Short-sighted thinking shortchanges short-term international assignments

Lack of cross-cultural awareness can cause serious problems.
By Zelda Fedder
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/05/2001

Do organizations give the same attention to short-term international assignments as they do to long-term relocations? Unfortunately, the answer is often “no.”

Much has been written about the challenges facing employees who accept a long-term (two- to three-year) international assignment. Most organizations now offer these individuals special training to ensure they thrive during their time abroad. The family usually meets with a psychologist who helps them develop strategies for coping with change, and with a cross-cultural trainer who helps them understand the different attitudes, values and behaviour they will encounter in the host country.

However, because of the rapid globalization of the economy, more and more individuals are now going on short-term (three- to six-month) international assignments. Unfortunately, these people rarely receive adequate preparation prior to their cross-border placements. Most companies rationalize that since the employee is only going to be away a short time, they don’t need specialized training or counselling. This viewpoint is terribly short-sighted as it fails to take into account the unique challenges facing these employees.