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Expatriate integration - Birds of a Feather?


If birds are used as metaphors as to how different people behave in a workplace, then you may recognize yourself or your co-workers in the images below.  I used these birds to correspond to the four dominant personality types (Dominance/eagle, Influence/parrot, Conscientiousness/owl and Stability/dove) as described by the Workplace DiSC assessment tool.  



The reports generated by the DiSC questionnaire allow both Human Resource Directors and top management get an accurate portrayal of the prevailing office environment. This information is invaluable for identifying work style imbalances (too many "owls" in a banking sector) as well as potential areas of conflict (or synergy) between employees.

Everyone is painfully aware of the problems that silos create within companies –cultural differences, different work values and a limited command of English (often used as a corporate Esperanto) are factors which can create poor work environments. People quickly pass judgements on those who don't do things "properly". Unresolved communication issues (otherwise known as bad feelings) lead to a lack of motivation and high employee turnover.  

In short, corporations lose revenue in two ways.  

The first cost is relatively easy to calculate : recruitment and training According to international recruitment specialists, the average cost of recruiting a top talent is around 10,000 Euros. An agency can often spend up to 6 months to locate an appropriate candidate. Add to this flat fee the costs of a relocation agency (apartment search, work permits) as well as the hours spent acclimating the expatriate to the new environment.  If companies invest in a manager from abroad who only stays for a couple of months, the time spent on onboarding is wasted. 

The second cost is greater but not immediately apparent: team performance.

Hiring a top talent who, on paper, has all the right skills but lacks the cultural and emotional intelligence, can create toxicity in a workplace environment. Sending in an “eagle” to work with owls and doves could either prove to be an excellent choice or a recipe for disaster -- if training is not provided.  Giving employees the opportunity to develop awareness as to their own preferences can also help them “stretch”. What can a “parrot” do to accommodate the work style of a “dove”? (and vice versa).

In any case, the cost of doing nothing is tremendous. Poor relationships can set off a negative spiral within a matter of weeks. Miscommunication or minimum communication gives rise to misunderstandings, frustration and low motivation. This in turn creates the conditions for burnout, absenteeism and high turnover.  The financial (not to mention the emotional) price tag is just too high.


DiSC assessments and trainings raise everyone’s awareness of different workplace styles, as well as the needs and priorities of everyone in the corporate nest. A 1-day training with follow-up can contribute significantly to the creation of an environment of well-being where people genuinely want to stay and make contributions to the team.  I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times. Employees leave a DiSC team-building training with new awareness, and a fresh perspective on how to build better rapport with co-workers.  

I am a trilingual (French, English and Mandarin Chinese) systemic coach with years of experience in expatriate support. If you are curious as to how I use the DiSC to get results, please have a look at my website www.weilan.biz and drop me a line.



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