International Organizations

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Students compare the basic structure of several different international organizations before categorizing their work. Students also examine the local and global impact of international organizations.

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Frequently Asked Questions

International Organization Contact Information

  • Application & Selection Process

Application and Selection Process

How do i apply for a position with an international organization (io).

Individuals should apply directly to the international organization of interest. Please visit the employment/career webpages of international organizations to view a listing of available job openings. Once you identify a position, or positions, for which you are interested and qualified, please proceed with completing the required application materials. For most organizations you will need to create an online account and complete an extensive application profile. Please be sure to complete this profile thoroughly as, for many organizations, you may not be able to submit a resume or CV in lieu of a profile. It is also recommended that you include a cover letter or statement of interest - this may be incorporated into the profile itself or you may be asked to upload a separate document. While your completed profile may be used to apply for multiple positions with an organization, you are encouraged to tailor your application to the individual vacancy for which you are applying.

What qualifications should an applicant possess?

The individual vacancy announcement should list out all required and desired qualifications. Typically, competitive applicants should possess an advanced degree in a relevant field; a significant number of years of specialized work experience; in addition to English, usually a strong working knowledge of a second UN language (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish); international experience, or experience in a multi-cultural setting

Can you provide information about the application and selection process?

Many international organizations, including the UN, provide extensive information about the application and selection process including advice about completing your application profile, interview tips, information about the various stages in the selection process, and more. Please visit the employment/career webpages of the international organizations of interest for more specific details about their procedures. Additionally, please review the Application & Selection Process section of this website which can be found under the tab titled FAQs & Resources.

Federal Employee Details and Transfers to International Organizations (IO)

What are the procedures to follow for u.s. department of state foreign service officers (fsos) interested in an international organization assignment.

Apply directly to the international organization that you are interested in and once you have a written offer that you have been selected for that position contact Mary Ann Thomas in HR/CDA/SL/CDT to finalize your reassignment. FSOs must curtail their onward or current assignment and obtain approval for reemployment rights back to the Department. Ultimately, the Bureau that you would have been assigned to will be the action Bureau facilitating the necessary paperwork.

What is the difference between a Detail and a Transfer?

“Second” can refer to either a detail or transfer. A federal employee on transfer to an international organization becomes an employee of, and is paid by, that organization. An employee on detail is "assigned" or "loaned" to an international organization and continues to be accounted for and paid by the home agency. Please visit the federal employees and agencies pages for more detailed information.

How long can I be detailed or transferred to an IO?

A federal agency can transfer or detail an employee to an international organization for up to five years without approval of the U.S. Department of State. In order to obtain an extension of up to three years, the IO needs to write a letter to your home agency requesting the extension citing justification. Your home agency will then request approval for an extension from the U.S. Department of State. Please contact us for more information on extensions.

What are the changes to the regulations published October 31, 2008 pertaining to transfers and details of individuals to international organizations (IO)?

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) changed the regulations to eliminate the "equalization allowance" paid to employees who transfer to an international organization upon return to the employing agency. In the past the equalization allowance guaranteed that the amount of payments for an employee who transferred to an IO were no less than the amount the employee would have received had the employee been detailed to the IO. For example: if the cumulative pay, allowances, or other monetary benefits paid by the IO to the transferred employee were less than what the agency would have paid to an employee on detail, the employing agency was required by law to make up the difference of those payments. Congress eliminated payment of this allowance in Section 2504 of Public Law 105-277. The updated regulation also clarified the Department of State as being the agency responsible for designating an organization as an IO for the purposes of 5 CFR 352 subpart C. Agencies with questions regarding the designation of such organizations should contact us .

Why did OPM make these changes to the regulations?

OPM made these changes to be consistent with Section 2504 of Public Law 105-277 in which Congress repealed the equalization allowance upon an employee's return to Federal service after transferring from an international organization. In the past OPM has acted as a middleman for exchanging information between the agencies and the Department of State on designation of international organizations. With this new regulation, agencies with questions regarding the designation of organizations should contact the Department of State's Bureau of International Organizations.

Are individuals serving on temporary appointments eligible for transfers to international organizations?

No, per 5 CFR 353.307, employees serving on temporary appointments are not eligible for transfer to an international organization.

Are individuals serving on term appointments eligible for transfers or details to international organizations?

Yes, agencies may transfer or detail an employee serving on a term appointment to an international organization in accordance with the provisions of 5 CFR 352 subpart C. Upon return, employees serving on term appointments that are transferred or detailed to an IO serve out the unexpired portion of their term appointment. If the appointment expires while the individual is on transfer or detail, the individual has no reemployment right back to the agency they left prior to assignment.

How do agencies determine the pay of an employee transferred or detailed to an international organization if the agency is under a pay for performance system where pay is linked directly to performance?

Federal agencies are required by regulation to set pay for returning employees according to the system the agency has in place. In the case of a transfer employee's reemployment from an international organization, payment of salary begins upon reemployment and only the basic pay is set according to 5 U.S.C. §3582 and §3583. Employees who are reemployed after transfer from an international organization should have their salaries set under the same agency policy and procedures in place according to 5 CFR 531 subparts B and D. Detailed employees remain as employees of the agency for all intents and purposes and should be treated as such.

How does an agency make pay actions effective, "as if the employee was not absent" as stated in 5 CFR, section 352.314?

Upon reemployment from an international organization, the effective dates for pay actions are retroactive, but not the pay. For example: an employee is transferred to an international organization on March 2, 2008; is due a with-in-grade increase in May 2008, and the agency reemploys the employee on September 1, 2008. The agency would effect the within grade increase in May 2008 and the employee would be reemployed at the higher step upon return. Because employees who transfer are no longer employees of the agency, agencies should refer to OPM's Guide to Processing Personnel Actions for information on processing various pay changes that occur while an employee is transferred to an international organization. Employees are not entitled to back pay while absent during transfer to an international organization.

How does an agency evaluate an employee detailed or transferred to an international organization if the organization has an evaluation system that is not performance based?

Agencies must evaluate employee performance in accordance with policies and procedures established pursuant to applicable laws and regulations. For agencies subject to title 5, they must comply with the requirements found in 5 CFR Part 430. These provisions require agencies to establish procedures in their performance appraisal programs for evaluating performance when they transfer or detail individuals to another position. This includes assignments to IOs, which may not have performance-based evaluation systems. In these situations, agencies must determine whether they will be able to obtain performance input from the gaining organization so the supervisor of record can do the performance appraisal. If not, the employee would be unrateable for the applicable appraisal period.

How does an agency determine the effective dates for career ladder promotions for employees transferred or detailed to international organizations?

Employing agencies are required by regulation to set pay for returning employees according to the system the agency has in place. As mentioned above effective dates are retroactive, and it is at the discretion of the agency whether a returning transferred employee in a career ladder position is promoted immediately upon return. If the employee's performance has not been evaluated prior to transfer to an international organization, the agency head has the discretion to determine the effective date of promotion. Agencies should follow their established merit promotion plan or union agreement, as applicable when promoting all employees.

While an employee is detailed or transferred to an international organization and his or her position is upgraded, how does the agency effect this change?

The agency must place the employee in the upgraded position effective the date the position is upgraded (i.e., the agency would process this action in the same manner as if the employee were present). This action does not require the employee to return to the agency before being promoted. Agencies with pay-for-performance systems must comply with applicable guidance pertaining to their pay/compensation system.

While an employee is detailed or transferred to an international organization and his or her position is downgraded, how does the agency effect this change?

The employee is downgraded in the position without a loss of entitlements effective upon return to the downgraded position or one similar to the position the employee left.

What does the phrase "all appropriate civil service employment purposes" mean as used in 5 CFR 352.311 (d)?

The phrase "all appropriate civil service employment purposes" applies to such factors or considerations as: time in grade, tenure, service computation dates, etc.

How do these rules apply to Foreign Service employees?

Foreign Service officers (FSO) and Foreign Service information officers (FSIO), including Presidential appointees to these positions (see 5 CFR 352.307), are eligible for detail or transfer to an international organization. However, because these positions are covered by Title 22, United States Code, OPM strongly encourages agencies to review all applicable Title 22 U.S.C. provisions to ensure assignments of FSOs and FSIOs are made in accordance with these provisions.

