Category Archives: Global Mobility
...can be cheaper than dining out.
…can be cheaper than dining out.

 

 

 

Have you ever wondered about your social status in Switzerland? Has it occurred to you that status shows in mundane details such as the coach class you choose when you are riding the train? It also shows in the health insurance system in Switzerland, and it does not always show in classical status symbols such as a car. Even a suit does not necessarily mean that a person is wealthy. Status shows in the job you have, the restaurants you go to and the language you choose to speak.

 

In Switzerland, the trains have a first and second class. The second class is usually for the “normal” people, the first class full of business executives and professionals on their daily commute. We love our public transportation system. It’s very effective, on schedule and trains are exceptionally safe and clean. So really, there is no reason to travel first class other than status.

I only went first class on a few business trips. I am a second-class commuter.  By choice. I like to tell myself that I don’t care about my status but in all honesty, this is not true. Often expats and local foreign hires come from a high social status and an elaborate lifestyle in their home countries. Many of my clients tell me that they had at least two maids and a cook, sometimes a driver. They are not used to doing housework or handling their children the whole day. They come here thinking they will thrive in the land of milk and honey (or cheese & chocolate).

And then…the Swiss reality is different.

Life is beautiful in Switzerland – for professional men. Women carry the full burden of running the home, educating the children and if they are professionals they often take a step back in their career once the first child is born. Even if you might be able to afford a cleaning person you will not always be happy with the quality you get for the price you pay. Childcare is expensive and we do not have enough qualified educators around.

 

Egalitarian Cultures value Modest Behavior

Another culture clash is that “status” here is defined differently than in other countries. Even CEOs take the bus. They do not necessarily drive big cars or wear expensive watches. Their houses seem small. The Swiss tend to be modest. They do not like to show off. They rather define status by the luxury they can afford as in traveling the world, a large number of children and a cottage in the mountains. Luxury is a longer period of time taken off work to follow a dream, being able to volunteer, support an NGO or support the “commune” by being in the fire brigade or in a “Verein”.

Luxury in some families is that one person (usually the woman) can stay at home raising the kids. What can happen that once you arrived in Switzerland unpacked your boxes and got used to the life here, that you feel like a “second-class” citizen? You might feel like you are struggling, working too hard and not going to the mountains as much as you would like to. You might also notice that you have underestimated the need for learning German / French. Often in this phase expats and foreign hires doubt if Switzerland is the right place. Some of them move to the next place.

Remember that this step will cause a bit of pain

This is normal when you build up a new life in a new country. It takes time and real integration in my view only starts about after two to three years. That is when you build a social circle outside of the expat community and when you really feel “at home”. I used to have status in Germany. I was an Executive, a “Leitende Angestellte”. I had an apartment, a nice company car, and a team. I also had a cleaning person, a tailor and enough money for several holidays and trips. Then I moved to Switzerland and suddenly my status changed. You probably wonder how I could let that happen as a Global Mobility Leader. I should have made a net-to-net comparison and request a better package. I should have insisted on coming to Switzerland with an appropriate corporate title AND I should have known that there will be social security risks when I move on a local contract. And yes, despite the fact that I am a Global Mobility Expert I made a few miscalculations. I did not get the deal I deserved and I suffered a few years from this mistake. I accepted the terms of the contract because I was following a dream. I wanted to be in Zurich no matter what. And when you are emotional about a goal in life, you easily forget the pain.

 

Today, I have status again but I still don’t take the first class on the train. I assume I haven’t convinced myself just yet.

 

Further reading:

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/culture/haves-and-have-yachtsadd-the-underlineswitzerland–in-a-class-of-its-own/35827762

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/society/data-analysis_six-things-to-know-about-switzerland-s-middle-class/42963242

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/society/data-analysis_six-things-to-know-about-switzerland-s-middle-class/42963242https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/new-content-item/42770386

 

#migration

by Tracy Hope

When I was 22, I moved from New Zealand to California’s Santa Cruz, from one ocean-loving, laid-back community to another. I was young, I was excited, I was a newlywed on an adventure, and I couldn’t imagine the culture shock that I was going to experience there.

