To retain skilled staff, keep the wives happy

DON’T look after the wife of a migrating skilled professional and the new employee’s well of skills could quickly dry up, says ITS People Solutions managing partner Mark Greenwood.

Wives’ dissatisfaction with their new lives in Australia had undermined many attempts to keep overseas professionals, Greenwood said at a Perth function earlier this week focusing on the national skills shortage.

Almost all line managers interviewed overseas were selected using their technical skills and their willingness to relocate as criteria for selection, Greenwood told the West Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy breakfast meeting.

Often people migrate just to get out of their current situation, he said. This could simply lead to workers entering another environment where they or their families felt unhappy.

Successful migration required acknowledging that after a period feeling like a tourist, migrants would face a dip in confidence, often associated with a culture shock, Greenwood warned.

Getting out of this crisis and adjusting to a new life placed strain on marriages, he said.

Making migration successful required hirers to acknowledge the partner’s need for her own career development, an understading that teenagers often did not want to move, and readiness to deal with a lack of cultural knowledge on both sides, according to Greenwood.

“Do these people know what they letting themselves in for in the middle of the West Australian desert?” he asked.

A migrant’s experience of management style in their home country needed to be identified at the interview stage as some workers could have difficulties coping with the sometimes direct Australian approach.

The spouse also had to be interviewed, reference checks made, and role playing and psychological testing conducted.

Greenwood acknowledged psychological tests often used for hiring originated in the United States, while the culture of Australia’s resources industries was different from North America.

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