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International assignments: How to ensure overseas assignments deliver value

12 April, 2017Phil Renshaw

So let’s assume you have persuaded your employer to send you on an international assignment. Congratulations! Of course some of you may be reading this already from an overseas location. What do you do now?

It’s very easy whilst on such an assignment to focus just on yourself or on the job you are now responsible for. And to some degree that is fine. However, you want to make sure that at the end of the assignment not only have you had a great time and learned a lot, but you need to make sure your employer thinks you've delivered for them too.

Office MeetingThe answer to this should be straightforward and not especially surprising if you’ve read my previous blogs on this topic. Find the business case, separate out the goals, identify how each of these goals will be measured and hence follow up to prove your success. Set up regular meetings with all stakeholders who have an interest in these goals in order to demonstrate progress, confirm success and add more goals and more value where possible.

It really is that simple. Of course this means you have to make sure that the goals you are seeking to achieve remain relevant. For example, if the global head of a department has sponsored your assignment with clearly identified goals, and she then moves on to a new role, you need to make sure that the new head has the same interests. If not, it could be futile if you were to pursue the original goals only to find out they are no longer important.

Most organisations value employees with strong and effective internal networks. This is seen as helping leaders overcome unexpected hurdles in future projects because you can reach out to friends and colleagues for advice and support. This is a classic win-win because building such strong effective networks will help you with choices for your future career and demonstrate value to the sponsors of your international assignment.

Finally, you may be in an organisation where any business case evaluation for international assignments is high-level, non-existent or once produced, ignored. If this is the case, you are strongly recommended to create a normal business plan yourself. You can then use this as described above to check and validate your understanding with key stakeholders and from there to deliver value to the organisation. In such a situation you can be confident you should stand out from the average international assignee who has not thought to do this.

In summary:

  1. Find or create the original business case justifying your assignment
  2. Deconstruct this to show specific goals and outcomes for all parties who are affected
  3. Add goals as appropriate, both initially and ongoing
  4. Ensure that the plan includes a goal to build your internal network
  5. Provide a clear timeline for each of these goals
  6. Identify how success will be measured for each of these goals
  7. Regularly share your progress with all stakeholders 

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