How are employees detailed to an international organization handled in the event of a reduction in force (RIF)?

Detailed employees remain employees of the employing organization and compete in a RIF as if they were not on detail.

How are employees transferred to an international organization handled in the event of a reduction in force (RIF)?

An employee who transfers to an international organization under this authority no longer holds an official position of record in the agency and is not a competing employee in the event of a RIF. A transferred employee is entitled to be reemployed in his/her former position or in a position similar to the one the employee left, with the same status and pay. If the agency is unable to reemploy the transferred employee because no position is available, the agency must reemploy the employee for the purpose of providing reemployment rights. In the event of a concurrent RIF notice, before separation, the agency must provide the employee with information on how to appeal the agency's decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Are international organizations (IO) required to reimburse Federal agencies for employees on details?

Details may be made with or without reimbursement to the employing agency by the IO or with agreement by the IO to reimburse all or part of pay, travel expenses, or other allowances. Agencies may credit reimbursements to the appropriations fund or account from which the payments were made.

Are agencies required to reimburse employees detailed or transferred to an international organization (IO) for any expenses the employee incurs as a result of the assignment?

Agencies are not required to reimburse employee expenses resulting from a detail or transfer to an IO. However, IOs may pay or reimburse detailed employees without regard to 18 U.S.C., Sec. 209, (Salary of government officials and employees payable only by United States), for expenses incurred while performing duties required by the detail. If the reimbursement from the IO is less than what the employee would receive, under agency internal policies, the agency may reimburse the employee for the difference. Employees may not accept reimbursement from both organizations for the same expense.

Can Federal agencies charge leave for employees to interview at the international organization?

Agencies may excuse employees without charge to annual leave to interview for a proposed detail or transfer. Official travel within the US may also be approved for this purpose.

Website / Technical

How do i register for a new account.

From the homepage, please go to the "Sign In" link near the top right corner. You will then be taken to a Sign In page where you'll find a link to "Register for a new account". Please click on the link and proceed following the instructions provided.

What happened to the individual vacancy listings?

The International Organization Careers (IOCareers) website will be undergoing changes to its functionality in the coming months. Due to these changes, individual job vacancies and the weekly Job Alert emails will no longer be available. In lieu of individual job vacancies, we have provided links to the employment/careers webpages for 60+ international organizations. We encourage you to utilize these links to learn more about the vast array of employment opportunities available at these many organizations.

Why am I not receiving weekly job alert emails?

How often will i receive job alerts.

Job alert emails go out every Wednesday. However, jobs are added to the website daily so we encourage you to visit the website and check for new jobs frequently.

What are the password requirements to set up an account?

Your password must be between 8 and 20 characters, have at least 1 digit, at least 2 upper case characters, one (1) lower case character, and at least 1 of the following special characters ! @ # $ % * ( ) _ + ^ &.

How do I unsubscribe from receiving emails?

There are two ways you may unsubscribe. You may log into your account, go to the Account Management section, and go to Delete Account. You may also unsubscribe by going to a job alert email you received, and following the Unsubscribe instructions at the end of the email. Please note that IOCareers no longer sends out weekly job alert emails, but you may unsubscribe by going to an old job alert email you received.

What do I do if I forget my password?

From the homepage, please visit the "Sign In' link near the top right corner. You may then click on the "I forgot my password link".

Other Questions

Why is the u.s. department of state interested in promoting employment in international organizations (ios).

The U.S. Department of State encourages qualified American citizens to apply for professional and senior positions with the United Nations and other international organizations. As the largest financial contributor to most of these organizations, the U.S. Government has a major interest in the composition of their staffs. The ability of UN agencies and other international organizations to carry out their programs effectively depends on the quality of their employees.

Where are most of these international organizations located?

The majority of international organizations are headquartered in the following cities: New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Rome, and Vienna. However, you may also find organizations headquartered in Washington DC, Montreal, Brussels, and other locations, along with field offices in locations throughout the world.

What fields are positions available in?

Positions in the UN and other international organizations are available in a variety of professional fields, such as administration/business, agriculture, economics, engineering, environment, finance, humanitarian affairs, law, procurement, public health, and many more.

How exactly does International Organization Careers assist U.S. citizens seeking IO positions?

The U.S. Department of State provides information and assistance to U.S. citizens who are interested in professional positions in the UN and other international organizations. Our primary tool to disseminate information on international organization jobs is our website, IOCareers, at We do not participate in the initial screening process and become involved only if an applicant is shortlisted and notified that s/he is a finalist for a position.

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Foreign Policy

Treaty of versailles quiz, 9th -  12th  , the united nations, rise of hitler quiz, 7th -  8th  .


International Organizations 2023

7th - 8th grade.

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19 questions

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In 1949, the United States and eleven other countries agreed to form which military alliance?



to ally in common defense against Soviet Union menaces

to prevent the spread of infectious disease

to share the costs of developing new technology

to provide nuclear weapons to member nations

  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 30 seconds 1 pt What has been a major success of the European Union (EU) in recent years? the creation of a single military force the rejection of national sovereignty the adoption of a single language the elimination of trade barriers

the threat of external military forces

advantages of economic integration, unique money

need to protect human rights

popular demand for unified social institutions

  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 30 seconds 1 pt What is the purpose of International Organizations? to keep the world a safe and stable place to live to ensure that countries remain isolated from one another to only ensure that countries do not go to war with one another to only ensure that people are healthy 
  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 30 seconds 1 pt When was the U.N. created? After WWI After WWII During the Great Depression During WWII
  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 30 seconds 1 pt What is the primary purpose of the U.N.? keep peace in the world foster global growth and economic stability help reduce poverty regulating trade and tariffs/ to sort out trade problems 
  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 30 seconds 1 pt What is the primary purpose of the World Trade Organization? keep peace in the world foster global growth and economic stability help reduce poverty regulating trade/ to sort out trade problems 

The American Red Cross provides _____________ to people hurt by war or natural disasters.

food, medicine and supplies

books and games

crayons and coloring books

pens and paper for letter writting

What are the 4 main purposes of the United Nations? Select the most complete one!

keep peace, develop relations, improve the life of the world's poor, centre for discord

keep peace, develop relations, improve the life of the world's rich, centre for harmony

keep peace, develop relations, improve the life of the world's poor, center for harmony

keep peace, wage war, improve the life of the world's poor, centre for harmony

  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 30 seconds 1 pt The primary function of the United Nations when it was conceived was ____. nuclear disarmament fellowshipping peacekeeping special elections
  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 30 seconds 1 pt When was the United Nations established? 1945 1952 2000 2010
  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 30 seconds 1 pt How many states are are members of the United Nations? 193 293 199 993
  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 10 seconds 1 pt WHAT DOES THE OLIVE BRANCHES SIGNIFY? PEACE ANGER SADNESS HEATING
  • Multiple Choice Edit Please save your changes before editing any questions. 10 seconds 1 pt What is the aim of WHO? To defeat hunger To fight diseases Improving condition of working people Improving education of children

Rights are essential and basic principles that people have...

if they have white skin.

just for being European or American.

if they have a lot of money.

just for being born.

Which are Non Governmental Organizations

Organizations similar to the UN

Organizations across the border for individual people

International organizations that deal with hunger

The Red Cross and the NATO

Which was the first purpose of the International red Cross?