It was only years later, when I had moved back to New Zealand and was preparing to move yet again, this time to Zürich, Switzerland, that I really took the time to analyse why returning to NZ from Santa Cruz was such a relief. I never found my niche in California, and it never felt like home. I made few friends there and had a permanent sense of being a fish out of water. And that was in a country where I spoke the language and grew up watching Californian TV shows and movies; the thought of living in a culture with another language (or two) with no prior experience was both exciting and terrifying, and I decided I was going to enter this new adventure with a firm plan to make it home.

 

There were many reasons why that first relocation felt like a failure. Don’t get me wrong: I loved living there and the opportunities I had for travel and new experiences. But I had expectations from TV and media that left me disappointed and disillusioned, and the culture of forming relationships with others was vague and confusing to me as an outsider. I read books and articles about life as a foreigner in Switzerland and set my expectations low when it came to making friends there.

 

I bought novels and biographies, learned about the history of the country, followed blogs and instagrams and researched my husband’s new employer, a global tech corporation with a large European headquarters in Zürich. We spent hours trawling through the company’s relocation tips and processes, and finally one day he pointed me to a page announcing a network just for spouses and partners of employees. Nervously I registered, noting the strict protocols to confirm that I was indeed married to an employee and therefore wasn’t joining just to learn company secrets. When my registration was confirmed, I was given access to a whole world within Zürich that I would never have known existed: a community of women and men in the same situation as me, learning to get along in a new country.

 

I read every webpage, browsed every topic in the mailing list archives, found the answers to questions I had and conversations that reassured me that everything would indeed be OK.

 

By the time I arrived in Zürich, exhausted and hungry on a snowy Tuesday evening, two children and a husband and a wagon full of suitcases in tow, I had already planned playdates with other families and had tips on how to get from the airport to our temporary apartment. Within two weeks, we had solved all of our new-arrival problems from registering at our local Gemeinde and choosing public transport passes to finding an apartment and buying new furniture. As soon as we moved into our new home (and assembled our Ikea furniture), I opened our apartment up to the community. Ten women came to introduce themselves and offer me their support and advice. Within a month of arriving on the other side of the world, I had found my home.

 

Having something with as much value as this built-in support network has been the most valuable tool for my relocation, and it’s turned me into something of an evangelist for plus-one networks for internationally relocating families.

 

There may be nothing more useful to a new arrival than this existing support network, made up of people who have already experienced what you are experiencing, and can give you not only helpful advice but the reassurance that it is survivable.

 

International HR researchers and RMC’s such as Brookfield publish extensively about this topic. They have found that more than 80% of international assignment contracts that fail, do so because the employees’ spouse or family is unhappy. Having a strong support network for spouses and partners of a company’s employees can drastically reduce the number of cancelled contracts.

 

The purpose of a plus-one network may vary wildly depending on the country and the community itself. My own community provides support for job seekers, language support, financial advice, social events and even regular welcome activities for new arrivals, giving them answers to the questions everyone has in their first months. The community can serve as a bridge between the company’s culture and the culture of the country, finding ways to connect foreigners with locals and open communications.

 

It seems unlikely that something so crucial to a successful family relocation can be so hard to find, but there it is: in the city of Zürich, a hub for international companies’ European offices, only one company and one university boast a network just for employees’ partners. In the case of the university, an entire department exists to support families of employees, while the company’s Plus-One network was founded and is managed entirely by volunteers within the community.

 

And here’s my point: anyone can make such a community exist. Whether in the financial, pharma, or academic sector, any like-minded group of partners or spouses of employees can create something that will boost the chances of a successful relocation, and hence the success of a company’s international employee contract. With solid support from HR, a company can increase the likelihood of their international employees’ contract lasting the distance. When the family is settled and happy, it should go without saying that employees are settled and happy.

