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Global Relocation and the ROI of Intercultural Savvy

We’ve seen some dramatic changes in global mobility in the last 25 years. Being an expatriate a quarter of a century ago was, for many, a dream job. Expatriates were travelling to countries that most of us wouldn’t ever get to visit, and they were generously rewarded for their efforts, both in financial and career development terms. Fast forward to today; the modern international assignee relocates in quite a different landscape, potentially facing a new set of social, economic, and political challenges. 

‘Additional Services’ They Are Not
When considering these potential challenges, it is unsurprising that between 10% and 30% of international assignments fail, with moves to India and China having the potential to produce failure rates that are double that of other countries. A lack of cultural adaptation is often given as the reason for many failed moves. 

While most organizations understand the importance of cross-cultural and language training as a way to increase assignment success, Cartus’ 2012 Trends in Global Relocation Survey found that 71% cited cross-cultural training as necessary to promote assignment success. In the current economic climate, however, these so-called ‘additional services’ can sometimes be the first to be removed from relocation programs, often due to the inability to measure their return on investment (ROI). 

Achieving Return on Investment
A major obstacle in achieving ROI from cross-cultural and language training is the perception that all returns should be financial. Training can be difficult to measure with this approach, as it assumes the only way to measure success is to count early terminations. Even if an assignee did not return home early, there is still the possibility of reduced or stunted productivity whilst on assignment. 

A Simple Formula
I recently wrote a Mobility Insights entitled Cross-Cultural and Language Training: Measuring Return on Investment, which discusses ROI from cross-cultural and language training. The paper highlights that ROI needs to be — and more importantly, can be — measured using a simple formula that quantifies the value of investment in cross-cultural and language training, with the overall cost of that investment. Simply put, the greater the value and the lower the cost, the greater the ROI — thus establishing a clearer relationship between levels of adjustment and overall assignee performance.

To read my paper on measuring return on investment from assignees receiving cross-cultural and language training as well as other Cartus Mobility Insights, please visit our Research and Trends resource page.


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Jenny Castelino
Posted by
Jenny Castelino
June 24, 2013

Jenny Castelino

Jenny is director of Consulting, Intercultural and Languages Solutions for the APAC region. She has been with Cartus for nine years. Jenny has been honored by Worldwide ERC for editorial achievement.


  1. Dan Bolger
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    This helps shine a light on the importance of cultural factors in weighing an assignee’s success. Qualitative aspects of work and finesse in a foreign environment are typically given short-shrift, but this posting touts its importance. Bravo.

  2. Molly Obyrne
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Dan!

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