The number of marketing management personnel from the home country assigned to foreign countries varies according to the size of the operation, the availability of qualified locals, and other firm characteristics. Increasingly the number of US home country nationals (expatriates) assigned to foreign posts is smaller as the pool of trained experienced locals grows.
The largest personnel requirements abroad for most companies are the sales force, recruited from three sources: expatriates, local nationals and third country nationals. A Company’s staffing pattern may include all these types in any single foreign operation, depending on qualifications, availability and a company’s needs. Sales and marketing executives can be recruited via the traditional media of advertising (including newspaper, magazines, job fairs, and the Internet), employment agencies or executive search firms, and the all important personal referrals. The last source will be crucial in many foreign countries, particularly the relationship oriented ones.
The number of companies relying on expatriate personnel is declining as the volume of world trade increases and as more companies use locals to fill marketing positions. However, when products are highly technical or when selling requires an extensive background of information and applications an expatriate’s sale force remains the best choice. The expatriate sales person may have the advantage of greater technical training better knowledge of the company and its product line and proven dependability. Because they are not local expatriates sometimes add to the prestige of the product line in the eyes of foreign customers. And, perhaps most important, expatriates usually are able to effectively communicate with and influence head quarters personnel.
The chief disadvantages of an expatriate sales force are the high cost, cultural and legal barriers and the limited number of high caliber personnel willing to live abroad for extended periods. Companies in the United States are finding it difficult to persuade outstanding employees to take overseas posts. Employees are reluctant to go abroad for many reasons: Some find it difficult to uproot families for two or three year assignment increasing the number of dual career couples who often require finding suitable jobs for spouses and many executives believe such assignments impede their subsequent promotions at home, recall the comments of the executives in the Global Perspective. The loss of visibility to corporate headquarters plus the belief that out of sight is out of mind are major reasons for the reluctance to accept foreign assignment. Companies with well planned career development programs have the least difficulty. Indeed, the best international companies make it crystal clear that a ticket to top management is an overseas stint. Korn / Ferry international reports in a survey of 75 senior executives from around the world that international experience is the attribute identified as second most important for CEOs experience and finance positions were first and third respectively.
Expatriates commit to foreign assignments for varying lengths of time, from a few weeks or months to a lifetime. Some expatriates have one time assignments (which may last for years) after which they are returned to the parent company; others are essentially professionals expatriates working abroad in country after country. Still another expatriate assignment is a career long assignment to a given county or region. This is likely to lead to assimilation of the expatriate into foreign culture to such an extent that the person may more closely resemble a local than expatriate marketing personnel are likely to cost substantially more than locals, a company must be certain of their effectiveness.
More and more American companies are taking advantage of American employees who are fluent in languages other than English. For example, many US citizens speak Spanish as their first language. The large number of Puerto Ricans working for American multinational places like Mexico City is well documented.