Expat hiring: Cultural integration still creates huge gap
In India, the first wave of expatriates came in with the rise of sectors like airlines, healthcare and retail. MNCs operating in India have usually been the expatriate CXOs in rotation. But the Indian promoter-led firms on the other hand, except groups like Tata and Aditya Birla that have been making steady effort in this direction for a few years now, have been practically devoid of expatriate leadership.
The local workforce always grumbles about the work culture of expat mangers and at times the grumble leads to a situation when the both couldn't see eye to eye. Another key challenge for expatriates is adjusting to a heavily promoter driven environment. With the larger business groups that are increasingly governance led, it's less of an issue but with smaller Indian businesses, they struggle with putting promoter over boss.
For many business groups the requirement for expatriates has gone from technical jobs to larger strategic roles. "As we develop a global vision we want people who have internationally acknowledged credibility to lead our businesses," said Adil Malia, President, Group HR, Essar. The company recently appointed Alwyn Bowden as CEO of its Projects Business Group.
Corporates insist it is not about having the trophy CEOs to present a global face to the world, although they admit an expatriate's exclusive networks do come in handy. "It's about creating competitive advantage, whether it's in specialized knowledge, governance practices or experience of running large multinationals," said Malia.
The good news for expat leaders is that companies are setting induction processes in place to settle families, providing them with social mentoring and platforms for social engagement.
Certainly, even with the initial handholding, problems can arise later from ineffective engagement. While most expatriates stick to a three year contract, many believe this short term mindset should belong to an MNC. When the time value of an expat is perceived to be "short", long term relationships become harder.
Besides, challenges aside, India offers the expats a lot of jobs.
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