The services offered by ICAS cannot compensate for lack of cultural awareness on the part of expatriates. Given culturally sensitive expatriates who are eager to learn, institutional support such as that provided by ICAS, coupled with cross-cultural training, is the key to expatriate management. It has been estimated by Brewster (1995) that about a third of US expatriates receive pre- departure cross-cultural training, about 69 per cent of European firms engage in cross-cultural training, and 57 per cent of Japanese firms resort to cross-cultural training. Quite often such training tends to be short term , and lacking in depth. What is necessary is ongoing support and provision of information. That is what ICAS does, and it believes it contributes to positive and purposeful expatriate management.
Nothing can damage the image of a company more acutely than the despatch of expatriates who have received no brief about what to expect from their new environment, and therefore make cultural gaffes. A former MBA student (in 2000) who had worked for the English shipping company Graig Ship Management had a regrettable experience when he was sent to China. This student had been sent to Shanghai, along with some of Graig's most qualified and competent engineers. The engineers were received in China by a sizeable delegation of Chinese managers from the Chinese company that had requested their services. Each member of the Chinese delegation in turn asked the engineers a question. The engineers found that a few of the questions were beyond their capacity to answer. They had not been briefed that it is customary in China to welcome business partners with a question and answer session, so each Chinese manager comes to these sessions prepared with a question.
Most transnational corporations possess systems and practices designed explicitly for expatriates. In some corporations these practices have evolved incrementally, and have not been formally institutionalized. A few have standardized procedures for taking care of expatriates. Quite a substantial number of corporations prefer to take specialized assistance from organizations such as ICAS. The bulk of the effort embedded in expatriate management centres around, first of all, the careful selection of managers who are going to be expatriates. Once selected, they have to be prepared for and educated about the foreign culture they are going to. And finally, the expatriates have to be given a helping hand when they start operating in the new culture. Transnational corporations are united in their opinion that all three aspects of expatriate management mentioned here are equally important and should be integrated into a comprehensive expatriate management programme. Research by Mendenhall and Oddou (1985) indicates that in practice, not many companies systematically develop such programmes. Of the companies that have offered formal pre-departure training to their expatriates, less than 25 per cent included cross-cultural considerations.