobility within your organisation, what can you do to support the wellbeing of assignees and their family?

Define who they reach out to

Ensure your assignee and their partner know who is their first point of contact. Who is in charge of their assignment? Who is the first person they should talk to when they need help? Sometimes it can be confusing for an assignee, is the HR Team in the host location? Is it their direct manager while on assignment? Is it the mobility team in their home office? Even if it feels like you’re stating the obvious, make it clear who they can and should talk to if they need help.

Foster open communication

By acknowledging how the assignment can impact not only on the assignee, but their partner and family too, you open the door to further communication. If you’re regularly connecting and checking in with your assignee and their partner, you will quickly learn if things are on track or a little rocky.

Create opportunities for assignees to connect and share

You may have a few, or you may have many people in a location on assignment. Create opportunities for employees on assignment, whether long term or short term, to connect. Through connection they will have the opportunity to share and to learn from others. Assignees may not realise it’s normal for their partner to go through an experience of loss when they move, and this creates an opportunity for them to share and learn from others experiences.

If supporting assignee and their family emotional wellbeing sounds like something you want to explore further, then check out this free masterclass, it can be added to your employee wellbeing program at no cost – https://www.temitalent.com.au/professional-development/

Published by The Employee Mobility Institute March 2023


Emily Rogers is an award winning Transition and Leadership coach. Having lived abroad for over 20 years, her family has spent 12 years moving around Asia, relocating to Auckland, New Zealand at the end of 2019. Both her daughters were born in India, and raising a family in a foreign context has literally transformed their lives.

Emily has experienced first hand what it feels like to move your family and settle into a new country. Dealing with the variety of challenges that living abroad presents, she has developed systems and processes that allow her to settle her family faster and easier. She now uses these systems and processes to support her clients.

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