Magazine article Workforce

Selecting Global Assignees

Magazine article Workforce

Selecting Global Assignees

Article excerpt

How can an assessment instrument help you select successful expats? Our expert answers.

The success of your entire overseas venture may rest in the hands of one expatriate employee and his or her family. So how do you make sure you send the candidate most likely to live up to the challenge? This was the question on the minds of three readers who recently posted discussion threads on the topic in the Global HR Forum on WORKFORCE ONLINE. Responding to their inquiries, we asked an authority on the subject to share her perspective. Here she outlines a strategic approach to expatriate selection. She includes an overview of how assessment tools can aid the process.

Dr. Paula Caligiuri from Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, researcher on the topic of managing global assignees, says:

Selecting global assignees is both a critical and frustrating topic for global HR professionals. Most human resources professionals agree that not all employees sent on global assignments will succeed. Some will flourish, while others, unfortunately, will fail. Seasoned global HR professionals may pride themselves on the fact that they can predict the outcome of an assignment-after just a few interactions with a prospective assignee. They have developed the sixth sense for selecting global assignees.

Despite the sixth sense that these HR professionals may have, the unfortunate reality is that most are unable to stop a risky global assignment from moving forward. Frequently, an assignee is chosen within the business unit based only on the person's technical or managerial skills. HR has little involvement, except to process the appropriate paperwork. This typical scenario is both myopic and deleterious for organizations valuing the strategic management of their human talent worldwide.

Appropraitely, this scenario is beginnig to change in many multinational organizations as global HR is becoming more integrated into the overall global business strategy. In fact, research suggests that your involvement in the global assignment process is related to better bottom line success. As a function, global HR is becoming more involved in the strategy and practice of managing the global assignment process.

Many global human resources professionals have started their strategic roles with improvements on the global assignee selection process. The process outlined below is a description of what global HR professionals in these strategic multinational organizations are doing to select their international assignees.

The most effective process for selecting global assignees involves four distinct phases:

1) Self-selection

2) Creating a candidate pool

3) Technical skills assessment

4) Making a mutual decision.

Phase One: Allow for self-selection. Employees who may be on the track for a future global assignment should begin the decision-making process about a year or more before a position becomes available. (The way companies identify this group will vary.) In this self-selection phase, employees introspectively question whether they are right for a global assignment, if their spouses and children would be interested in relocating internationally, if this is the best time for them professionally, and so on.

The greatest criticism of self-selection is that candidates and their spouses will not be honest. I have found this criticism is unfounded given that most people are very honest with themselves-if they know that the information is private and confidential. People would rather learn for themselves that they may not have what it takes for a global assignment, rather than go through formal company-initiated testing-a process they are likely to fake to save themselves the embarrassment of failing the test.

Given that the consequences of being unsuccessful on a global assignment are high, people will seek out information that helps them predict the likelihood of their success living in another country. …

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