According to the findings of a doctoral dissertation study, organizations should pay much more attention to the situation of the partners of their international employees than they currently do.
Kaisu Kanstren, a researcher at the University of Vaasa in Finland, gave a presentation on his findings.
Expat partners’ professional identities, career capital development, and subjective well-being were the subject of Kaisu Kanstren’s doctoral dissertation, which she completed in 2012. Kanstren conducted thirty in-depth interviews with Finnish career-oriented expatriate partners for her dissertation.
“Even though the comfort of partners is extremely important for the success of international assignments and recruitment in general, companies and organizations still do not pay sufficient attention to the situation of relocating partners,” Kanstren said. “The success of international assignments and recruitment in general is highly dependent on the comfort of partners.”
According to the findings of the study, global mobility had a significant impact on the career identity of expatriate partners in their home country. Moving abroad for the sake of a partner’s job could result in the loss of the accompanying partner’s career identity in the worst-case scenario; at the best, it could result in the beginning of a new career and the reconstruction of a career identity.
Living abroad also appeared to provide a variety of learning opportunities that allowed the partners to develop their skills and increase their career capital. The partners reported that their self-awareness, self-confidence, coping skills in a foreign environment, intercultural interaction skills, language skills, and understanding of international business had all improved as a result of the experience, according to them.
Furthermore, living abroad results in significant changes in the resources available to the couple, which have an impact on their subjective well-being. These changes include changes in their own careers and financial independence, as well as changes in their social support networks. The acquisition of resources, on the other hand, appeared to have a greater impact on well-being than the loss of resources. The partners actively sought out new resources that produced well-being to replace those that had been lost, for example, by substituting paid work with voluntary work, hobbies, or studies that were related to their own profession to compensate for the loss of paid work.
Expatriate partners, in contrast to their working partners, felt excluded from the support provided by corporations and non-profit organizations. The findings of the doctoral dissertation also highlighted the importance of the partners’ own career management skills, active participation, and self-directedness in the process of achieving a positive experience while traveling.
Companies and organizations that send employees abroad or hire international experts to work in Finland should develop support programs for their partners and include the accompanying partners in all aspects of their relocation and living arrangements, she advised.
Kanstren also believed that partners should be viewed more frequently as potential experts whose skills could be put to greater use more broadly. This would be beneficial to both parties, and moving abroad would not imply that the partners would have to give up their respective professional pursuits.
Specifically, the findings of Kanstren’s doctoral dissertation are based on three substudies that looked at career transitions of expatriate partners, as well as the effects of transitions on the partners’ career identities, the development of career capital, and the partners’ subjective well-being while working in a different country.