Invest in employee wellbeing to improve returns on expat assignments

Boxx Global Expat Solutions CEO Dennis van Proosdij explains that the success of an overseas assignment depends on the happiness of the expat and their family


The global mobility industry is under pressure: regulatory complexity is greater than ever, smaller businesses are seeking to achieve a multinational presence within tight budgets, and of course, expats themselves have higher expectations of their life on assignment. Dennis van Proosdij, owner and CEO of Boxx Global Expat Solutions, explains how the industry is reacting. He discusses the challenges that business face improving their global mobility, the expectations of expats going overseas, and how Boxx facilitates a successful assignment.

European CEO: Tell me more about the challenges that businesses face improving their global mobility.

Dennis van Proosdij: Well there are two kinds of challenges. One is external: if you look at the world today, compliance is becoming very, very important. Rules are applied stricter and stricter every year.

On the other hand you have the internal challenge about creating a match between the global mobility policy and the DNA of a multinational. For instance, if you are a technology-based company, you might need a global mobility solution that has a high-tech feeling. And on the other hand if you have a multinational that is more like, family-feeling principles, you don’t want a tech-based global mobility solution. So it depends on the DNA of the firm.

So there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

European CEO: And what about the expectations of the expats themselves? What’s the customer journey for an employee going abroad on assignment?

Dennis van Proosdij: Well, the modern expat expects support from the employer, still. It’s the orthodox way of doing things in mobility. But on the other hand, modern employees also value freedom of choice. It’s their assignment, maybe even with spouses or children. It influences their private lives, so they also want to have some kind of individual private influence in what’s happening in the next three years.

So on the one hand they would like the employer to facilitate, but on the other they would like freedom of choice. So it’s difficult.

And I think that trying to balance expat and employer business relationship, private relationship, I think that’s the most difficult thing you can do. But that’s where we try and fill in the gap.

European CEO: So how does Boxx facilitate that journey for the employee and the employer?

Dennis van Proosdij: Well it’s investing in both knowledge of multinationals, the inside. And of course on the other side you have the expat – we have to also invest in what’s happening in their heads and in their hearts. I know that sometimes it’s being regarded as soft to look at feelings and sentiment, but it’s our opinion that it’s those kinds of issues that really matter. In the end it’s about the expat satisfaction.

Wellbeing of all employees is important, even in normal domestic situations. But when going abroad there are extra challenges. The job you have to do: it’s not your normal job, it’s a job you have to do 5,000 miles or even more away from home. So that puts an extra business burden on your shoulders.

And of course you have the private burden, the family burden. Going abroad means taking spouse, children with you: and their opinion, it matters. We’ve done studies, and the feelings of spouses are crucial. So even if an employer takes care of everything in the best possible way, if the spouse says ‘We go home,’ then normally the assignment ends.

And from a business perspective, this is very important. Because completing an assignment means a higher return on investment score, and return on investment of course is the basic idea for sending people abroad.

European CEO: You must have assembled quite a unique team to deal with all of these logistical, regulatory, emotional issues that your clients are dealing with.

Dennis van Proosdij: Yeah I think we have a great team; they are professional people, they have different backgrounds. I think that’s very important – people coming from multinationals themselves, people with consulting experience, and also we train junior associates ourselves. And we have cross-disciplinary teams. Tax, immigration, HR, RELOs – the practical part. We have account teams, and we have one responsible account manager. So it’s very compact, and it means we can act very quickly.

Our clients are the employers and not the employees, because we are being paid by the company. But in the end it’s about the satisfaction scores of the employees.

Studies have shown that if an employer shows interest in and proactively talks about wellbeing to expats, it translates into a higher feeling of loyalty. And in an expat’s situation on assignment, higher loyalty means that there’s a higher intention to complete the assignment. And that’s very, very important.

European CEO: Dennis, thank you very much.

Dennis van Proosdij: Thank you for having me Paul.