Fight hunger in poor countries

Provide clean drinking water during catastrophes

Help wounded people from wars

Help people farming in poor countries

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  • 6.5 Cross-Cultural Assignments
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 What Do Managers Do?
  • 1.2 The Roles Managers Play
  • 1.3 Major Characteristics of the Manager's Job
  • Summary of Learning Outcomes
  • Chapter Review Questions
  • Management Skills Application Exercises
  • Managerial Decision Exercises
  • Critical Thinking Case
  • 2.1 Overview of Managerial Decision-Making
  • 2.2 How the Brain Processes Information to Make Decisions: Reflective and Reactive Systems
  • 2.3 Programmed and Nonprogrammed Decisions
  • 2.4 Barriers to Effective Decision-Making
  • 2.5 Improving the Quality of Decision-Making
  • 2.6 Group Decision-Making
  • 3.1 The Early Origins of Management
  • 3.2 The Italian Renaissance
  • 3.3 The Industrial Revolution
  • 3.4 Taylor-Made Management
  • 3.5 Administrative and Bureaucratic Management
  • 3.6 Human Relations Movement
  • 3.7 Contingency and System Management
  • 4.1 The Organization's External Environment
  • 4.2 External Environments and Industries
  • 4.3 Organizational Designs and Structures
  • 4.4 The Internal Organization and External Environments
  • 4.5 Corporate Cultures
  • 4.6 Organizing for Change in the 21st Century
  • 5.1 Ethics and Business Ethics Defined
  • 5.2 Dimensions of Ethics: The Individual Level
  • 5.3 Ethical Principles and Responsible Decision-Making
  • 5.4 Leadership: Ethics at the Organizational Level
  • 5.5 Ethics, Corporate Culture, and Compliance
  • 5.6 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • 5.7 Ethics around the Globe
  • 5.8 Emerging Trends in Ethics, CSR, and Compliance
  • 6.1 Importance of International Management
  • 6.2 Hofstede's Cultural Framework
  • 6.3 The GLOBE Framework
  • 6.4 Cultural Stereotyping and Social Institutions
  • 6.6 Strategies for Expanding Globally
  • 6.7 The Necessity of Global Markets
  • 7.1 Entrepreneurship
  • 7.2 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs
  • 7.3 Small Business
  • 7.4 Start Your Own Business
  • 7.5 Managing a Small Business
  • 7.6 The Large Impact of Small Business
  • 7.7 The Small Business Administration
  • 7.8 Trends in Entrepreneurship and Small-Business Ownership
  • 8.1 Gaining Advantages by Understanding the Competitive Environment
  • 8.2 Using SWOT for Strategic Analysis
  • 8.3 A Firm's External Macro Environment: PESTEL
  • 8.4 A Firm's Micro Environment: Porter's Five Forces
  • 8.5 The Internal Environment
  • 8.6 Competition, Strategy, and Competitive Advantage
  • 8.7 Strategic Positioning
  • 9.1 Strategic Management
  • 9.2 Firm Vision and Mission
  • 9.3 The Role of Strategic Analysis in Formulating a Strategy
  • 9.4 Strategic Objectives and Levels of Strategy
  • 9.5 Planning Firm Actions to Implement Strategies
  • 9.6 Measuring and Evaluating Strategic Performance
  • 10.1 Organizational Structures and Design
  • 10.2 Organizational Change
  • 10.3 Managing Change
  • 11.1 An Introduction to Human Resource Management
  • 11.2 Human Resource Management and Compliance
  • 11.3 Performance Management
  • 11.4 Influencing Employee Performance and Motivation
  • 11.5 Building an Organization for the Future
  • 11.6 Talent Development and Succession Planning
  • 12.1 An Introduction to Workplace Diversity
  • 12.2 Diversity and the Workforce
  • 12.3 Diversity and Its Impact on Companies
  • 12.4 Challenges of Diversity
  • 12.5 Key Diversity Theories
  • 12.6 Benefits and Challenges of Workplace Diversity
  • 12.7 Recommendations for Managing Diversity
  • 13.1 The Nature of Leadership
  • 13.2 The Leadership Process
  • 13.3 Leader Emergence
  • 13.4 The Trait Approach to Leadership
  • 13.5 Behavioral Approaches to Leadership
  • 13.6 Situational (Contingency) Approaches to Leadership
  • 13.7 Substitutes for and Neutralizers of Leadership
  • 13.8 Transformational, Visionary, and Charismatic Leadership
  • 13.9 Leadership Needs in the 21st Century
  • 14.1 Motivation: Direction and Intensity
  • 14.2 Content Theories of Motivation
  • 14.3 Process Theories of Motivation
  • 14.4 Recent Research on Motivation Theories
  • 15.1 Teamwork in the Workplace
  • 15.2 Team Development Over Time
  • 15.3 Things to Consider When Managing Teams
  • 15.4 Opportunities and Challenges to Team Building
  • 15.5 Team Diversity
  • 15.6 Multicultural Teams
  • 16.1 The Process of Managerial Communication
  • 16.2 Types of Communications in Organizations
  • 16.3 Factors Affecting Communications and the Roles of Managers
  • 16.4 Managerial Communication and Corporate Reputation
  • 16.5 The Major Channels of Management Communication Are Talking, Listening, Reading, and Writing
  • 17.1 Is Planning Important
  • 17.2 The Planning Process
  • 17.3 Types of Plans
  • 17.4 Goals or Outcome Statements
  • 17.5 Formal Organizational Planning in Practice
  • 17.6 Employees' Responses to Planning
  • 17.7 Management by Objectives: A Planning and Control Technique
  • 17.8 The Control- and Involvement-Oriented Approaches to Planning and Controlling
  • 18.1 MTI—Its Importance Now and In the Future
  • 18.2 Developing Technology and Innovation
  • 18.3 External Sources of Technology and Innovation
  • 18.4 Internal Sources of Technology and Innovation
  • 18.5 Management Entrepreneurship Skills for Technology and Innovation
  • 18.6 Skills Needed for MTI
  • 18.7 Managing Now for Future Technology and Innovation
  • What steps can you take to be better prepared for cross-cultural assignments?

At some point in your career, you are very likely to be asked to be involved in cross-cultural operations. You may encounter employees from other countries in the local company you work for, or your company may send you to another country to run international operations. When these situations arise, you will need to be prepared to manage cultural differences. In this section, we discuss some of the things companies and individuals can do to better prepare for cross-national differences.

One of the goals of any cross-cultural training is to increase an employee’s cultural intelligence. Cultural intelligence refers to “individuals’ capabilities to function and manage effectively in culturally diverse settings.” 21 The culturally intelligent manager is someone who can operate without difficulty in cross-national settings. Recent research suggests that cultural intelligence is made up of four dimensions:

  • a cognitive dimension , focusing on the individual’s knowledge of values and practices inherent in the new culture acquired through education and personal experiences
  • a meta-cognitive dimension , which reflects an individual’s ability to use cross-cultural knowledge to understand and adapt to the cultural environment they are exposed to
  • a motivational dimension , which reflects the ability and desire to continuously learn new aspects of cultures and adapt to them
  • a behavioral dimension , based on the ability of the individual to exhibit the appropriate forms of verbal and nonverbal behaviors when interacting with people from another culture

To give you more insights into the cultural intelligence measure, Table 6.9 provides some representative statements used to gauge a person’s understanding of these four dimensions of cultural intelligence various aspects of cross-cultural interactions.

Cross-Cultural Training through Education and Personal Experience: Low and High Rigor

Current research suggests that cross-cultural training can influence cultural intelligence. At a basic level, you can acquire cultural intelligence by taking classes in your program. Research has shown that taking cross-cultural management courses can enhance cultural intelligence. 22 For example, in a study of 152 MBA students, researchers found that cultural intelligence of the students increased after they took a cross-cultural management course. In another longitudinal study, researchers found that study abroad has significant impact on the cognitive and metacognitive aspects of cultural intelligence. How do multinationals approach cross-cultural training? The above provides examples of low-rigor training , in which individuals are exposed to critical information to help them understand the realities of a different culture but are not actively and directly engaged with the culture. 23 In such cases, instructors transfer basic information and knowledge to students through lectures, books, and case studies.

Low-rigor training has several important disadvantages. Participants often just receive information; they learn that differences exist but do not necessarily learn how to deal with cultural differences in a real-life situation. Furthermore, cross-cultural differences can be very subtle and nuanced, and this method cannot expose participants to such nuances. Balancing these significant disadvantages is one key advantage: low-rigor training tends to be the most cost effective.

