Sao Paulo, Brazil - Before choosing the expatriate candidate, a company must first analyze the profile of the employee being considered. It is important not only to identify the technical potential the candidate, but just as importantly to know how this employee will adapt to different cultures. This was one of the guidelines provided by Cecilia Franchi, Director of Global Services at Lexicon Relocation. She participated alongside Renê Ramos, a lawyer specializing in immigration consulting at EMDOC, who is part of Amcham’s Committee of Corporate Travel and Mobility.
"It is important to properly screen expatriate candidates to assess their ability to adapt in the host country," said Cecilia Franchi. She said that too many companies do not perform the proper candidate assessment and this planning failure could directly result in assignment failure. "Some companies realize this too late and only when the expatriate is forced to return," she said.
The risk is too great. If the expatriate is sent back or, in the worst case scenario the expatriate is dismissed, all costs related to the expatriate’s assignment failure will be extremely high to the company. The lawyer Renê Ramos explains that it is important to plan the assignment in detail, especially when Brazil is the host country.
Brazil is complex. The company needs to understand and properly plan the "purpose of the assignment", according to Ramos which includes the type of activity the assignee will be performing in the host location as well as the associated compensation.
How to evaluate
According to Cecilia Franchi, a proper candidate assessment is essential to determine if the potential expatriate (and accompanying family) has traveled or lived abroad or has the capacity to appreciate and adapt to different cultures. She recalls that having studied and lived in France and having visited many diverse countries around the world (recently returning from a trip to China) has helped her thoroughly understand and appreciate different cultures. "In today’s world, to reach senior management, it is a prerequisite to have solid international experience," she said.
Subsequent the identification of potential expatriates, it is important to provide adequate language and cross-cultural training to enable a functional understanding of the destination country. "Companies seek cost reduction, but cutting these benefits is counter-productive," says Franchi.
"In the past, expatriates were treated like kings and queens. In the current economic state, that no longer prevails”, she said. According to her, companies are drastically reducing costs and assignment benefits are not nearly as rich as they once were. She firmly believes it is critical to invest in proper candidate assessment methods before the expatriate is selected as well as adequate cross-cultural and language training before the assignment begins. Attempting to reduce or eliminate these costs come at a huge risk. She also mentioned the need for meticulous assignment planning and the flexibility to consider different types of assignments related to its ultimate purpose: commuter and rotational assignments for project work, as well as considerations to ‘core-flex’ and ‘local plus’ assignment types.
Increasing Number of Expatriates
"By 2020, the number of expatriates will grow 50%," says Franchi. This information comes from a survey called Talent Mobility 2020 developed by PwC regarding Global Mobility trends. According to the research, which examines corporate mobility as it relates to new talent, 89% of youngsters who will enter the labor market in 2020 will want to work abroad.
Another local study conducted by Mercer this month shows that in 2013, 70% of Brazilian companies will have significantly increased their number of short-term expatriate assignments (3 to 12 months) and 55% expect to increase their number of long-term assignments (1 to 5 years).
The survey also shows that the average age of expatriates currently on long-term assignments globally are between 35 and 55 years. At this age, these professionals are already established and look to supplement their careers with an international assignment. Many young people in Brazil just entering the labor market do not yet understand the importance of working abroad and gaining international experience.
"Many talented young people do not wish to leave Brazil, and to motivate them, you have to convince them that it will be essential for their career, especially if they work for a multinational company headquartered outside of the country", said Talita Donha associated with Mercer Brazil's who attended the Committee as a participant.
The global ‘war for talent’ is growing. Cecilia Franchi brought up the example of "Generation Y." Youths brought up with advanced technology are eager to meet new global realities. This group will make up the significant majority of all international assignments by 2020. Their focus will be on interest and opportunity and they will view the world increasingly without boundaries as they seek the brightest opportunities globally.
She points out that the global reality is indeed changing. Companies need to have a laser focus on expatriate management goals and to link them directly with the talent management directives of the company. In the late 1990s, when Franchi began working in this segment of global mobility, most multinational companies gambled on a decentralized expatriate management model. According to her, it is now vital to seek a centralized globally consistent model with flexibility for regional variances, with well-defined goals for the overall program as well as the adherence to global compliance mandates.
Cecilia Franchi is very optimistic about the national Brazilian reality. She is Brazilian, but was raised and currently works in the United States. When she comes to her country of origin, she appreciates that Brazilians are naturally very "open minded" to interact with different cultures and can learn from the failures of other long-standing multinational companies. "Brazil is in a great position to seek a point of excellence," she emphasized.