Expat Learning Curve Drops from 9 Months to 3 Months


As one of the largest banks in world, this firm sends thousands of individuals annually on short and long-term global assignments each year. The individuals selected for these roles are among the top performers in the company but many of them take a long time to find their stride when relocating. The learning curve is particularly steep for those assigned to the Middle East and parts of Asia. The expats felt like the training they received beforehand did little to adequately equip them to work effectively in the new environment. And many reported that their families were struggling to adjust to the move.


The company worked with the Cultural Intelligence Center to design a program to more effectively equip and support the leaders going on global assignment. They began with those who would be relocating for at least two years with plans to expand it to those doing short-term assignments as well (3-6 months). We worked with the company to design a program that includes coaching and assessment for the expat and family.


  • Expat and Partner take the CQ Assessment and Cultural Values Profile
  • The couple meets with a coach to debrief assessment results in order to anticipate potential challenges and growth opportunities
  • Each individual creates a personal CQ Development Plan

Month 1 on Assignment

  • Expat and Partner meet with a coach (usually virtually) to describe initial impressions and learnings
  • The expat receives some online and written resources for learning more about the work practices in the specific location

Month 2 on Assignment

  • Expat meets with the coach to discuss specific challenges and insights based on the first 6 weeks in-country
  • Expat identifies three goals for the next 4-6 weeks to further improve and apply CQ to the assignment

Month 3 on Assignment

  • Expat and Partner meet with a coach to revisit their Cultural Values Profiles and talk about challenges and learnings
  • Expat reviews progress on goals set in Month 2

Month 6 on Assignment

  • Expat takes the CQ Assessment again and compares results with pre-assignment results
  • Expat meets with coach to determine a 6-month plan for additional development and to see whether additional coaching and training will be useful


  • Expat meets with coach and his/her supervisor to determine how to use what was learned back in the home office and/or globally


The company reported that the program significantly increased the confidence and effectiveness of their expats and resulted in them hitting the ground more quickly than had previously been the case. More specifically:

  • The early attrition rate dropped by 15%
  • On average, internal survey results reported that those on global assignment were fully functional in their roles 3 months after relocating rather than the previous average of 8-9 months after relocating
  • The re-entry part of the program led to the implementation and integration of leading practices individuals learned from their time abroad (e.g. taking a practice one learned from the office in Shanghai and utilizing it in London)
  • The company designed a smaller scale version of the program for their most frequent travelers (e.g. those who travel for 1-2 week periods at a time around the world)

CQ is an ongoing education

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