 

A small amount of time and energy can go a long, long way towards happy relocations.

 

Want to learn more about how to create a Plus-One network? 

About the Author

Tracy Hope does not consider herself a “trailing spouse”. She finds new ways to support recent arrivals in Switzerland through integration events and small business support, and teaches English to children on the side. Kiwi by birth; community builder, writer and teacher by vocation, she will try anything once. Her business, Language Plus, is an English-language school for Swiss and bilingual children, but its boundaries are limitless.

Nine box grid and assignee selection

Expat Selection is a myth and if you would like to select expats in a structured manner you better start with a few basic adjustments in your global sourcing process.

Succession Planning

Succession Planning should guide individual development plan, the international assignment business case and the transition plan. I advise thinking the international assignment from the end. Start to think about the next role before you discuss the international assignment business case with the assignment targets and cost projection. In other words, find a position the assignee could fill after the assignment in your succession plan. Most companies only have a succession plan for the top 10% of their positions but what about the other 90%?

Use your Nine-Box Grid wisely

In order to have a good succession plan in place companies often use an extensive talent selection process that is usually based on the nine-box grid. The nine-box grid helps to decide where your candidates are within your talents. Usually, the key talents would be found in the 3,3 box or A-category. In multinationals, A-candidates often fill market assignment, B candidates sourcing assignments and C candidates talent assignments. Depending on your main Global Mobility drivers, you could consider D-candidates for lifestyle assignments and sometimes even for sourcing assignment.

Data-driven decisions

I would like give you an insight into assignee selection because I often receive questions about this topic. Generally, there is no best practice for assignee selection. The reality I often see is that current assignee has already left. The HR Business Partners or Talent Managers run around screaming “Hello? Anybody out there?” and the first good candidate who raises the hand is accepted. Then because it is already late in the process and the position has been vacant for too long, this candidate negotiates a fantastic package. As there is usually no structured global sourcing process in place you might want to follow the next step to develop a data-driven decision about your assignees rather than a purely network-driven decision.

Interview at least three candidates per role

Make it point to shortlist more than three candidates per role and where possible look for a diverse selection of candidates. Open all jobs up to C-level on a global job board so candidates can also nominate themselves.

Check the local market before hiring an expat

Before you reach out to the global candidates or Headquarter try to hire from the local market. An expat should be the last solution to consider, not the first especially if there is a high likelihood that you are looking for a specific skill set.

Base selection on hard skills

I’m often surprised on what basis expats are chosen for a role. You need to match their hard skills to the profile you are looking for. Treat them as if they were an external applicant and be critical of their self-assessment. Have a standardized assessment or test in place for critical skills.

Only chose high performers

If a person is a medium or low performer they will certainly not perform better in a country where they do not understand the culture and where they do not have a network. A high performer in the home country will in my experience perform one point less in the host country in the first year. Often expats go down from 3 to 2 in the nine-box grid, or from 4 to 3 on a 5-point scale.

Assess their intercultural competence

Candidates might be great on their home turf but could fail in a cultural context that does not suit them. You could have the intercultural competence of your expats tested. There are various assessment tools in the market and they could help with your choice.

Take the Expat Spouse into account

If the assignee is married or in a partnership you could obtain a pre-hire assessment for the spouse. Often, the spouse is neglected in the process and the issue of the spouse not finding employment is only raised when the expat family is desperate and unhappy in the host country. As a modern employer, you should assume that the expat spouse is key to the success of the assignment and therefore needs to be on board from the start.

Learn about particular needs of the Expat Family early on

You could have the best selection process, a fantastic candidate and waste a lot of time because the needs of the family have not been met. For example, if the candidate has a child with special needs you should know if the host country has a school that adheres to those needs. Also, if there is an elderly relative to consider, you should have an idea how to tackle this situation. You could discuss a special roster with extended home leave or an additional bedroom. You would need to check if you can obtain a residence permit for the extended family members too.

