International experience increasingly important for career development - study - Gulf Business
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International experience increasingly important for career development – study

International experience increasingly important for career development – study

Cigna survey points to importance of international postings but employers falling short in language and cross-cultural training

International work experience is increasingly seen as essential for long-term career development, according to a new study.

The Global Mobility Trends survey by Cigna Global Health Benefits and the National Foreign Trade Council interviewed more than 2,700 expatriates working in 156 countries, including 500 in the Middle East and North Africa.

Of this group, almost 85 per cent of respondents from the region said they believed an international assignment was essential for their career progression and over half said they were willing to accept another international posting in the future.

The study also found that professionals were increasingly working abroad globally. The number of expats who have served five or more international assignments increased from 13 per cent in 2013 to 25 per cent in 2015, Cigna said. For MENA-based participants the percentage was even higher, at 32 per cent.

“Working abroad is increasingly seen as an investment in one’s career development, and employers need to adapt to meet the expectations of quality talent accordingly. Personalised services and proactive communication at each stage of the assignment lifecycle clearly contribute to the success of overseas postings, according to our research,” said Cigna Global Health Benefits MENA chief executive Howard Gough.

In other findings, 54 per cent of MENA-based expats ‘agreed’ and 33 per cent ‘strongly agreed’ that the benefits offered by their employer were attractive. Adequate healthcare plans, financial support for schooling, leave entitlements, quality of life and housing, security and schooling were also considered ‘very important’ factors.

But the group said more should be done to help foreign nationals adjust to the language, culture and customs of their host country.

Only 25 per cent of the MENA professionals said they had received language training prior to their deployment and only 34 per cent said they had received cross-cultural training.

“This is an obvious gap for employers seeking to ease the transition for foreign nationals into the Middle East work environment where sensitivity to local customs and traditions can have a profound impact on business relationships,” added Gough. “Helping expats appreciate the region’s various cultural nuances also adds to the overall experience of working abroad.”

Other weaknesses were seen in support after employees returned from their assignment. Only 11 per cent of respondents said their employer was ‘very good’ in this respect and a third said that they were ‘good’.

There were also signs that communication with globally mobile employees needed to improve. More than 40 per cent of respondents said their company did a ‘good’ job of communicating with them but only 18 per cent described the dialogue as ‘very good’. A fifth of those surveyed from the region also said communication needed to be more frequent and personal.

Just over 80 per cent of the respondents were male, middle-aged, have a family and were employed by United States companies.

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