Written by
Tom Wilkinson

Published
28 Sep 2016

Dont underestimate the power of family

28 Sep 2016 • by Tom Wilkinson

Ambition, competiveness, passion are common words associated with successful individuals but in reality there are several contributing factors which make employees tick. Working in HR, it’s about harnessing these drivers and using them to deliver business advantage. No business will thrive without a committed workforce and understanding how to engage and inspire employees does set market leaders apart from their peers.

Part of developing successful employees is about providing them with a support network. Be this you, their manager, a life coach or a colleague, having someone to discuss challenges and concerns can help manage the stresses and strains of work.

This support network extends to their home lives too, with employees increasingly opting for jobs that either match their values (such as ethical, innovative companies etc) or their desire for a work-life balance. Employees are becoming more selective about the companies they work for and businesses need to take note as they don’t want to be losing out in the war on talent.

We are family

Family is a significant motivator and consideration for employees and can sometimes underestimate how the stresses and strains of work can impact relationships – and the consequent backlash against this. The Office for National Statistics reported that working long hours and lack of work/life balance was the second biggest strain on relationships and, in the long run, employers don’t want to be making employees choose between their personal or professional lives.

Working with employees internationally, we know for example that one of the biggest reasons expatriate assignments fail is that the family fails to settle abroad. Therefore, when we work with relocating employees – whether it’s in the UK or abroad – we know that it’s not just the employed individual that needs to be engaged and supported, it’s family too.

In research we conducted, the family issue was once again highlighted. We found that, while a third (32%) of expats reckon their career has progressed more quickly because they live overseas, almost half relocated to find a better work/life balance. In addition, when we asked those thinking of moving abroad, missing families were cited as a potential barrier. Half of people planning to move abroad cited missing family as the top thing they would miss.

Helping employees and their family members to acclimatise can be difficult. Our research also highlighted that a fifth of expatriates found it difficult to settle, build a social life or get to grips with local laws. As such, employers should try to facilitate an easy process where the employee and their family feel well informed and prepared before they go. It’s crucial for employers to look at this wider picture and consider the whole family. There may be expat communities they could join which will help them understand that others are going through the same thing, thus easing their move for the better. Offering employees guidance with anything from housing to schooling can go a long way to helping employees settle quicker. Removing practical stresses and worries, where possible, will make the transition easier and help them feel secure in their new location.

Dont forget to communicate

Support from HR can come in the form of a remuneration package but it can also be as simple as regular communication. Staying in touch with employees who have moved for work is essential to making sure they feel supported – and still have a strong connection to the business unit they have left. This is especially the case at the beginning and at the end of assignments. When employees first move they may need regular support and updates to enable a smooth workplace transition. They will be learning an enormous amount and may feel a little overwhelmed. Ensuring that they have someone on the other end of the phone to discuss any issues can help ease this process.

Likewise, when an employee has finished an assignment and is due to return home, they may need support and communication with the transition back. Things may have changed since they’ve left – from the organisational design to business strategy, which could make an employee’s return difficult. Regular communication and managing of expectations is crucial to enabling employees to settle back into their life back at home – a move they may or may not wish to make depending on how much they’ve enjoyed their life and role abroad.

The working world is changing, with UK employees the least loyal in Europe.6 Therefore, we’re taking the approach of embracing every aspect of the employee – both personal and professional. Taking the time to support all members may take longer, but the outcome will more likely bring success and engage all members of the family – increasing the likelihood of loyalty and increased productivity.