Bernard Wong is a principal in Heidrick & Struggles’ Hong Kong office. He is a member of the firm’s industrial and consumer practices and leads the CIO centre of excellence for Hong Kong.
Is a step up worth sacrificing lifestyle?
My engineering firm is moving part of its operations to India and there are some good career opportunities for the Hong Kong managers willing to relocate. However, my firm dropped “expat” packages long ago and now they’re saying: “If you want to come then come, but your package will be localised.” It’s difficult to decide whether making a step up the career ladder towards senior-level management is worth a dip in lifestyle and cultural adjustment. What can I do to make up my mind?
Looking at the engineering industry over the past decade, the localisation of compensation packages has been common in Asia. However, developing markets in the region, such as India, usually offer a premium package to attract the right talent – given the maturity of the leadership needed for executives.
From the perspective of career development, it is important to note that executives with experience in different jurisdictions and cultures are more valuable in the global market today. Exposure and a proven track record across multiple markets, and potentially multiple continents, can sometimes be a deciding factor for those selecting candidates for positions at international companies.
This is particularly true in Asia, given the vast differences in cultures across the region. Our recent studies show that more than 55 per cent of senior executives (vice-president and above) in the region have moved to a different country at least twice to take on a new role in their career.
Developing cultural agility, adapting to different leadership styles and managing different people – in addition to having a global mindset – could become a factor that differentiates you from other candidates, and will definitely broaden your career prospects in the long run.
From a personal perspective, if you are single and without a family, this could be a great opportunity to gain exposure and international experience with fewer restraints. If you have children, you may have to consider the schooling options, living environment and safety issues when deciding whether to relocate to India.
You also need to understand the terms and length of the assignment, as well as your options thereafter. Having a clear discussion with your company and manager is key to ensuring your employer’s continuous investment in your career development.
When considering the remuneration, you should look at total compensation. When companies have policies that eliminate expat benefits, they sometimes pay a higher cash compensation in order to strike a balance.
If you are still at a relatively early phase of your career, my recommendation is that you focus on the job and learning opportunities rather than compensation. Once you prioritise your career and experience, money will follow.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Is a step up worth sacrificing lifestyle?