Getting global mobility right for families


Very interesting article and well written.

Read More Dave
Add a comment

It seems straightforward to move an employee to a different country, but making a success of relocation is about so much more than logistics

At a junior level many employees view an expatriate posting as a prize. Without families or dependants to worry about they are often happy to ‘go local’, meaning they are employed on a contract and benefits are broadly comparable to the local workers'. However, staff with families are far more complex to move and getting it wrong can mean significant financial loss to the family as well as company and can often have a negative career impact for the employee.

Most organisations managing expatriate postings offer the usual benefits such as appropriate medical cover, annual flights home, assistance with taxation, and often allowances towards renting a home or cars. However, many miss out the 'softer' benefits that can make all the difference to a smooth transition. What companies also fail to realise is that one size does not fit all when it comes to relocation packages and support.

What relocating families need is knowledge. They need to know about different types of schools (rather than just be dumped in the nearest international school) and how the admissions process works; they need to know academic calendars; where to source medical care; how to open bank accounts and how to convert their driving licences. The list goes on and on. Much of it can be managed with a carefully thought-out information pack, but in some areas the personal touch is definitely required.

Often most of the set-up work when relocating as a family is done by the ‘trailing spouse’ who is not employed by the company, which can be hugely daunting without support. If that person also has a job the task is monumental, as not only will they also be settling into a new role but both parents will have the equally hard task of settling the family into a different country with new schools and unknown childcare systems. Offering support can have a huge impact on the ability of your employee to start performing at a high level as soon as possible.

I spent five years living as an expatriate in Singapore and was lucky that my first child was just a few weeks old when we arrived. I had time to put her on the two-year-plus waiting list for the international school that I wanted but for those arriving with children already of school age this was a real problem. For most of them there was no help at all; they had to rely on whatever advice they could pick up from other expatriates or find online. These problems can often cause otherwise successful expatriate assignments to end early or not start at all.

The key to successfully managing expatriate assignments is never underestimate the impact difficulties resettling family members has on the outcome of the posting. While there are always parameters one must work within, developing a package of flexible relocation benefits that employees can pick and choose from depending on their circumstances is vital. Finding providers that will work with staff on a personal level to help them source what they need – be it a school place, nursery, nanny or even the right doctor – will vastly increase the chance of success for both employees and companies.

Andrea May is the HR manager for Parental Choice, an advice and childcare search service for professionals


Very interesting article and well written.


Great article, Andrea. I particularly like "...never underestimate the impact difficulties resettling family members has on the outcome of the posting." So many organisations gloss over the vital soft services for the trailing spouse and children; the family's happiness make's it or breaks it.


I was a relocation consultant for several years, looking after families moving to the UK. I did just that. I looked after them. It was incredibly demanding (but also rewarding) to do this on a personal level where I was often the only one that the trailing spouse (horrible term) ever had to turn to. It meant I had a great deal of frustration to deal with because the families' needs were rarely fully appreciated. As you say, one size doesn't fit all. I forged deep, albeit temporary, bonds with these people and remember many very fondly. One day out on the road, house & maybe school hunting is never sufficient - it boggles how anybody who sets relocation policy thinks it is. Would they expect to choose a new home in one day? Doubt it ...


I believe this is very good article and it is very important to understand if an expat is moving to another country and he or she is with family it becomes easy to settle and this help him to focus on work, at the same time there are some challenges like accommodation, schooling for the Kids and transportation. Companies who are posting their employee to other country should hire Manage Services company where they get a relocation consultant to help them in day to day problems as they have the knowledge of the local area. As of now our company have four expats in India and I am relocation consultant closely working with them. They are settled and enjoying their stay in India.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

All comments are moderated and may take a while to appear.