Companies can also rely on high-rigor methods of training, in which participants are actively engaged in the process and can learn some tacit aspects of cross-cultural differences. 24 Examples of high-rigor training include classroom language training, case studies, and sensitivity training. High-rigor training also includes more experiential approaches such as role-playing, simulations, and field experiences. Some MNCs (multi-national corporations) also offer on-the-job training, during which employees are coached and trained while working at their jobs. This method allows the trainee not only to see the new culture, but also to learn how that culture interacts with the work environment. The advantage of this method is that it enables the participant to be much more actively engaged in learning, thereby facilitating transfer of knowledge. But as you might have guessed, high-rigor training is much more expensive to provide.

Which method works best? Experts agree that it depends on the nature of the assignment. Longer and more complex international assignments benefit from higher-rigor training. 25 Furthermore, because international work assignments tend to be more short-term in nature, ways to enhance the metacognitive aspects of cultural intelligence are necessary. 26 Today, because more managers tend to have more frequent but shorter assignments to international companies, having metacognitive skills is critical. As a result, brief lectures or other low-rigor methods that simply provide information may be useful in helping develop the cognitive aspect but not metacognition. In such cases, high-rigor methods that allow participants to be much more actively engaged with a culture will work well.

When Should Cross-Cultural Training Occur?

Another important aspect of cross-cultural training is the timing of the training. Some multinationals offer predeparture cross-cultural training , which provides individuals with learning opportunities prior to their departure. 27 Such training can take the form of 1- to 12-week programs, although two- to three-day programs are also very popular. After such training, the expatriate has a good understanding of expectations, what the local culture looks and feels like, and how to manage any local shocks when they arrive. This approach also makes individuals about to go to another country less anxious about the unknown.

Multinationals will also often opt for postarrival cross-cultural training , which occurs after an expatriate has arrived in the foreign country and can address issues in “real time.” Armed with local cultural knowledge and training, the expatriate can delve into work issues without worrying about daily living issues.

Recent research provides evidence of the utility of cross-cultural training. For example, a recent study of 114 expatriates showed that both predeparture and postarrival training had positive effects on several aspects of their success. 28 Specifically, in a study in Vietnam, the findings show that both predeparture and postarrival training positively impacted the ability of expatriates to adjust to their work and general environment. Additionally, such training was also effective in enhancing the ability of expatriates to better interact with locals. The researchers also examined the impact of language training. Not surprisingly, expatriates who received training in the local language were better able to adjust to local interaction than others.

The above study shows that both predeparture and postarrival training are important for success in cross-cultural management. While the study shows that it is most effective for MNCs to provide more than one type of training, the findings also show that postarrival training has the most impact on the types of cross-cultural adjustment. While companies tend to shy away from the more expensive postarrival training, the study suggests that the investment may be worthwhile if it enables expatriates to succeed.

Best practices advise that the optimal time for predeparture training programs is around three to five weeks prior to the international assignment. Training provided too far ahead of time may not be very effective because the expatriate may not activate all learning readiness and may forget the training if it occurs too far ahead of the assignment. Best practices also suggest that postarrival training is best delivered 8 to 12 weeks after arrival. This allows the expatriate to experience cross-cultural interaction and phenomena and to be better ready to gain the most from the training.

Adapting Behavior to the Culture

A final issue that managers need to address is that the training should not focus only on identifying and teaching about differences. 29 Experts agree that this focus on differences is a problem in current cross-cultural training approaches. While identifying and understanding cultural differences is useful and necessary, trainers often don’t provide guidance as to how the participants should adapt and react to such cultural differences. It is therefore necessary for the multinational to take the necessary steps to teach cross-cultural sojourners to adapt their behaviors so that they act and react in culturally appropriate ways. Experts also suggest that such training should not be static and limited to web pages or documentation. Training should be integrated with the actual work that the employee is engaging in.

Concept Check

  • How should training to manage cultural and regional differences occur?
  • How should training for cross-cultural assignments be implemented?

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Module 16: Globalization and Business

Effective training for international assignments, learning outcomes.

  • Differentiate between documentary training, cultural simulations, and field simulation training.

Photo of a street in Hong Kong at night.

Living and working in an international community, such as Hong Kong, can be rewarding and challenging—if you are adaptable and prepared for what to expect.

Global companies often send managers from the home country office to work in foreign subsidiaries. Sometimes this is done for the development of the manager, so she can gain experience in the global operations of the company. It may also be so the company can exert more control over the subsidiary. When the assignment is for a long period, the manager’s family may also be sent. This represents a significant investment for the company, and it does not want to see the manager fail and return home early. The cost of a three-year assignment averages $1 million. [1] One way the company can help the manager succeed is to provide training before she leaves so she knows what to expect.

What constitutes an effective training program depends a lot on its “rigor,” or how thorough and challenging the program is. If the employee is going for a relatively short time, say less than a month, then a low-rigor program may suffice. If the employee and his family are moving for a year or more with the intent of living in the host country, then high-rigor training is required. With a brief assignment, adequate training may involve watching some videos on local culture, going to lectures, and attending briefings on company operations in the host (destination) country. For longer assignments, extensive experiential learning, interactions with host country nationals, and language training may be offered not just for the employee but for the whole family. Studies have shown that international assignments are more effective when the employee’s family is included and consulted in the relocation and training processes.

Documentary Training

Documentary training is textbook and classroom learning, which focuses on looking at differences between cultures and is a key part of both low-rigor and high-rigor training approaches. Differences are examined because they are potential friction points that create misunderstandings and hurt feelings. You have probably heard many examples of cultural differences involving common human interactions, such as greetings, gender relations, and the giving of gifts. For example, Asian business people defer to authority very differently from Westerners. They will not correct their managers nor will they make suggestions in public that would cause their managers embarrassment. Food in China is served hot, and to be offered cold food may be offensive or off-putting.

The perception of sickness and disease differs greatly in different cultures even among closely related ethnicities. A British worker would probably not take kindly to what you consider to be sympathetic inquiries about his latest illness and treatment. Americans, on the other hand, tend to “over share” and be more frank about personal health issues. Americans also tend to be casual about invitations and don’t like to pressure people on the spot. An expatriate in India may invite a coworker to a party he is having on the weekend and then follow up with “Come over if you want to.” To many cultures this is heard as “We don’t really care if you come or not.” There are many excellent sources of information on specific cultural traditions and norms of various countries, but multinational businesses often arrange for professional cross-cultural trainers to provide onsite lectures, videos, or workshops on cultural differences.

Cultural Simulation Training

After learning the cultural “do’s and don’ts” of a host country, many companies will ask their employees to participate in cultural simulations in which they will role play various situations and practice responding in culturally sensitive ways. This process is most effective when the training takes place in the host country or when the trainer can include people from the actual host country to help. The goal is to duplicate as closely as possible scenarios that the employees may face, such as having to question or to reprimand a local employee, making a presentation to host country upper-level managers, or how to approach a person of the opposite gender in countries where the sexes do not mix as freely as in the United States.

Field Simulation Training

When the company believes that the employees have successfully passed the “survival training” stage, it is time for field simulation training . The employee (and family) visits a neighborhood of the same ethnic background as the destination or, if the trainees are already in-country, then they move out to the “real world.” Depending upon the conditions, an individual may be dropped into a rural area with limited resources and told to get back to the office. Or a family may be moved into temporary housing so that they can meet their neighbors, shop for food, locate transportation, and just explore the area. When the simulation is over, the trainees come back to the center to compare notes and share experiences.

Benefits of Rigorous Training Programs

For extended assignments, a rigorous training program benefits both the employee and the employer. It prepares an employee (and family) for success by the following:

  • Providing practical assistance for relocation efforts. Some questions the employee might have about the new location include: How long will it take to get there? What kind of money will I be using? How far is the office from my home? Do I need a car? What medicines can I get and what must I bring with me? What should I bring in the way of technology, and will I have to pay duties on imported goods?
  • Giving the employee information that will allow her to make an informed decision about the assignment.
  • Providing emotional security about the change. A rigorous training program greatly reduces the chance that the employee will leave the assignment early because of a misunderstanding.
  • Increasing the cultural sensitivity of the employee. By training employees on cultural matters, the company lessens the likelihood that its reputation will suffer among the host country employees.

The disadvantage to the company involves the cost of the training and the out-of-office time of the employee to undergo the training, but this is a small price to pay considering the potential benefits.

