Fränkel has previously enjoyed stays in both London and Hong Kong and is well acquainted with both the challenges and joys of expat life, as well as adapting to a new culture.
Fränkel wears two hats when it comes to her position: both helping Swedish companies sending employees abroad and settling incoming families relocating to Sweden. With six years of experience dealing with international relocations, she has seen it all when it comes to relocation.
“Assignees typically have two- to three-year assignments, but they can be anything from three months to three years,” said Fränkel. “We talk to them before they move to find out whether they have kids, want to be close to a specific school or what interests they have.”
The criteria for housing can include whether the employee wants to live near the nature or the city, close to restaurants and bars or in a quiet area.
The profile of assignees is changing as technology improves and budgets tighten. Instead of mostly families, more assignees are young singles or accompanied by a partner or older couples whose adult children who do not make the move.
The mix is about even between families with children and single assignees or couples, said Fränkel. For families, home and school searches are key factors.
“We see two types of expatriates, these who are sent to the host location to train and develop local staff how to manage international subsidiaries and local staff who are sent to the HQ location for an assignment to be trained,” she said.
Assignees range in age from 20 to over 60. Thirty-eight percent of assignees are aged 30 to 39, while only 2 percent are over 60. According to a recent survey, there has been a five percent decline of assignees aged 20 to 29 to only 9 percent. Another 27 percent are 40 to 49 and 14 percent are 50 to 59.
“These figures show that the expats tend to be more experienced people who are on assignments to share their knowledge as opposed to young people who are abroad to be trained,” said Fränkel.
Sixty-seven percent of assignees are married, up 7 percent, but only 49 percent have accompanying children, down 2 percent and lower than ever.
Another area of change is in short-term assignments of less than 12 months. These are less costly for the company since the families tend not accompany the assignee on short-term assignment. The traditional profile of a husband relocating is changing as well, with more families moving for the women’s careers.
The same survey found that 90 percent of spouses and partners were employed before the assignment, but this number fell to 35 percent while abroad. This is one area Fränkel wishes to improve on in the form of formal spousal support. This includes structured language classes or helping partners find a job, in order to settle-in and feel at home in their new country.
“It’s important to keep the spouse happy as well. The assignee will be busy with work and the spouse will often be home alone,” said Fränkel. “If the spouse is unhappy, the assignee will be unhappy and may leave earlier. The more support the company provides, the happier the family will be.”
She added, “For young couples, the spouse likely works in the home country. Not knowing the culture and language, it is important to help them with this, as well as introducing them to the job market in new country and adapt their CVs accordingly.”
KEY’s sister company, BBI (Better Business International), provides language and intercultural training for expats and their families to help them understand the culture in their new country, both in business and social life, and to integrate easier with locals.
For those moving to Sweden, KEY holds an orientation meeting with the assignee and family to introduce them to Sweden and in some cases, help them decide on whether to take up the assignment. They also show houses and discuss the school system if applicable.
In addition to home searches, KEY’s offices in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö also provide help with work permits, spousal support, language classes and cross-cultural training. The majority of the expats coming to Sweden that KEY works with are employed in the automotive, bank and iron and steel industries.
Ahead of the home search, KEY puts together a list of properties to view, a dedicated consultant then takes the assignee on the home search tour and assists with the negotiations of the rental contract. After the move, KEY also assists the assignees with settling in services, including opening telephone, Internet and bank accounts and getting a tax number.
In addition, KEY also arranges activities so assignees can meet one another, such as networking events, office seminars, family days, picnics and other expat-oriented activities.
Although relocation is a large industry in the US, UK and Asia, it has only caught on in Sweden over the last 20 years, but it is growing.
“The culture in Sweden is do-it-yourself,” said Fränkel. “Swedes have always been international, travelling and working abroad, but don’t tend to ask for help. We are trying to educate HR divisions about our services and what we can do to help them with their workloads.”