BY DARYL C. HANNAH
Want to Be a Senior Manager?
Take That Global Assignment
Working for a company with an international presence often can mean opportunities to work beyond the borders of the United
States. Taking a global assignment can make the difference when hoping to move up the corporate ladder.
“Having worked in another country is another
checkmark or asset to your qualifications,” says Allan
Mark, the Americas director for diversity, strategy and
development at Ernst & Young, which operates in 140
countries. The firm is No. 17 on The 2008 DiversityInc
Top 50 Companies for Diversity® list.
Gary Baker, director of global mobility for the U.S.
firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, No. 4 in the Top 50,
worked for five years in the U.K. firm before PwC sent
him to Australia on a foreign assignment. Now he
heads the U.S. firm’s Global Mobility Office.
“What we are seeing is an expectation in the whole
landscape and the need to have more of a global
perspective and the experience of working in another
country and in another culture,” says Baker.
“The whole global landscape, particularly in the
late ’90s, predominately has been the United States,”
says Baker. “U.S. executives did not feel that there
was a need to actually do a global assignment because
most often, the international arm of the company was
headed up from the U.S.
In 2000, only 59 percent of companies worldwide
indicated they had expatriates on short-term assignments. Six years later, that figure jumped to 78 percent,
according to ORC Worldwide’s 2006 Worldwide Survey
of International Assignment Policies and Practices.
Just five years ago, none of the companies on the
DiversityInc Top 50 list had a global chief diversity
officer or its equivalent. Today, 24 percent do. Top 50
companies generate, on average, 50 percent of their
revenue overseas, up 38. 5 percent from 2003.
“From a business perspective, this is about which
companies will be the most successful and which
companies can truly behave globally and be a global organization,” says Mark. “It’s no longer Anglo-American-centric, so to me … this is consistent with equality and
social justice. It’s how we manage diversity.”
But while willingness to go global is becoming im-
portant if you want to be a senior-level executive, there
are serious issues to consider. And timing is everything.
“I’ve spoken to a number of individuals about doing
an international assignment, but they haven’t brokered
the subject to their families, so often it might not be the
right time for the family for whatever reasons: children,
spouse or partner,” says Baker.
In fact, many expatriates cite the inability to take
part in activities available at home and loss of support
network among the top stressors when taking a global
assignment, according to the same ORC study.
If you are thinking about approaching the person in
charge of whether you spend the next couple of months
in Europe or Asia, make sure you have a strong business
case. There has to be a dual return.
“I would say that there are two key benefits that
come out of an international assignment, those that are
very much on the professional level of the career and
[those] from a personal perspective,” says Baker. “From
the personal perspective, assignees get to experience
what it’s like to be a minority. And obviously from
the professional perspective, we think about how that
particular assignment will drive business.”