Finally, companies preparing their employees for an expatriate experience should also offer readjustment counseling when the employee is due to return. Re-entering the home country can produce a reaction called reverse culture shock that describes the bewilderment and distress experienced by individuals suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment—in this case, their own.

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14.3 International HRM Considerations

Learning objectives.

  • Be able to explain how the selection process for an expatriate differs from a domestic process.
  • Explain possible expatriate training topics and the importance of each.
  • Identify the performance review and legal differences for international assignments.
  • Explain the logistical considerations for expatriate assignments.

In an international environment, as long as proper research is performed, most HRM concepts can be applied. The important thing to consider is proper research and understanding of cultural, economic, and legal differences between countries. This section will provide an overview of some specific considerations for an international business, keeping in mind that with awareness, any HRM concept can be applied to the international environment. In addition, it is important to mention again that host-country offices should be in constant communication with home-country offices to ensure policies and practices are aligned with the organization.

Recruitment and Selection

As we discussed in Section 14.2 “Staffing Internationally” , understanding which staffing strategy to use is the first aspect of hiring the right person for the overseas assignment. The ideal candidate for an overseas assignment normally has the following characteristics:

  • Managerial competence: technical skills, leadership skills, knowledge specific to the company operations.
  • Training: The candidate either has or is willing to be trained on the language and culture of the host country.
  • Adaptability: The ability to deal with new, uncomfortable, or unfamiliar situations and the ability to adjust to the culture in which the candidate will be assigned.

As we discussed earlier, when selecting an expatriate or a third-country national for the job, assuring that the candidate has the job factors, relational dimensions, motivational state, family situation, and language skills (or can learn) is a key consideration in hiring the right person. Some of the costs associated with failure of an expatriate or third-country national might include the following:

  • Damage to host-country relationships
  • Motivation of host-country staff
  • Costs associated with recruitment and relocation
  • Possible loss of that employee once he or she returns
  • Missed opportunities to further develop the market

Because success on an overseas assignment has such complex factors, the selection process for this individual should be different from the selection process when hiring domestically. The process should start with the job analysis, as we discussed in Chapter 4 “Recruitment” . The job analysis and job description should be different for the overseas assignment, since we know that certain competencies (besides technical ones) are important for success. Most of those competencies have little to do with the person’s ability to do the job but are related to his or her ability to do the job in a new cultural setting. These additional competencies (besides the skills needed for the job) may be considered:

  • Experience working internationally
  • Extroverted
  • Stress tolerance
  • Language skills
  • Cultural experiences

Once the key success factors are determined, many of which can be based on previous overseas assignments successes, we can begin to develop a pool of internal candidates who possess the additional competencies needed for a successful overseas assignment.

To develop the pool, career development questions on the performance review can be asked to determine the employee’s interest in an overseas assignment. Interest is an important factor; otherwise, the chance of success is low. If there is interest, this person can be recorded as a possible applicant. An easy way to keep track of interested people is to keep a spreadsheet of interested parties, skills, languages spoken, cultural experiences, abilities, and how the candidates meet the competencies you have already developed.

Once an overseas assignment is open, you can view the pool of interested parties and choose the ones to interview who meet the competencies required for the particular assignment.

Figure 14.3 Sample Selection Process for Overseas Assignments

Sample Selection Process for Overseas Assignments: determine overseas competencies required; recreate the job analysis and job description based on competencies; keep a pool of applicants interested in overseas assignments; as assignments become open, review pool and interview candidates

Much of the training may include cultural components, which were cited by 73 percent of successful expatriates as key ingredients to success (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2010).

Training isn’t always easy, though. The goal is not to help someone learn a language or cultural traditions but to ensure they are immersed in the sociocultural aspects of the new culture they are living in. Roger N. Blakeney (Blakeney, 2006), an international business researcher, identifies two main pathways to adapting to a new culture. First, people adjust quickly from the psychological perspective but not the social one. Blakeney argues that adjusting solely from the psychological perspective does not make an effective expatriate. Although it may take more time to adjust, he says that to be fully immersed and to fully understand and be productive in a culture, the expatriate must also have sociocultural adaption. In other words, someone who can adjust from a sociocultural perspective ends up performing better because he or she has a deeper level of understanding of the culture. Determining whether your candidate can gain this deeper level would figure in your selection process.

Figure 14.4 Blakeney’s Model of Psychological versus Sociocultural Adaption

Blakeney's Model of Psychological versus Sociocultural Adaption

Source: Roger Blakeney, “Psychological Adjustment and Sociocultural Adaptation: Coping on International Assignments” (paper, Annual Meeting of Academy of Management, Atlanta, GA, 2006).

One of the key decisions in any global organization is whether training should be performed in-house or an outside company should be hired to provide the training. For example, Communicaid offers online and on-site training on a variety of topics listed. Whether in-house or external training is performed, there are five main components of training someone for an overseas assignment:

  • Goal setting
  • Managing family and stress
  • Repatriation

Training on languages is a basic yet necessary factor to the success of the assignment. Although to many, English is the international business language, we shouldn’t discount the ability to speak the language of the country in which one is living. Consider Japan’s largest online retailer, Rakuten, Inc. It mandated that English will be the standard language by March 2012 (Thregold, 2010). Other employers, such as Nissan and Sony, have made similar mandates or have already implemented an English-only policy. Despite this, a large percentage of your employee’s time will be spent outside work, where mastery of the language is important to enjoy living in another country. In addition, being able to discuss and negotiate in the mother tongue of the country can give your employee greater advantages when working on an overseas assignment. Part of language, as we discussed in Chapter 9, isn’t only about what you say but also includes all the nonverbal aspects of language. Consider the following examples:

  • In the United States, we place our palm upward and use one finger to call someone over. In Malaysia, this is only used for calling animals. In much of Europe, calling someone over is done with palm down, making a scratching motion with the fingers (as opposed to one finger in the United States). In Columbia, soft handclaps are used.
  • In many business situations in the United States, it is common to cross your legs, pointing the soles of your shoes to someone. In Southeast Asia, this is an insult since the feet are the dirtiest and lowest part of the body.
  • Spatial differences are an aspect of nonverbal language as well. In the United States, we tend to stand thirty-six inches (an arm length) from people, but in Chile, for example, the space is much smaller.
  • Proper greetings of business colleagues differ from country to country.
  • The amount of eye contact varies. For example, in the United States, it is normal to make constant eye contact with the person you are speaking with, but in Japan it would be rude to make constant eye contact with someone with more age or seniority.

The goal of cultural training is to train employees what the “norms” are in a particular culture. Many of these norms come from history, past experience, and values. Cultural training can include any of the following topics:

  • Management styles
  • Logistics aspects, such as transportation and currency

Cultural training is important. Although cultural implications are not often discussed openly, not understanding the culture can harm the success of a manager when on overseas assignment. For example, when Revlon expanded its business into Brazil, one of the first products it marketed was a Camellia flower scented perfume. What the expatriate managers didn’t realize is that the Camellia flower is used for funerals, so of course, the product failed in that country (Roy, 1998). Cultural implications, such as management style, are not always so obvious. Consider the US manager who went to Mexico to manage a production line. He applied the same management style that worked well in America, asking a lot of questions and opinions of employees. When employees started to quit, he found out later that employees expect managers to be the authority figure, and when the manager asked questions, they assumed he didn’t know what he was doing.

Training on the goals and expectations for the expatriate worker is important. Since most individuals take an overseas assignment to boost their careers, having clear expectations and understanding of what they are expected to accomplish sets the expatriate up for success.

Because moving to a new place, especially a new country, is stressful, it is important to train the employee on managing stress, homesickness, culture shock, and likely a larger workload than the employee may have had at home. Some stress results from insecurity and homesickness. It is important to note that much of this stress occurs on the family as well. The expatriate may be performing and adjusting well, but if the family isn’t, this can cause greater stress on the employee, resulting in a failed assignment. Four stages of expatriate stress identified in the Selyes model, the General Adaption Syndrome, are shown in Figure 14.5 “General Adaption Syndrome to Explain Expatriate Stress” . The success of overseas employees depends greatly on their ability to adjust, and training employees on the stages of adjustment they will feel may help ease this problem.

