As a member of the business strategy consulting team employed by Mandarin Airways, a well-established Chinese Airline Company, I am tasked to make recommendations as to what mandarin airways must include in its training and orientation programs for the Chinese employees to make living and working in Australia easier for them. Most specifically I need to identify how Chinese managers can adjust – how to minimise cultural shock, and how to incorporate this strategy into the training and orientation program of Mandarin Airways.
As more and more corporations move from their domestic borders into the dynamic international arena, they are also encountering high expatriate failure rates and costs; therefore, the demand for individuals who can function succeed on international assignments continues to increase. According to the number of recent studies, the U.S. for example, the failure rate of expatriates ranges from 16% to 40%, depending on the location of assignment (Huang 2003). The principal reason given for the failure problem is that most companies do not give sufficient attention to the selection, training, and monitoring of employees and their families on international assignments. Business failures in the international arena often may be linked to poor management of expatriates and many companies
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Huang cited several studies that found that spouses’ and children’s inability and the expatriates’ inability to adjust to living in the host country were the two most frequently cited reasons for the failure (2003). This extensively points out the need for supporting the adaptability potential of the spouse and children. Therefore, the issue of training programs for the family needs to be addressed since the pressure associated with an international assignment falls on all family members.
LaRoche suggested that companies offer pre-assignment visits to managers and their families to the foreign country of assignment. He cited two benefits of this visit:
“They help win over reluctant or undecided family members. For example, by meeting with prospective classmates, teenagers have a chance to realize that they will be able to find other teenagers with whom they can relate and make friends.
“They help reduce the gap between employee expectations and assignment reality, which, in turn, increases the probability of success of the assignment” (LaRoche 2000).
Attempting to adjust to a new cultural environment, expatriate executives have to perform in an unfamiliar work context and they have to encounter a different way of life than in their own country. They do not only have to respond to the problems of motivation, leadership, and productivity in the foreign assignment, but many also have much greater responsibilities than in their previous domestic job. This can amount to a very stressful experience and not everyone is successful at their new tasks.
First, I say that Mandarin Airways include a cross-cultural training programme in its pre-assignment training and orientation programmes. This will provide support for the Chinese manager and his family in terms of family adjustment and building new social network in Australia. The pre-assignment preparations foster the respect of the social norms as well as the ethical and business norms of the region and which helps the expatriates to avoid embarrassing mistakes, to earn trust of local partners, to reduce the inability of the adjustment process, and finally to increase their effectiveness in foreign country.
Second, I suggest that before Mandarin Airways start the pre-assignment training for its managers to be assigned in Australia it should offer a a pre-assignment visit, during which the employee, and in some cases his family, flies to the new city and spends a few days to visit and get acquainted with the prospective location.
As for in-country adjustment, I suggest that Mandarin Airways create a host country national support network that will help their Chinese managers cope and adjust into Australia’s environs. Social support from Host country nationals may be particularly important to spouse adjustment for several reasons: (1) Host country nationals understand the host culture, (2) Host country nationals can provide information on and explanations of the host culture; (3) Host country nationals can provide feedback on the appropriateness of behaviours, and (4) this type of information and cues can collectively serve to reduce uncertainty regarding the general culture and facilitate spouse adjustment.
Provide an adequate and comfortable living condition for the expatriate and his family. Because most spouses do not work during the period of the expatriate’s overseas assignment, they tend to spend a significant amount of time engaged n activities either in the home or in activities that have relevance to the home.
Lastly, Mandarin Airways must provide for opportunities for the expatriate and his family to maintain close ties with people of Chinese culture who are also residing in Australia. This is the most important in-country adjustment factor the company can provide. By doing so the company provides an opportunity for the Chinese manager and his family to keep in touch with their culture as well as the Australians’.
Huang, Lan-Ying. 2003. Attitudes towards the management of international assignments-a comparative study. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge 3(1/2): 336.
LaRoche, Lionel. 2000. Removing the unexpected with pre-assignment visits. Canadian HR Reporter 13(9): 17-18.
Mandarin Airlines logo. Retrieved on May 6, 2007, from http://www.mandarin-airlines.com/.
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