If you have any questions on succession planning and expat selection in Global Mobility you can email or message me.

Angie Weinberger

PS: This post is a chapter from the third edition of “The Global Mobility Workbook”. Do you want to be updated on the publication or even receive more free excerpts? Sign up here.

When you suddenly see kingfishers everywhere and you assign meaning. Then C.G. Jung calls this synchronicity or is it just well-done Marketing brought to you by Google? An unknown word appeared in my life and it was the project name from Action from Switzerland called “Halcyon Days”. I had to spell this word several times as I mentioned it on several occasions. And I always got it wrong.

So on a Monday night when I was watching a documentary on C.G. Jung and synchronicity, I noted down the correct spelling. I hoped that I would now spell it correctly. That evening I learned that there are a few “coincidences” between C.G. Jung and J.R.R. Tolkien. That was quite a fascinating discovery as I feel these two come from two completely separate fields of my life. However, the connections are intriguing. 

Kingfishers everywhere

Then, I heard from a friend about an old seventies TV-series that I binged on. It was one of those cold Saturdays and Sundays where going out of the house was just not an option. Guess what? One of the main families in the series had the last name “Halcyon”. I then learned how to pronounce it and found out that it is actually a special kind of tree kingfisher (bird). I finally checked Wikipedia: “Halcyon Days is an oblique reference to the Greek mythological figure Alcyone”.

“Ovid and Hyginus both also make the metamorphosis the origin of the etymology for “halcyon days“, the seven days in winter when storms never occur. They state that these were originally the 14 days each year (seven days on either side of the shortest day of the year[5]) during which Alcyone (as a kingfisher) laid her eggs and made her nest on the beach and during which her father Aeolus, god of the winds, restrained the winds and calmed the waves so she could do so in safety. The phrase has since come to refer to any peaceful time. Its proper meaning, however, is that of a lucky break, or a bright interval set in the midst of adversity; just as the days of calm and mild weather are set in the height of winter for the sake of the kingfishers’ egglaying.

Now you all know that Wikipedia is not scientific but it is often a good first reference for discovery, especially if you are looking for connections. Today, I read an article in which Ellie Golding was mentioned. And she has an album called “Halcyon Days” . Yes, it’s a coincidence, maybe…maybe not. Maybe Gaby Tan, the founder of AFS is a fan of that seventies series or Ellie Golding or really good at Greek mythology or maybe she just likes the bird.

Synchronicity

What C.G. Jung would say though is that I assigned a deeper meaning to this and that is why it is synchronicity. I was ruminating about the question if I should continue to edit my Bollywood-meets-Bond-style novel “Double Happiness”. Maybe you don’t know that I ventured into creative writing a few years ago. I never fully finished “Double Happiness”. Fear took hold of me. I did not see immediate success and decided to quit. Part 1 was published, Parts 2 to 4 are draft manuscripts lying around on my computer. I did not even know if I still had them.

And then out of the universe I get a sign that reminds me of India. The kingfishers are everywhere and my favorite Indian beer brand is “Kingfisher”. I cannot remember a time in my life that was so mellow and calm. So, if I wanted to lay my artistic eggs this fasting period up to Easter 2018 would be the best time to do it.

The Lens of the Writer and the Paintbrush of the Artist

We look at life through a different angle. As writers we have a lens. We make the normal day-to-day visible with words just like a painter who brushes a situation in a shopping center into a piece of art or a photographer who captures a war story in one image. What we do with our writing is to paint a world inside your head and sometimes we touch your soul. And when we touch your soul we feel connected through the words. There is beauty in that.

What I did not really know about C.G. Jung until the recent explorations was that he painted and that he was so interested in mythical topics. When I picked up the archetypes for the second time, his words about cultural separation seemed so up to date it was almost scary.

