International work experience is increasingly becoming a factor that could set one candidate apart from the rest for promotion, according to Financial Services leaders surveyed by specialist recruitment firm, Robert Half.
The study found that 93% of Hong Kong-based Financial Services leaders believe international work experience improves an employee’s chance for promotion, as well as provide several other benefits, including global market understanding and improved work ethic. This was in line with responses from the wider Asia Pacific region where 92% of those polled said working abroad would improve promotion prospects.
In addition, more than 80% of respondents polled in Hong Kong said that secondments were offered in their organisation, albeit not to all employees. Some 39% of respondents said secondments were available depending on the specific requirements of the role or company, while 28% said it depended on the individual employee.
Despite the benefits, the survey found that on average only 11% of financial services professionals in Hong Kong would take advantage of international assignments during their career.
This figure was slightly higher for other parts of Asia Pacific. Australia, for example, had the highest average figure for any country in the survey. 16% of
Australia employees would travel abroad for an overseas secondment during their career, while 13% of Singapore employees were expected to partake in an international assignment.
“The cost of relocation could be one of the main concerns with international assignments. Companies may also be concerned about an employee’s lack of knowledge of local practices,” says Pallavi Anand, Director, Robert Half in Hong Kong.
Companies who offer secondments to employees gain numerous benefits from the sharing of experience and best practices.
When asked to describe the top three benefits of working overseas, nearly half (49%) of the Financial Services leaders said international experience improves communication and linguistic ability (49%), followed by commercial understanding (45%) and global market understanding (42%).
“Affording employees’ international opportunities and offering challenging assignments where they are enabled to develop, grow and succeed will help companies to retain talented staff. Over the longer-term, companies will need people with international perspectives and skills to keep their global businesses going,“ adds Anand.
Anand also recommends the following tips and insights on providing global opportunities for staff members:
The opportunity for overseas experience can be a selling point. Companies that offer overseas secondments should promote this to attract the best talent. Employers need to keep in mind that they are not just competing with other potential employers in Hong Kong – the quest to attract and retain talent is a global one.
Look overseas to fill vacancies. If a suitable candidate does not exist in one country, the search can be widened to neighbouring countries or even to other continents. Bringing in recruits from other countries does more than just fill the job – it can provide new ideas and energy to a team. An international hire is certainly preferable to putting the wrong person in the chair, or even worse, leaving the chair vacant.
Develop a system of regular overseas secondments. Overseas assignments help companies share knowledge and best practices across different locations. To obtain the maximum benefit of this skills sharing, companies should consider developing a system of regular secondment opportunities designed to raise standards across the organisation.