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International assignments: How to persuade your employer to send you overseas

29 March, 2017Phil Renshaw

Whether or not your employer has expatriate schemes, there are basic steps you can take to be sent on international assignment.

Statistics suggest that the majority of major businesses in the finance and banking sector have programmes for international assignments. Some companies have expectations that you will not progress to the highest ranks without international experience and hence they have leadership development plans incorporating these. However, in many cases we know that decisions on who to send arise within a business conversation rather than in a career development conversation. Your first first task is to find out how this works in the business you work for.

HR departments in financial services are often very positive about sending people on international assignments – so go cultivate relationships with these colleagues. Find out what types of people they send, where they send them, and why they send them. This should help you understand what you need to do to join this group. Business leaders, by that I mean those in charge of operations and delivery, are usually crucial decision-makers. They can make it hard for you to leave by declaring that your skills are too important to lose. Equally they can be highly supportive especially where they have a global responsibility and they can see technical or managerial gaps in overseas businesses that need to be filled.

The importance of business leaders cannot be under-estimated: you often hear complaints that the HR department only learns about who is going on an overseas assignment after the decision has been made. You need to be talking and networking with these business leaders: what types of people do they send, where do they send them, and why do they send them.

The most effective way of persuading people to send you on an international assignment should be of no surprise to readers of this blog. It’s all about the business case. You need to understand how you can generate value for your employer, locally and overseas. These may not be consistent as there might be strategic conflict between subsidiaries or departments. Furthermore, the value perceived by a central HR function may also differ and yet you may need to gain their support as well. In most cases HR will be able to give you clarity on the potential cost to the organisation of an international assignment and, of course, you can use this to demonstrate that the value you create will materially exceed this. Ultimately you need to be clear about the net benefits that will be generated for all parties.

In summary:

  1. Find out the written rules of engagement
  2. Find out what happens in practice
  3. Find out the reasons behind most assignments
  4. Find out who the decision-makers and key influencers are
  5. Find out who controls the budget and what those budgets are
  6. Create a business plan to demonstrate how you will deliver to meet the specific expectations of your organisation, remembering that this may have different components and stakeholders
  7. Engage all the key decision-makers to persuade them to support you.

This blog is part of a series on the importance of international assignments in the finance and banking industries. View all blogs in the series 

About the author:

Phil Renshaw is an expert in the value of international assignments, and is pursuing research in this area within financial services for a PhD at Cranfield University and as a Henry Grunfeld Research Fellow. He also leads the Leadership in Banking module in our MSc in Banking Management and Practice. You can contact him directly at phil.renshaw@edu.libf.ac.uk