Starting to learn from your expat engagement data
Our most recent case study is a point in question and being addressed by the client organisation studied. Firstly, this is a commercially very successful and fast-expanding global professional services firm with thousands of employees sited in the many dozens of typical capital cities across the globe. Around 20% of its employees are temporarily or permanently assigned to countries not registered as their home country of origin; again not unusual. We set out to discover if there were differences between expat and non expats engagement levels overall: theme by theme or indeed country by country.
In this study, the offices with higher and lower scores on both engagement and intent to stay (in the Group) were identified (focusing on offices where there were at least 10 expats for comparison purposes). Overall, scores of total expats and non expats revealed little difference regarding engagement and intent to stay. Some might say job done then – no recordable differences. However when we looked into the data city by city, by significant markets some very interesting findings emerge, which we continue to explore.
We would have predicted city markets such as New York, Milan, Paris to be exemplary in terms of engagement and loyalty – in fact scores are significantly lower. These are different geographies for sure - perhaps different sub cultures - to other cities. The other cities whose expat engagement and loyalty was significantly higher include, Sao Paulo, Toronto, Sydney and Singapore; again a mix of geographies almost counterbalancing the low scoring cities geographically and culturally.
On looking deeper at differences in scores by themes, the high commitment cities scored higher on the way talent was managed, where the declared culture of the whole company was reflected and evidenced and where career development was high on local agendas. The less committed cities scored consistently lower on remuneration, locally engaging direct leaders and a high level of service orientation.
The key finding for us and the client is that aggregating employee feedback data can hide significant stories in terms of expatriate risks and opportunities, notwithstanding local stories for non-expats as well. Our position on expats and expat data is now one of distinctly higher awareness – not just in segmenting employee data to locally significant commercial units of business but by demographics – in this case precious and costly expats.