“Unser Intellekt hat Ungeheures geleistet, derweilen unser geistliches Haus zerfallen ist….Schliesslich graben wir die Weisheit aller Zeiten und Völker aus und finden, dass alles Teuerste und Kostbarste schon längst in schönster Sprache gesagt ist.” (Carl Gustav Jung, Archetypen, originally 1934, 2010 ed., p. 19)

Can you grasp the idea that there is a collective unconscious in this world and that we can tab into it like into a radar? There is a painting in Jung’s red book that symbolizes the channel to the collective soul. For a while, when the Internet was fairly new in the 90-ies and only geeks knew about it many of them thought of the Internet as our collective consciousness. I felt it was Twitter for a long time.

What has our Collective Unconscious Become?

Is the Internet now the collective, global expression of our fears, prejudice and biases? And are we just stuck in a loop where what we set out there echos back to us? Did I find Halcyon’s everywhere because I was looking for them? Is it all just selective perception or is it Google spying on me? 

This needs further exploration. Rest assured though that the answers will rock your grounds, shake your inner most beliefs of what is true and what is not. Are you with me on this journey?

Tell me about your synchronicity experiences please.

RockMe! Retreat

I mentioned in my post Simplify Your Digital Life – On Reducing Complexity” that I learned a few more principles about how I work with the companies I encounter as a small business and private individual. Maybe this helps you to improve your customer experience too.

Reduced Clutter Equals Better Choices

When you consider simplifying your life there are certain standards that you expect. One example that comes to my mind is a website for a seemingly simple transaction such as buying a ticket or sending flowers. In both cases, those websites were overly full of information and had too many options. I probably just clicked what I thought was right, did not read the fine print and made mistakes.

Treat your Costumers like Intelligent Humans

Another site annoyed me in the last part of the buying process where I had invested already about half an hour selecting and declining additional options because they did not tell me that the delivery cost would be added at the end of the transaction. You probably think that this is normal and that I should not be surprised. I understand the principle, but what I did not like was that the delivery cost about 100% of the product. That was way out of proportion and did not make sense to me. I would have expected that there is a standard service with a delivery (a bunch of flowers). Maybe it’s my inexperience with such transactions but I gave feedback. I got a reply but it did not help…but at least I did not have to speak to a robot again.

Consumers should not be treated like idiots. I am happy to spend money but I want to feel that my money is well spent and in a lot of those cases I wasted either time or money because of lame processes or lack of customer service. I often wonder then why employees take no pride in their work, why they are not trying to make their customers happy, why they are not communicating better. The only explanation I have is our corporate culture. If we want to create amazing customer experiences, we also have to create better employee experiences. I think we also need to give our employees more freedom to make decisions to support the customers, like the lady who helped me at the SNCF counter. I also think we need to hire Generation X customer service representatives into shared service centers, who do not treat a 45-year-old like their best friend or their worst enemy and who have the patience to explain a process step by step.

As a Customer Give Feedback

These days, if I come across a bad website or a bad email marketing newsletter I give feedback. I know that I have not been asked to provide feedback, but I know that most of the time it helps me a lot. There are so many misunderstandings in written communication, we all come from different places and for most of us we feel challenged to communicate in our mother tongue, let alone in a second or third language.

Customer Service of Humans Tops Everything

I was annoyed by SNCF, the Novotel, and other sites because they did not allow me easily to reverse a transaction that I made in good faith. I lost money and time. While I am writing this post I am sitting in the same hotel that had annoyed me a few months back. I did not book it. There is no better option either. However, this time I was not expecting service and I was wondering if anyone would talk to me about my 1-star review on TripAdvisor. I even did not have a functioning credit card as a guarantee for them. BUT my experience is amazing. I needed help as I am unwell. I got free medicine and a fresh lemon for tea. The kitchen staff gave me lemons. I was treated friendly and could choose the floor and have a great view now. I am almost considering to reverse the bad review…but then logging in to Tripadvisor took too long again. Maybe I leave it there for a little longer to keep them on their feet.

 

Kind regards

Angie Weinberger