Last week, I had the privilege of working with, what we in the Education World consider to be, the three key stakeholders in a child’s education. I have presented to, collaborated with and advised staff, parents and students who live and work amongst our domestically and globally mobile population. As I listened to life stories of those who move from city to city and country to country, a theme was repeated over and over again and it reaffirmed my strong belief that for those who live this mobile life, there is a fourth and very powerful key stakeholder in a child’s education – The Company.
One family had moved overseas on a three-year contract. They were determined to return to their home country in time for their oldest child to enter Secondary School. As the three year mark looms large, The Company wants to extend the contract thus forcing the family to look at all the options on the table – career advancement and experience, lifestyle, children’s education, economic benefit and the list goes on. The plans that were set in concrete have now been turned upside down as the parents prepare to send their child to Boarding School whilst the child prepares to leave the family; something that was not even a thought just one year ago.
Another family has just received word from The Company that they are on the move again – move number 7. They had plans to send their child back to their “passport” country for the final years of schooling but have had to suddenly bring that forward as they didn’t feel that another move into yet another school system would be beneficial for their child. Whilst that family prepares to move to another country, their child is coming to terms with the idea that he is leaving the family, his friends and the place he has grown to call ‘home’ sooner than anticipated.
A third family is dissatisfied with the educational options available for their children in their host country. The Company wants their Employee to remain in the host country so the family are in the throws of deciding whether the Mum and children return to their home country to avail themselves of world class education and Dad visit when he can or remain together in the host country with schooling that does not meet the educational needs of their children.
These are just some examples of so many that highlight the powerful role The Company plays in determining where and when a child goes to school and the type of education they experience. Ensuring each child is engaged in learning that meets their needs is a dominant concern for globally mobile families and very closely linked to the success or failure of an overseas assignment. Research by Mercer in 2011* highlighted the key factors in international assignment failure as not adjusting to the host country and spouse/family unhappiness. Family unhappiness can result when members are not thriving in their new environment, whether that be in the new host country all together or scattered in numerous parts of the world.
As such, I feel that The Company has a big responsibility to support all members of the Employee’s family as they transition from location to location. For an Employee to be able to fulfill his or her role within The Company, he or she must know that the members of their family are working through the challenges of change positively in the new environment, wherever that may be. They will also be more effective if they know their child’s education is not compromised for the sake of their job. The Company needs to provide comprehensive transition programs for all family members before, during and after a move whilst also factoring in the challenges associated with such transitions.
Does your Company provide adequate support for you and your family members during your transitions and life, interstate or abroad?
Do they provide adequate support for you and your family when you repatriate?
Are they engaged in dialogue with you about your children’s education and the priorities you have for them?
Are they working with you to help provide the educational outcomes you desire for your child?
If you are in HR, these questions above are the ones that you need to consider for your Employees. In order to bring out the best in them, HR has a responsibility to come alongside Employees and their family members to place each one in a position to succeed in learning, in work and in life.
If you, as an Employee or Employee’s family member, answered “no” to any of these questions, it may be time for a meeting with HR. As Professor Andy Molinsky says, “companies don’t go global, people do”** and it’s people, just like you, who make Companies successful. Place you, your family and The Company in a position to succeed by demanding the development of a comprehensive transitions program thus establishing a true partnership.
If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, I’d love to hear from you.
*Mercer LLC (2011) Confronting and Mastering the Challenges of Global Mobility
**Molinsky, Andy (2015) in Harvard Business Review
Image Credits: Tri-County Alliance of Realtors