Cultural Differences

(click to see video)

These two videos discuss practical implications of cultural differences.

Figure 14.5 General Adaption Syndrome to Explain Expatriate Stress

General Adaption Syndrome to Explain Expatriate Stress: Prealarm (Employee is unprepared for assignment, training helps to prepare for assignment); Alarm (Despite training, differences are noticed and environment is making new demands on the employee); Resistance (To overcome the difficulty of adjustment, all physical and psychological resources are needed to meet the demands); and Exhaustion (Owing to increased physical and psychological demands, the employee adjusts or does not adjust, resulting in the employee's losing interest in work)

Source: Bala Koteswari and Mousumi Bhattacharya, “Managing Expatriate Stress,” Delhi Business Review 8, no. 1 (2007): 89–98.

Spouses and children of the employee may also experience much of the stress the expatriate feels. Children’s attendance at new schools and lack of social networks, as well as possible sacrifice of a spouse’s career goal, can negatively impact the assignment. Many companies offer training not only for the employee but for the entire family when engaging in an overseas assignment. For example, global technology and manufacturing company Honeywell offers employees and their families a two-day cultural orientation on the region they will be living in (Klaff, 2002). Some of the reasons for lack of adjustment by family members might include the following:

  • Language issues
  • Social issues
  • Medical services

The ability of the organization to meet these family needs makes for a more successful assignment. For example, development of an overseas network to provide social outlets, activities, schooling and housing options, assignment of mentors to the spouse, and other methods can help ease the transition.

Finally, repatriation is the process of helping employees make the transition to their home country. Many employees experience reverse culture shock upon returning home, which is a psychological phenomenon that can lead to feelings of fear, helplessness, irritability, and disorientation. All these factors can cause employees to leave the organization soon after returning from an assignment, and to take their knowledge with them. One problem with repatriation is that the expatriate and family have assumed things stayed the same at home, while in fact friends may have moved, friends changed, or new managers may have been hired along with new employees. Although the manager may be on the same level as other managers when he or she returns, the manager may have less informal authority and clout than managers who have been working in the particular office for a period of time. An effective repatriation program can cost $3,500 to $10,000 per family, but the investment is worth it given the critical skills the managers will have gained and can share with the organization. In fact, many expatriates fill leadership positions within organizations, leveraging the skills they gained overseas. One such example is FedEx president and CEO David Bronczek and executive vice president Michael Drucker. Tom Mullady, the manager of international compensation planning at FedEx, makes the case for a good repatriation program when he says, “As we become more and more global, it shows that experience overseas is leveraged back home” (Klaff, 2002).

Repatriation planning should happen before the employee leaves on assignment and should be a continuous process throughout the assignment and upon return. The process can include the following:

  • Training and counseling on overseas assignment before leaving
  • Clear understanding of goals before leaving, so the expatriate can have a clear sense as to what new skills and knowledge he or she will bring back home
  • Job guarantee upon return (Deloitte and Touche, for example, discusses which job each of the two hundred expats will take after returning, before the person leaves, and offers a written letter of commitment (Klaff, 2002).)
  • Assigning the expatriate a mentor, ideally a former expatriate
  • Keeping communication from home open, such as company newsletters and announcements
  • Free return trips home to stay in touch with friends and family
  • Counseling (at Honeywell, employees and families go through a repatriation program within six months of returning (Klaff, 2002).)
  • Sponsoring brown bag lunches where the expatriate can discuss what he or she learned while overseas
  • Trying to place expatriates in positions where they can conduct business with employees and clients from where they lived

It is also important to note that offering an employee an international assignment can help develop that person’s understanding of the business, management style, and other business-related development. Working overseas can be a crucial component to succession planning. It can also be a morale booster for other employees, who see that the chosen expatriate is further able to develop his or her career within the organization.

While the focus of this section has been on expatriate assignments, the same information on training is true for third-country nationals.

If it is decided that host-country nationals will be hired, different training considerations might occur. For example, will they spend some time at your domestic corporate headquarters to learn the business, then apply what they learned when they go home? Or, does it make more sense to send a domestic manager overseas to train the host-country manager and staff? Training will obviously vary based on the type of business and the country, and it may make sense to gain input from host-country managers as opposed to developing training on your own. As we have already discussed in this chapter, an understanding of the cultural components is the first step to developing training that can be utilized in any country.

Compensation and Rewards

There are a few options when choosing compensation for a global business. The first option is to maintain companywide pay scales and policies, so for example, all sales staff are paid the same no matter what country they are in. This can reduce inequalities and simplify recording keeping, but it does not address some key issues. First, this compensation policy does not address that it can be much more expensive to live in one place versus another. A salesperson working in Japan has much higher living expenses than a salesperson working in Peru, for example. As a result, the majority of organizations thus choose to use a pay banding system based on regions, such as South America, Europe, and North America. This is called a localized compensation strategy . Microsoft and Kraft Foods both use this approach. This method provides the best balance of cost-of-living considerations.

However, regional pay banding is not necessarily the ideal solution if the goal is to motivate expatriates to move. For example, if the employee has been asked to move from Japan to Peru and the salary is different, by half, for example, there is little motivation for that employee to want to take an assignment in Peru, thus limiting the potential benefits of mobility for employees and for the company.

One possible option is to pay a similar base salary companywide or regionwide and offer expatriates an allowance based on specific market conditions in each country (Carland, 1993). This is called the balance sheet approach . With this compensation approach, the idea is that the expatriate should have the same standard of living that he or she would have had at home. Four groups of expenses are looked at in this approach:

  • Income taxes
  • Goods and services
  • Base salary
  • Overseas premium

The HR professional would estimate these expenses within the home country and costs for the same items in the host country. The employer then pays differences. In addition, the base salary will normally be in the same range as the home-country salary, and an overseas premium might be paid owing to the challenge of an overseas assignment. An overseas premium is an additional bonus for agreeing to take an overseas assignment. There are many companies specializing in cost-of-living data, such as Mercer Reports. It provides cost-of-living information at a cost of $600 per year. Table 14.6 “The Balance Sheet Approach to Compensation” shows a hypothetical example of how the balance sheet approach would work.

Table 14.6 The Balance Sheet Approach to Compensation

Other compensation issues, which will vary greatly from country to country, might include the following:

  • The cost of benefits in another country. Many countries offer universal health care (offset by higher taxes), and therefore the employee would have health benefits covered while working and paying taxes in that country. Canada, Finland, and Japan are examples of countries that have this type of coverage. In countries such as Singapore, all residents receive a catastrophic policy from the government, but they need to purchase additional insurance for routine care (Countries with Universal Healthcare, 2011). A number of organizations offer health care for expatriates relocating to another country in which health care is not already provided.
  • Legally mandated (or culturally accepted) amount of vacation days. For example, in Australia twenty paid vacation days are required, ten in Canada, thirty in Finland, and five in the Philippines. The average number of US worker vacation days is fifteen, although the number of days is not federally mandated by the government, as with the other examples (Sahadi, 2007).
  • Legal requirements of profit sharing. For example, in France, the government heavily regulates profit sharing programs (Wilke, et. al., 2007).
  • Pay system that works with the country culture, such as pay systems based on seniority. For example, Chinese culture focuses heavily on seniority, and pay scales should be developed according to seniority. In Figure 14.6 “Hourly World Compensation Comparisons for Manufacturing Jobs” , examples of hourly compensation for manufacturing workers are compared.
  • Thirteenth month (bonus) structures and expected (sometimes mandated) annual lump-sum payments. Compensation issues are a major consideration in motivating overseas employees. A systematic system should be in place to ensure fairness in compensation for all expatriates.

Figure 14.6 Hourly World Compensation Comparisons for Manufacturing Jobs

Hourly World Compensation Comparisons for Manufacturing Jobs in order from lowest to highest: Philippines, Taiwan, Argentina, Korea, Israel, Greece, United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, Denmark, and Norway

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Division of International Labor Comparisons, International Comparisons of Hourly Compensation costs in Manufacturing, 2009, (accessed September 16, 2011).

