To paraphrase travel writer Peter Jon Lindberg, Hong Kong has the ability to transcend cultural borders so that nothing is truly foreign and nothing doesn’t belong. One of Hong Kong’s defining characteristics is its ability to be both a global and a regional commercial hub. Another is to blend and embrace often-conflicting values with aplomb, including modern and traditional. Hong Kong’s success at adapting has seen it safeguard its status as a safe harbour from global uncertainties and driver of growth. But here as elsewhere, it’s far from business as usual.
Strengthening regional trading partnerships
Increased competition, rising costs and technology’s transformation of manufacturing are seeing Hong Kong-based businesses move investment into second- and third-tier cities in regional operations and into fast-rising economies, like Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
Intra-regional moves out of Hong Kong are an established trend. But the move to destinations with comparatively less-developed infrastructures is relatively new. For families on the move, this presents a particular set of problems, which HR and mobility increasingly need to innovate solutions for.
Delivering on opportunities with the right support
Aside from encouraging assignees to move – not always easy given the career prospects in home territories – making the opportunity right for the family is a fundamental aspect of successful relocation.
Families failing to settle are one of the leading causes of ditched assignments. Understanding the assignee’s personal circumstances and being business-focused, but flexible, in the packages you offer, getting to know the destination and its unique environmental, cultural and wellbeing implications are therefore vital.
Duty of care considerations
In the context of employers’ duty of care, issues to consider are where is the nearest local hospital for quality critical medical care and routine appointments. In remote areas and certain sectors, personal safety is a further key consideration.
Availability of good education locally is also likely to be front of relocating families’ minds. Some families with access to sound local schools might consider this option to be part of the adventure. Yet, for others, especially with older children, boarding might be a better choice.
We also see and support cases where assignees and their families either continue to reside in their home or a more established host location, and the assignee commutes weekly. This approach ties in with safeguarding wellbeing and ensuring comfortable housing, services and amenities. It can also create a more enriching experience for assignees’ partners who may be putting their own career on hold for the assignment.
Ensuring good cultural fit
A recent survey showed 40 per cent of assignees found being away from their support network one of the most difficult aspects of their transition. This underlines the importance of selecting the right candidate at the outset. Potential assignees need the skills, aptitude, awareness of the challenges and mindset to thrive in what might be difficult circumstances.
Informed and responsive support is also crucial from the perspective of the destination services on offer, and ongoing communication between home and host teams.
There’s no doubt relocating to challenging destinations is, well, challenging. But safe in the knowledge of another adage, “You can leave Hong Kong, but it will never leave you,” assignees should feel confident they can adapt and thrive.