This article was originally published in The XPat Journal Autumn 2017 Issue
The potential we see at ACCESS, among the available (international) talent already here in the Netherlands, is simply mindboggling. Our columns in The XPat Journal during 2017 have focussed on how we represent, inform and manage the expectations of the local community, and its service providers, about internationals. In this, the Employment issue, we could not help but reflect on our own volunteers, in the context of locally-based employers searching for international talent.
What the Studies Tell Us
In a contribution to pre-election debates earlier this year (February 2017), the ‘Talent coalition Netherlands’, made up of regional expat centres as well as NUFFIC and the NFIA, raised several issues relating to the Netherlands’ competitiveness. Among these: how the country needed to ensure that available international talent was capitalised upon. In truth, they were referring to (among other factors) the efforts which could be made to retain the talent (international students) being trained in the country. At ACCESS, we would add to that particular group: the partners of the international talent already working here. For they, too, are a capital gain which should be considered – for several reasons.
In a 2016 International Community Platform (ICP) report, Return On Access to Talent, it was stated that “… international talent can … help companies tap into their upward potential by providing better access to international markets through the cultural bridge they constitute”. The report went on to acknowledge, though, that international talent, recruited from overseas, can be very costly, and time-consuming to secure. It also pointed out that not many within the SME sector yet appreciated what such international talent could mean for their own ambitions – be it talent brought in or sourced locally. We at ACCESS know, anecdotally, what was also discovered in the study: that there seems to be a hesitation about hiring local, international, talent who do not master the Dutch language. Though this has led us to wonder why this does not appear to be an issue when recruiting internationally. Curious indeed. Worrying about what may happen around the ‘water-cooler’ at work is, in our humble opinion, a missed opportunity. Sure, the level of Dutch many internationals are striving to reach may not be at a fully-functional level professionally, but, is it the language or the talent which is crucial?
The 2014 ICP study, entitled Securing Access to Talent, revealed that 88.5% of partners accompanying expats on an assignment to the Netherlands were highly educated – with Bachelor, Master or PHD degrees – and that 60.4% had in fact left a paid job in order to relocate to the Netherlands with their partners. Yet, once in the Netherlands, only 52.7% had actually found employment while 18.7% were still actively looking for a job. This is international talent on your doorstep – if you will.
What Experience Tells Us
It is, however, not simply the academic or professional levels of the accompanying partners that is relevant. The simple fact that these individuals have managed a relocation to a new country makes them uniquely qualified to make contributions beyond their educational experience and expertise. In the words of Diane Lemieux, co-author of The Mobile Life, “We, as movers become excellent change managers. A skill which cannot be taught – only learned through trial, error and osmosis. (And) change managers are able to adapt, function in new environments, function outside of comfort zones, find creative solutions to obstacles, as well as practice determined, vision-based actions.”
In an article published in The XPat Journal, in 2015, entitled The Expat Advantage, Diane Lemieux defined the skills such change managers possess, skills that are increasingly being sought by employers. Skills – and knowledge – that are inevitably acquired during one, or more, relocation(s) and that are key talents for the future, and for forward-looking employers.
We see no need to rewrite what has been so well written, so we take this opportunity to share what Diane highlighted, and to remind our readers – potential employers looking for international talent – that you will find most, if not all, of the following talents and skills in people who have lived a mobile lifestyle. People who are already here, in the Netherlands.
- Flexibility: being open to the fact that things are done differently in different countries
- Adaptability: the ability to create a new life in a foreign environment from scratch
- Creative problem solving: the skills of coming up with unique solutions to problems one never imagined existed
- Multicultural openness: being empathetic to, and able to effectively deal with, people who think and act differently
- Intercultural management skills: acquired through having managed household staff or groups of people from different cultures
- Independence and self-reliance: the ability to create a full life without an established network
- Language skills: learning new ones is an admirable skill
- Doing things for the first time: the ability to know how to navigate within a totally new environment
- Cross-cultural communication and negotiation skills: the ability to lead a family through the immense process of establishing a new life in a new country
- Change management: ability to find opportunities and visualise a new future in a new environment
- Determination to succeed: the ability to stick it out even when the going gets tough.
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