Performance Evaluations

The challenge in overseas performance evaluations is determining who should rate the performance of the expatriate. While it might make sense to have the host-country employees and managers rate the expatriate, cultural differences may make this process ineffective. Cultural challenges may make the host country rate the expatriate more harshly, or in some cases, such as Indonesia, harmony is more important than productivity, so it may be likely an Indonesia employee or manager rates the expatriate higher, to keep harmony in the workplace (Whitfield, 2011).

If the home-country manager rates the performance of the expatriate, he or she may not have a clear indication of the performance, since the manager and expatriate do not work together on a day-to-day basis. A study performed by Gregersen, Hite, and Black suggests that a balanced set of raters from host and home countries and more frequent appraisals relate positively to the accuracy of performance evaluations (Gregersen, et. al., 1996). They also suggest that the use of a standardized form relates negatively to perceived accuracy. Carrie Shearer, an international HR expert, concurs by stating that the standardized form, if used, should also include special aspects for the expatriate manager, such as how well the expatriate fits in with the culture and adaptation ability (Shearer, 2004).

Besides determining who should rate the expatriate’s performance, the HR professional should determine the criteria for evaluating the expatriate. Since it is likely the expatriate’s job will be different overseas, the previous criteria used may not be helpful in the evaluation process. The criteria used to rate the performance should be determined ahead of time, before the expatriate leaves on assignment. This is part of the training process we discussed earlier. Having a clear picture of the rating criteria for an overseas assignment makes it both useful for the development of the employee and for the organization as a tool. A performance appraisal also offers a good opportunity for the organization to obtain feedback about how well the assignment is going and to determine whether enough support is being provided to the expatriate.

The International Labor Environment

As we have already alluded to in this chapter, understanding of laws and how they relate to host-country employees and expatriates can vary from country to country. Because of this, individual research on laws in the specific countries is necessary to ensure adherence:

  • Worker safety laws
  • Worker compensation laws
  • Safety requirements
  • Working age restrictions
  • Maternity/paternity leaves
  • Unionization laws
  • Vacation time requirements
  • Average work week hours
  • Privacy laws
  • Disability laws
  • Multiculturalism and diverse workplace, antidiscrimination law

As you can tell from this list, the considerable HRM factors when doing business overseas should be thoroughly researched.

One important factor worth mentioning here is labor unions. As you remember from Chapter 12 “Working with Labor Unions” , labor unions have declined in membership in the United States. Collective bargaining is the process of developing an employment contract between a union and management within an organization. The process of collective bargaining can range from little government involvement to extreme government involvement as in France, for example, where some of the labor unions are closely tied with political parties in the country.

Some countries, such as Germany, engage in codetermination , mandated by the government. Codetermination is the practice of company shareholders’ and employees’ being represented in equal numbers on the boards of organizations, for organizations with five hundred or more employees. The advantage of this system is the sharing of power throughout all levels of the organization; however, some critics feel it is not the place of government to tell companies how their corporation should be run. The goal of such a mandate is to reduce labor conflict issues and increase bargaining power of workers.

Taxation of expatriates is an important aspect of international HRM. Of course, taxes are different in every country, and it is up to the HR professional to know how taxes will affect the compensation of the expatriate. The United States has income tax treaties with forty-two countries, meaning taxing authorities of treaty countries can share information (such as income and foreign taxes paid) on residents living in other countries. US citizens must file a tax return, even if they have not lived in the United States during the tax year. US taxpayers claim over $90 billion in foreign tax credits on a yearly basis (Internal Revenue Service, 2011). Foreign tax credits allow expatriates working abroad to claim taxes paid overseas on their US tax forms, reducing or eliminating double taxation. Many organizations with expatriate workers choose to enlist the help of tax accountants for their workers to ensure workers are paying the correct amount of taxes both abroad and in the United States.

Table 14.7 Examples of HRM-Related Law Differences between the United States and China

Source: Harris and Moure, pllc, “China Employment Contracts, Ten Things to Consider,” China Law Blog , (accessed August 13, 2011) and Cindy Zhang, “Employment Law in China,” June 21, 2011, (accessed August 13, 2011).

Logistics of International Assignments

As you learned earlier, providing training for the expatriate is an important part of a successful assignment. However, many of the day-to-day aspects of living are important, too.

One of the most important logistical aspects is to make sure the employee can legally work in the country where you will be sending him or her, and ensuring his or her family has appropriate documentation as well. A visa is permission from the host country to visit, live, or work in that country. Obtaining visas is normally the job of an HR professional. For example, the US Department of State and the majority of countries require that all US citizens have a valid passport to travel to a foreign country. This is the first step to ensuring your host-country national or third-country national can travel and work in that country.

Next, understanding the different types of visas is a component to this process. For example, the United States offers a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that allows some nationals of thirty-six participating countries to travel to the United States for stays of less than ninety days. Iceland, Singapore, and France are examples of countries that participate in this program. For most host-national assignments, however, this type of visa may not be long enough, which then requires research of the individual country. It is important to mention that most countries have several types of visas, such as the following:

  • Visas for crew members working on ships or airlines
  • Tourist visas
  • Student visas
  • Employment visas for long-term employment at a foreign company
  • Business visas

The visa process and time line can vary greatly depending on the country for which the visa is required. For example, obtaining a visa to work in China may take six months or longer. The best place to research this topic is on the country’s embassy website.

Besides ensuring the expatriate can legally work in the country, other considerations are worth mentioning as well:

  • Housing. Where will I live is one of the most important questions that an expatriate may ask. The HR professional can help this process by outsourcing a leasing or rental company in the city where the expatriate will live to find a rental that meets the expectations of the expatriate. Choosing a place to live ahead of time can reduce stress (one of the causes of failure for assignments) for the expatriate and his or her family. Allowances may be made for housing costs, as discussed in the compensation section.
  • Moving belongings. Determination of how belongings left behind will be stored at home or if those items will be brought to the host country is another logistical consideration. If items will be brought, beyond what can be carried in a suitcase, the HR professional may want to consider hiring a moving logistics company that specializes in expatriate moves to help with this process.
  • The possibility of return trips home. As part of the initial discussion, the option of offering return trips home can make repatriation and performance reviews with home-country managers easier. This also gives the expatriate and his or her family the opportunity to visit with family and friends, reducing reverse culture shock upon return.
  • Schooling. Some organizations may want to provide information on the schooling system to the expatriate, if he or she has children. Schools begin at different times of the year, and this information can make the registration process for school easier on the family.
  • Spousal job. We know already from earlier in this chapter that one of the biggest challenges facing expatriates (and reasons for failure) is unhappiness of the spouse. He or she may have had a career at home and given that up while the spouse takes an assignment. HR professionals might consider offering job search services as part of the allowance discussed earlier in this chapter. Lockheed Martin, for example, offers job search services to spouses moving overseas (Minehan, 2011).

In any situation, support from the HR professional will help make the assignment a success, which shows that HRM practices should be aligned with company goals.

How Would You Handle This?

Your manager has just notified you that one of your marketing managers has taken an assignment in China to work for one year. You tell your manager you will begin the visa process for employment. She disagrees and tells you it will be quicker to just get a tourist visa. You mention this is illegal and could get the employee and company in trouble, but she insists on your getting a tourist visa so the employee can leave within the month. How would you handle this?

