Foreign employee’s spouse – Key to successful international employment

Success in the highly competitive global markets often requires international recruitment or –assignments. Failure in these is fairly common however. Both the financial and immaterial losses incurred by failed international assignments are significant. Cultural adjustment is an essential factor and previous studies have shown that the spouse’s integration issues are the most common cause for failure in international assignments.

Background for the study

Spouse’s integration to a new country has been a severely under researched topic, but still it is considered a critical part of a successful international relocation. Therefore we decided to find the factors that influence the integration and comfort of foreign spouses in Finland. We conducted this research together with Aalto University’s post-graduate student Minna Vainikka with the goal of increasing our understanding of the ways that a spouse’s experiences and feelings influence a foreign employee. We looked at both the positive and negative influences. Finally, the goal was to find the ways that organizations can improve spouses’ integration and comfort. I am happy to say that we succeeded in these goals.

Key findings

The study yielded three essential findings. First, social relations and friendships have a massive impact in integrating into a new environment for both the spouse and the employee.
Second, a happy and well-integrated spouse increases an employee’s productivity in the workplace and supports his or her interactive integration by organizing social activities. Humans are social animals, and support beyond the workplace is reflected as a better overall health and thus better productivity.
Finally, especially of interest to the HR-managers, organizational support plays a significant role as well.

Supporting the spouse maximizes the employee’s productivity

Employer organized or outsourced relocation and settling-in services can provide a significant boost to integrating to a new environment. Especially a named support person at location helps with settling-in, makes everyday challenges easier and has a profound impact on a person’s perception of how he or she is valued. Other services that were considered helpful were, for example, in-person support with immigration practicalities and looking for a new apartment. The most notable deficiencies in support services offered by companies have to do with spouse’s employment support and enabling forming social contacts.

Because relationships are considered the most important factor in settling-in to a new environment and the spouse’s dissatisfaction negatively influences the employee, companies should assist spouses to network and find meaningful activities. This can be done by for example organizing events for spouses of foreign employees, directing them to expatriate communities and other interesting groups, encouraging them to find hobbies and providing information and actionable guidance in engaging in volunteer work

Additionally, concrete support for the spouse during a job search is of paramount importance in families that are used to both parties working. These and other actions aimed at improving the spouse’s well-being show, that the entirety of the employee’s family is important and thus enable the employee to fully concentrate on his or her job and ultimately the success of the international assignment or hire. A satisfied and well integrated spouse also helps the employee to integrate, improving his or her motivation, satisfaction and productivity at work. Thus the investment into the employee’s family yields rapid dividends.

Interested in reading the study? Contact us and we will send you a copy!

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