David Enser: Flexibility is key to expat motivation and recognition schemes

David Enser

Expatriate motivation and recognition schemes should not be rigid, but should instead offer flexibility within a controlled framework. Managers must have a toolkit of buttons to push to ensure engagement and motivation on the one hand, while also being able to respond to the unique needs of both the individual and the circumstances.

Policies around hardship locations can be brought into reward work in challenging environments; under challenging circumstances, additional ‘supplemental’ allowances may come into play, enabling leaders to engage, motivate and retain employees. Some examples may be a business turnaround or a stretch assignment, whereby an employee has to ‘punch above their weight’, or possesses critical skills but may not wish or be in a position to move.

Increasingly, employers utilise ‘spot bonuses’. These are short-term bonus structures outside of the typically annual cycle, which constitute part of the standard compensation framework, as opposed to being expat-specific. They may be offered to either expats or, increasingly, short-term assignees, where other policy limitations may necessitate applying general reward principles, not just those specifically aimed at expats.

Personal experience aside, I see a huge benefit in organisations investing in developing cultural fluency among a global workforce, both to understand expat challenges and the dynamics and differences of a global workforce. Understanding how one’s own cultural attributes compare and contrast with those of other cultures can be a powerful tool. By keeping the dynamics of cultural differences in mind, appreciation of both personal and professional challenges becomes much easier.

David Enser is head of cross-border employment and reward innovation at Adidas, and co-founder of The RES Forum, an independent community for global mobility professionals.