The number of executives posted to emerging markets such as China and India will continue to rise over the next five years despite the difficulties in finding suitable candidates.
A survey undertaken among 418 senior executives by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of HR software supplier Regus revealed that just under two in five companies planned to increase their number of expatriate staff over the next five years.
Because of stagnating demand in western countries, the most likely locations for expat workers to be posted were emerging Asian economies such as China and India, followed by the Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe.
Mark Dixon, global chief executive of Rebus, said: “This survey shows that globalisation is forcing companies to review their approach to where they locate their operations and how they manage human resources and property. The needs of global, mobile and flexible workers are exacerbating the challenge of providing a right-sized workplace infrastructure for a reasonable cost.”
The average period of an assignment for nearly half of senior managers was between two and five years, but there was also an increase in the number of short-term and ‘commuter’ arrangements. In the latter instance, executives were able to return home at weekends, where feasible, to minimise the strain on family relationships – a major reason behind the premature ending of such contracts.
But about three out of five expatriates also pointed to the fact that management at corporate headquarters did not have a sufficient handle on the nature of the local business environment, with one third complaining of excessive interference and a similar number citing unrealistic expectations around revenue generation possibilities.
Some 70% of respondents admitted that it was difficult to find the right candidate for the job internally, however, with three quarters indicating that ‘cultural sensitivity’ was the single most important attribute.