Successful Expat Employee Personality Traits

If you’re thinking about which employees will be your best bet for relocating assignments abroad, you’re likely considering their work ethics, productivity, and leadership skills. These are all crucial characteristics that should factor into your decision, but what is perhaps even more important than job skills when predicting who will be a successful expat employee are personality traits. Moving abroad for business, or any other reason isn’t for everybody. For some, the prospect will be stressful and discouraging, while others will be more prepared and enthusiastic about the possibility of moving for work.  Employees that consistently display the personality traits listed below have the greatest potential for relocation success.

1) Flexibility 

With so much activity required for relocations – visa and immigration formalities, packing, shipping, house hunting, moving into a new office, the list goes on! – there are bound to be at least a few unexpected changes to schedule and procedure. If these surprises cause too much stress on an employee they can be overwhelming and discouraging. Employees who embrace a go-with-the-flow attitude have a great advantage.

2) Patience

We can’t stress how important patience is for any relocation. The ability to take a deep breath and wait – to feel at home in new surroundings, to make new friends and systems of support,  even get all the formalities taken care of – could be the deciding factor in whether or not the assignment will succeed. Any successful expat employee understands that the process of integrating can take months, sometimes even longer, so it’s best not to let this truth cost you too much emotional health.

3) Resourcefulness 

New locations are always unfamiliar territory. No matter how much information your HR team provides your relocating employees, and no matter how much research they do on their own, they can be sure to find themselves, at least once in a while, in situations of uncertainty. Whether they are exploring an unfamiliar part of the city, and get a bit turned around, or need a quick solution on what to bring to a potluck dinner, relocating employees will benefit from keeping on their toes, reaching out for advice, and being aware of the resources at their disposal. Resourceful employees prepare themselves with the latest local apps, and aren’t afraid to knock on a neighbors’ door.

4) Communication

No doubt good communication skills are crucial for every successful expat employee – on multiple levels. They likely will need to be conveying information regularly to bosses or employees back in their home office, so possessing a strong understanding of communication channels, like email and Skype is key. The same goes for staying in touch with family. Expat employees are likely leaving family members and friends behind, who may be concerned, worried or simply missing their loved one abroad.

At the same time, a successful expat employee knows that communicating with people in his or her new surroundings is very important, too. The challenges of navigating a new culture and a new city are eased when we have the confidence and ability to talk to people, but they those same challenges are inflated if an expat is shy, or regularly struggling to understand others. That’s why it’s important for your employee to enthusiastically pursue language lessons, in their new city, if the native language is unfamiliar to him or her.

5) Health

Poor health makes life more difficult wherever you may be, but in a new location, where an employee is not familiar with the resources, including hospitals, community health centers, walk-in clinics, and others that are available to them, falling ill or nursing a persistent health issue can be even more frustrating and challenging. Further, medications may be different, or wait times for medical services could be long. Not to mention the added psychological and emotion stress of living away from home while ill.

6) Optimism

If the other five personality traits listed above are embraced, it should be much easier for your expat employee to stay optimistic, even during the most trying moments of the relocation and integration process. Studies show that positive thinking can reduce stress and improve health! To be a successful expat employee, keeping a hopeful outlook can be the key.

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Photo: Global Panorama

About Christopher

I am an Human Resources professional who specializes in helping transferees and their families successfully relocate to international countries. My years of experience have helped me gain an excellent understanding of the individual needs of each unique relocation. I'm here at to share my knowledge with other HR professionals. // Je suis un expert des Ressources Humaines qui est spécialisé pour aider les relocalisés et leur famille à s’expatrier avec succès vers des pays étrangers. Mes années d’expérience m’ont aidées à acquérir une excellente compréhension des besoins individuels de chaque relocalisation. Je suis ici à afin de partager mes connaissances avec d’autres professionnels des RH.

  • Christopher,

    We help employers identify the job talent of both employees and candidates.

    To determine Job Talent we assess for the following…
    1. Thinking Styles
    2. Behavioral Traits
    3. Occupational Interests

    The scales are from 1 to 10 and the individual’s score is from the answers to 318 questions. Each score is a half a standard deviation wide. In other words 38% (19% + 19%) of the workforce score within one standard deviation of the 50% line, i.e., STEN Scores 5 and 6.
    1. Thinking Styles (5 scales)
    – Learning Index: an index of expected learning, reasoning and problem solving potential.
    – Verbal Skill: a measure of verbal skill through vocabulary.
    – Verbal Reasoning: using words as a basis in reasoning and problem solving.
    – Numerical Ability: a measure of numeric calculation ability.
    – Numeric Reasoning: using numbers as a basis in reasoning and problem solving.

    2. Behavioral Traits (9 scales)
    – Energy Level: tendency to display endurance and capacity for a fast pace.
    – Assertiveness: tendency to take charge of people and situations. Leads more than follows.
    – Sociability: tendency to be outgoing, people-oriented and participate with others.
    – Manageability: tendency to follow policies, accept controls & supervision, work within the rules.
    – Attitude: tendency to have a positive attitude regarding people and outcomes.
    – Decisiveness: uses available information to make decisions quickly.
    – Accommodating: tendency to be friendly, cooperative, agreeable. To be a team person.
    – Independence: tendency to be self-reliant, self-directed, independent action and make decisions.
    – Objective Judgment: the ability to think clearly and be objective in decision-making.

    3. Occupational Interests (6 scales)
    – Enterprising: occupations where they use persuasiveness and enjoy presenting plans
    – Financial/Administrative: work with financial data, business systems, admin. procedures, etc.
    – People Service: occupations that help people and they are concerned with the welfare of others.
    – Technical: occupations that center on scientific/technical activities, research & intellectual skills.
    – Mechanical: in occupations that work with tools, equipment and machinery.
    – Creative: occupations where they are imaginative, original and aesthetic