Key Takeaways

  • Personality traits are a key component to determining whether someone is a good fit for an overseas assignment. Since 73 percent of overseas assignments fail, ensuring the right match up front is important.
  • The ideal expatriate is able to deal with change, is flexible, and has the support of his or her family. Ideal expatriates are also organized, take risks, and are good at asking for help.
  • The adjustment period an expatriate goes through depends on his or her initial preparation. Blakeney said there are two levels of adjustment: psychological adjustment and sociocultural adjustment. Although the psychological may take less time, it is the sociocultural adjustment that will allow the assignment to be successful.
  • Training is a key component in the HRM global plan, whether expatriates or host-country nationals are to be hired. Both will require a different type of training. Training can reduce culture shock and stress.
  • Consideration of the expatriate’s family and their ability to adjust can make a more successful overseas assignment
  • Compensation is another consideration of a global business. The balance sheet approach pays the expatriate extra allowances, such as living expenses, for taking an international assignment.
  • Other considerations such as vacation days, health-care benefits, and profit-sharing programs are important as well.
  • Laws of each country should be carefully evaluated from an HRM strategic perspective. Laws relating to disabilities, pregnancy, and safety, for example, should be understood before doing business overseas.
  • Labor unions have different levels of involvement in different parts of the world. For example, Germany has codetermination , a policy that requires companies to have employees sit on various boards.
  • The United States has treaties with forty-two countries to share information about expatriates. The United States offers foreign tax credits to help expatriates avoid double taxation. However, US citizens must file taxes every year, even if they have not lived in the United States during that year.
  • Logistical help can be important to ensuring the success of an overseas assignment. Help with finding a place to live, finding a job for a spouse, and moving can make the difference between a successful assignment and an unsuccessful one.
  • The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program in which nationals of thirty-six countries can enter the United States for up to a ninety-day period. This type of visa may not work well for expatriates, so it is important to research the type of visa needed from a particular country by using that country’s embassy website.
  • Research the country of your choice. Discuss at least five of the aspects you should know as an HRM professional about doing business in that country.

Blakeney, R., “Psychological Adjustment and Sociocultural Adaptation: Coping on International Assignments” (paper, Annual Meeting of Academy of Management, Atlanta, GA, 2006).

Cartland, J., “Reward Policies in a Global Corporation,” Business Quarterly , Autumn 1993, 93–96.

Countries with Universal Healthcare (no date), accessed August 11, 2011, .

Economist Intelligence Unit, The, Up or Out: Next Moves for the Modern Expatriate , 2010, accessed April 28, 2011, .

Gregersen, H., Julie Hite, and Steward Black, “Expatriate Performance Appraisal in US Multinational Firms,” Journal of International Business Studies 27, no. 4 (1996): 711–38.

Internal Revenue Service, “Foreign Tax Credit,” accessed August 13, 2011,,,id=183263,00.html .

Klaff, L. G., “The Right Way to Bring Expats Home,” BNET , July 2002, accessed August 12, 2011, .

Minehan, M., “Six Job Search Tips for Expatriate Spouses,” n.d., Expatica, accessed August 12, 2011, .

Roy, S., “Brand Failures: A Consumer Perspective to Formulate a MNC Entry Strategy” (postgraduate diploma, XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, 1998), accessed August 12, 2011, .

Sahadi, J., “Who Gets the Most (and Least) Vacation” CNN Money , June 14, 2007, accessed August 11, 2011, .

Shearer, C., “Expat Performance Appraisal: A Two Tier Process?” October 8, 2004,, accessed August 12, 2011, .

Thredgold, J., “English Is Increasingly the International Language of Business,” Deseret News , December 14, 2010, accessed August 11, 2011, .

Whitfield, G., “Do as I Say, Not as I Do: Annual Performance Appraisal and Evaluation in Indonesia” n.d., Living in Indonesia, accessed August 11, 2011, .

Wilke, Maack, und Partner, “Profit-Sharing,” Country Reports on Financial Participation in Europe, 2007,, 2007, accessed August 12, 2011, .

Human Resource Management Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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10 Tips for Managing Successful International Assignments

20 Apr / 2021 | By TMA World

international organizations assignment quizlet

International assignments can be one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences in an individual’s career. Yet international assignments are expensive for the employer – and a surprisingly high number of them fail. There are various reasons for this, but culture shock, failure of the employee to perform in their new post and dissatisfaction with the assignment itself are cited as common causes. How can you best prepare employees for international assignments – and help them make the assignment a success? Here are some tips.

1. Make a business case for international assignments

Sending an employee to live and work overseas is expensive. Is there a case for doing this? Would a local hire be better, or is there absolutely nobody else for the job? If there is nobody locally, does the individual have the right skills and mindset? Are they open to living and working in different cultures? What benefit will their overseas experience bring to the company when they return?

2. Consider the individual’s position

Employers need to be sensitive to personal situations when considering sending someone overseas. Posting an LGBTQ individual to, say, a conservative Muslim country is not impossible, but requires serious consideration and extra support. The same applies to an employee’s partner and family; is there anything that might put them at risk in the new destination?

3. Manage expectations

Employees need to be prepared for the fact that life during international assignments will be different, and not necessarily glamorous and exotic. There will be cultural barriers to overcome, as well as homesickness and culture shock to deal with. Families and spouses need to be prepared for the changes. New relationships will need to be built in the workplace and a new structure fitted into. Going with realistic expectations is better than plunging into international assignments unprepared, and having it turn out to be a disappointment.

4. Prepare for cultural immersion

Embarking on a programme of cross-cultural training is invaluable before taking up international assignments; individuals learn to understand their own mindset and prejudices as well as what to expect in the new culture. There are less formal ways to prepare, too. Would-be assignees for international posts could should be encouraged to build up a picture of the new culture by reading literature, newspapers and blogs. They should listen to podcasts and even watch movies to put together the jigsaw of everyday life in the new place.

5. Arrange mentoring schemes

A cross-cultural mentor might be a colleague in the new office, or a co-worker who is in the destination, or has experience of it. Ideally, new expat workers should have a mentor in the new destination and one at home; it is very easy for expatriates to feel cut adrift from the familiarity of their old office and colleagues. Typical discussion points with a mentor might include management style, hierarchy, gender issues, meeting etiquette, negotiating and decision making. Essentially, though, a mentor should be a sounding board on whom the expat can rely when problems crop up.

6. Encourage a positive attitude

Even having a few simple memos and pointers can help newly landed expats through difficult times. Learning not to compare their old culture with the new one; remembering that the new culture is different but not necessarily wrong; understanding different approaches to time management; and starting out with the basic assumption that people in the new culture are friendly and welcoming, even if there are hiccups in communicating with them. This is all part of cross-cultural communication training.

7. Offer language training

Even if English is the international language of business, and even if English is the language of the workplace in the new country, a basic conversational command of the destination language will go a long way towards integrating into society and overcoming culture shock. This is important for trailing spouses, too; culture shock can be even worse for a spouse who has less structure to their day and lacks the confidence to build a life of their own.

8. Keep communication focused

Mentoring aside, a company should have a formal reporting scheme while the employee is abroad on assignment. Checking in regularly is the best way to stay appraised of how the assignment is progressing, what new ideas and useful information have been picked up, and dealing with any problems before they escalate. Companies should make the most of the assignee’s time abroad by encouraging them to share their experiences – by blogging, for example, or participating in video conferences.

9. Provide support for sufferers of culture shock

Culture shock is a serious condition; it can lead to depression, a sense of isolation and even illness. Almost everybody suffers from culture shock in some way. Most people get through it but some fail to adapt, feeling lonely, resenting the new culture, maintaining an illusion that everything back home is superior. Acknowledging culture shock and finding small ways to deal with it should all be part of preparation for life abroad, for example, working to establish a network of friends, both expats and people from the new culture; keeping busy; and making an effort as a family to explore the new culture; visiting markets, trying out restaurants and arranging enjoyable activities for weekends, like a trip to the beach. Craving the comforts of home is not wrong; it’s normal.

10. Remember that reintegrating is just as important

Many of these issues apply to the end of international assignments. A posting abroad can be a life-changing experience and it’s not uncommon for individuals to return home with new skills and ambitions to find that they are different – and that their old friends, colleagues and workplace have changed, too. Some of the positives of an overseas posting are increased confidence, a broader world view, better empathy and more creativity when it comes to problem solving. Employers need to harness these new qualities, not just expect the individual to slot back in. Preparation should be made several months before an assignee returns. What new skills do they have? How do they see themselves fitting in? What opportunities might be available for them? Fail to prepare and the chances are, they’ll take their new skills elsewhere.

Our blended learning solutions ensures your global travelers, international assignees and their families will be successful. Our learning process can be fully adapted to suit the needs of your organization. Our training is delivered across coaching sessions, instructor led training and online learning pathways.  Click here to read our brochure for more information . 

Interested in how introducing a cultural intelligence tool in your business could help to create a more borderless workforce? We’d love to show you our groundbreaking platform.

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