Insights

Survey on Japanese expatriates in China

“Sense of Challenge”, “Communication of vision” and “Networking” are the keys to successful expatriate assignment

September 29, 2016

We see expatriates ("expats") who succeeded in expanding overseas business and those who did not. So, what kind of behavior separates them?

To answer this question we would like to take a look at our leadership assessment database. We analyze 90 Japanese expats from 30 different companies who were dispatched to China. China has been the most populous destination for Japanese expats, with more than 72,000 expats sent in 2015.*1

In this article we divide expat leaders into 2 groups by the responses to the survey item, "He/She contributes to the expansion of the local organization's business," based on evaluation by their reports. The 30 expats who scored the highest on the above item are classified as Group A and the 30 expats who scored the lowest are Group B. Next, we look at the items showing the least gap between Groups A and B, and then we will discuss items with the most difference.

Figure 1 shows the three items with the least gap between the top and bottom groups. Among 53 items of leadership with positive impact, we can interpret that these three are the ones with the least impact on expat success.

These three items are all related to daily conversation. It is necessary to understand each other's values from different cultural backgrounds and thus, daily conversation is obviously important. The scores for these items were high even for Group B, so we can assume these items are fundamentals for expat leaders.

Figure1. Top 3 items among 53 leadership behaviors with the LEAST influence on the success of expat assignments
Leadership behaviors Average score Gap
Group A
(n=30)
Group B
(n=30)
He/She greets and talks to direct reports. 6.3 5.7 0.5
He/She stops working and gives full attention when direct reports speak. 6.2 5.5 0.7
He/She listens to direct reports thoroughly without interrupting or rejecting. 6.2 5.4 0.7

※Group A (30 expats with highest scores) Group B (30 expats with lowest scores)
7-point scale ("1-Strongly disagree" - "7-Strongly agree") 
Coaching Research Institute, 2016

Figure 2 shows the items that showed the biggest difference between Groups A and B.

Among the same leadership items, "Having a sense of challenge", "Creating, and communicating new vision" and "Networking internally and externally" are the ones with the most impact on expat success.

Figure 2. Top 3 items among 53 leadership behaviors with the MOST influence on the success of expat assignments
Leadership behaviors Average score Gap
Group A
(n=30)
Group B
(n=30)
He/She is open to adopt new methods and does not necessarily stick to past approaches. 6.1 4.7 1.4
He/She communicates his/her organization's vision in a way that is appealing to me. 5.7 4.4 1.4
He/She has a network of people in and out of the company that provides information. 6.2 4.9 1.3

※Group A (30 expats with highest scores) Group B (30 expats with lowest scores)
7-point scale ("1-Strongly disagree" - "7-Strongly agree") 
Coaching Research Institute, 2016

In this article we have introduced findings from our study of Japanese expats in China. We also think that they may serve as common grounds for expats in general. We hope these hints will be useful to look back on for expats and the people working with them.

*1Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan "Research of Statics of Japanese living overseas" (2016)
http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/toko/page22_000043.html(Japanese only)

Research Overview

Number of samples: 775 direct reports of 90 Japanese expats from 30 companies
Period: December 2012 - June 2016
Survey method: Online survey 
Survey tool: Leadership Assessment (Expat Version)

Contact us

Related Reports

October 28, 2016

President's Behavior is a Key Factor in Creating a Culture of Innovation
What separates companies with strong relationships among their leaders from other companies?

In our previous article, "How to Create...

July 4, 2016

Accelerating direct reports' action towards achieving goals
The key is continuous communication about the goal, sharing the same organizational goal, and giving specific feedback.

What are the managers doing to drive direct reports' actions for achieving their goals?

Go to Insights