Globalisation has led to an increased need for MNEs to expand their operations and appoint expatriate managers in foreign countries. The failure of these expatriates has been identified as a major concern for multinationals, as failure rates range between 30 and 40 percent and may cost an enterprise up to US$1.2 million. Many studies have found the inability of the trailing spouse to adjust in the host country to be the most common cause of expatriate failure.
As they are more immersed in the host-country’s culture than the expatriate, spouses may experience severe culture shock, isolation, and stress, and need to come to terms with the various differences in healthcare systems, housing arrangements, cuisine, language and gender roles. The adjustment of the trailing spouse has been found to be significantly related to the success of an international assignment, making enterprise-assistance programmes essential.
The aim of this study was to determine the preparation, training and support requirements of trailing spouses in order for MNEs to reduce the likelihood of failure amongst their assignees. A literature study was conducted in order to investigate the causes of failure and to identify best practices for the preparation, training and support of spouses accompanying expatriates on assignment. The literature study was then followed by an empirical study, in which a link to an online questionnaire was distributed through MNEs and online forums to trailing spouses currently on assignment. Spouses were required to answer demographic questions and give their opinion regarding various preparation, training and support requirements by rating their level of agreement, on a four-point Likert Scale, as to whether or not they required any of the listed items for adjustment and whether or not these were provided to them by the enterprise. The data was then analysed using a factor analysis, Cronbach’s Alpha, a t-test, paired t-test, an analysis of the mean scores and other inferential statistics.
This study has revealed that enterprises are not providing expatriate trailing spouses with the preparation, training and support that they require, and has identified what preparation, training and support is required by spouses in order to adjust in the host country. Recommendations have been made based on these findings to assist enterprises in developing preparation and training programmes and providing adequate support to spouses prior to and during the assignment. It is important to remember that the key to expatriate success is the trailing spouse’s adjustment. These recommendations should therefore enable MNEs to design and implement expatriate programmes and processes that take into consideration the needs of trailing spouses in order to reduce the likelihood of expatriate failure.
Dissertation (MCom)-- University of Pretoria, 2016.