The wave of globalization that has happened in the last few decades has seen many companies scrambling to establish departments and branches in other nations other than their own mother countries. For many companies, this move has been necessitated by a business imperative to expand outwards in a bid to capture a more significant market share. For others yet, it is the prestige associated with having an extensive global outreach that drives this expansion. In contrast, for others, it is the hunt for a more lenient tax and regulatory environment that sends them in search of greener pastures overseas. Globalization has resulted in a proliferation of emerging markets, which has resulted in a new demand for skills and competencies in foreign lands.
Whichever the driving impetus for starting international expansions, this move will often have companies sending expatriates to other countries as agents of their international exploits. Such expatriates will often and quickly have to learn how to represent best their mother countries' interests in their new working environments. As such, despite the expatriates' performance being mainly similar to the rest of the company staff in their native country, the expatriate's performance will, however, be viewed with the backdrop of being in a foreign land, with entirely different social and physical dynamics driving outcomes and influencing the nature of inputs and initiatives required for the successful execution of the company objectives (Koskela, 2016). Owing to the increased demand for labor that has been driven by globalization, cultural diversity has also increased exponentially at the workplace. This means that conversely, the need for culturally appropriate practices and policies has risen in the modern workplace. The modern expatriate not only has to acquire career-specific skills and abilities; they also have to learn culturally appropriate skills that would enable them to navigate the modern workplace, which is now more culturally aware than ever. This paper aims to compare the levels of cultural intelligence amongst expatriates working for multinational organizations and local organizations in Switzerland.
Background of the ProblemThe global professional landscape continues to change from one generation to the next. However, what remains unanimously agreed upon is that culturally astute and cross-culturally savvy expatriates often return better results than their local counterparts (Dave & Makwana, 2016). Cross-culturally intelligent and socially aware expatriates are amongst the reasons why most companies have found a reason to move abroad, despite the exercise being a costly, time-consuming, cumbersome, risky and potentially loss-inducing affair that, in extreme circumstances, even risks the company not meeting its set-out objectives. High-quality expatriates make it worthwhile for companies and firms to establish branches abroad. Characteristics that make for high-quality expatriates will vary from case to case. Being a high-quality expatriate, however, is a highly cognitive ability that may be further broken down into the aspects of behavioral control, thought suppression, and self-regulation (Heizmann, Fee, & Gray, 2018).
Circling in on the traits that make for a successful expatriate, the following are the most easily identifiable ones; well-developed organizational skills, a high premium for curiosity, emotional intelligence, flexibility, excellent language skills, proper leadership skills, and cultural adaptability. Organizational skills allow for every expatriate to keep track of each of the several moving parts that need to be appraised during a move from local markets to the international workplace. Amongst the things that require extreme organizational skills are the ability to monitor two or more tax and regulatory regimes, have all paperwork and alien status documentation in order, and the requirement that every expatriate in this scenario needs to balance between the various bureaucracies in which their company operates.
A high propensity for curiosity, on the other hand, allows the expatriate in question to be genuinely interested in different cultures and people. This not only makes them pleasurable company, but it also makes their stay abroad more bearable, which contributes to the factors that would aid their performance for the company sending expatriates overseas. This trait for curiosity is also closely linked to emotional intelligence, which is the skill that allows any expatriate to quickly and suavely navigate a wide range of social and cultural scenarios without issue. Emotional intelligence relies heavily on non-verbal and social cues to gauge how a particular person feels, allowing them to act accordingly. If the expatriate might be tasked with recruiting in the local market, this becomes a supremely useful skill to have. The trait of flexibility entails the ability to quickly and effectively unlearn formerly held beliefs and practices, the moment one is presented with new cultural and social data in the original country of jurisdiction. Flexibility goes hand in hand with excellent language skills, seeing as new expatriates often need to grasp a few key phrases and terms that allow them to adequately every social setting that they might be confronted with.
Sufficient leadership skills are yet another prerequisite for a successful expatriate career. Being the primary representatives of their companies in the new countries, it is highly likely that most expatriates are also the team leaders and departmental managers charged with daily company operations, quarterly results, and the recruitment of teams and other operational requirements. Leadership skills are even better when coupled with the cultural adaptability that allows for them expatriate in question to tolerate new cultures and aptly navigate the unique setting, without compromising on the strategic objectives of the mother company.
Given these necessities for a successful expatriate career, studies indicate that the primary reasons why international installations for global companies fail majorly circulate the matters of culture. The Global Mobility Trends study of 2016 intimates that the main reasons why expatriates would fail could be summarised by the expatriate and his family failing to adjust to the international lifestyle and the cultural demands that come with it (BGRS, 2016). Apart from the cultural adjustment difficulties, other reasons why an international assignee might fail include; lousy performance reviews, unsteady personal relationships, and a poor selection of candidates. All these factors notwithstanding indicate how important a high level of cultural intelligence (CQ) is for international expatriate assignments.
If the organization makes an ineffective international expatriate posting, this appointment would be harmful on two fronts; the company would hurt since money spent on the appointment would end up being ineffectively deployed. No returns would be realized on the funds spent on the international assignment. Secondly, the expatriate in question would experience, owing to their cultural incompetence, a lowered sense of professional confidence, as well as a lower level of job performance. This would be without considering the amount of psychological distress that such an appointment would result in them and their families.
Besides, the company might face backlash and the loss of reputation in their host country if their expatriates are not effective in their posting. These factors, therefore, necessitate the need for companies, especially with an international stake, to pay particular focus on the cultural competencies of their international assignees, seeing as both the benefits and losses of culturally aware appointees are both immeasurable. Companies must, therefore, find ways to maximize the cultural competencies of their expatriate appointments, as well as building capacity for the international assignments that are already currently underway.
Background of the StudyAlthough common business knowledge has indicated companies getting meager returns from their expatriate activities, companies continue to launch expatriate activity because when the moving parts click, they are often exponentially profitable. Besides, it is a competitive necessity for the companies to maintain robust international staff corps, thus, increasing such companies' global reach and influence. Deploying expatriates does not, however, come at a manageable cost to meet. Estimates indicate that companies often have to pay up to three times the price of a local staff member to maintain a single expatriate abroad (Mane & Arora, 2018).
Expatriates also face difficult times during their deployment, from a personal standpoint. Studies indicate that up to 20% of deployed expatriates usually return home in the first year of deployment due to job dissatisfaction at their overseas job posts (Chen, 2019). For those who opt to stay on, their performances are often below the expected company standard. For this reason, this paper dedicates to studying the expatriates who perform well in their overseas posts and trying to point out the exact reasons why they outperform their counterparts.
Many companies fail to realize that the entire expatriate operation is a whole other endeavor. The rules that apply in the native companies back home almost to not apply for expatriate appointments. Similarly, the business rules that work back home might not necessarily work at the new overseas postings for most companies. Special efforts need to be made to make such endeavors beneficial for the deploying entity back home. The company's executives must be well aware that employment, marketing, and operating procedures will vary from culture to culture and from one year to the next, just in the same way that negotiation tactics during the recruitment process would differ from one culture to another the next.
This variance in conditions and terms from one c...
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