Tag Archives: Global Mobility

Dear colleague,

Since 1999 I have worked in the Global Mobility / international HR area and there is not one day where I do not learn anything new!

In the year 2000 I sat in the last row of a very expensive Global Mobility seminar in Berlin. I was about three months into a role that was at least one shoe size to big for my experience but I must have made a big impression in the interview (and my future boss was probably desperate) so I landed my dream job which was to be the “HR International Advisor for Asia Pacific responsible for around 80 assignees and representatives of a large global bank. The seminar was a waste of money on me. It was far too specific and detailed. The cases were more the exceptions than the general rule and I am happy that at least I remembered when to apply the “183-day-rule* in a case of double taxation and when not even to bother.

Globe

We are NOT relocation professionals even though we often engage them

Later in my Human Resources career I noticed that there is really not a lot of good advice out there for international HR professionals PLUS if you say you work in Global Mobility a lot of people think you are doing relocation. When talking to other HR Professionals and senior managers they often underestimate the complexity of Global Mobility and one of the remarks that still makes me angry is when Global Mobility Professionals are called “ADMIN” because what we do requires an enormous knowledge and skill set.

If you are one of my colleagues you probably share my view that Global Mobility Professional have to be

  • Highly analytical (you are a comp and cost expert).
  • Highly technical (you are an expert on tax, social security, immigration, employment law).
  • Highly experiential (you have to have moved 200 expats to know your job).
  • Highly sensitive (you work with talents and their families in a phase of high stress).
  • Highly intercultural (you speak at least four languages and deal with numerous cultures).

There is no formal Global Mobility education and profession.

We need to build up our own professional standard and education while we need to learn to work more in line with the businesses and clients we serve. We need to step up and become real consultants.

If you want to know how –>> sign up  for our updates on “The Global Mobility Workbook – A Step-by-Step Guide for managing international Assignments” in the pink box.

 

Kind regards

Angela Weinberger

 

How did you experience your stint in a high-growth market?As it is in the modern world, changes in the global economy happen everyday and their impact is felt far and wide. Many of these changes have caused increased demand for international assignments in high-growth markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, or China – and not always with a glamorous expat package to go with it. In fact it’s recently been reported that growth in these locations is actually slowing, creating yet another dimension for the market. If you find yourself being assigned to a high-growth market (or even “slow-growth” market) on a local package, you will likely confront these challenges.

1) Decreased purchasing power

Cost of living in high-growth markets is rising faster than income can keep-up with. This means that your purchasing power and disposable income will be lower in your new location. Get familiar with your new economy and budget before making any big purchases.

2) Costly housing

Housing is often more expensive than other costs. If you are earning a local market salary, ask your company to pay or supplement your accommodations to help make-up for lost income.

3) Maintaining social security at home

Depending on the social security agreement between your home country and new location, you might be able to maintain home social security while on assignment even if you have a local package and pay local tax.

4) New bureaucratic processes and workloads

Don’t underestimate the bureaucratic processes (especially immigration) and cultural differences in high-growth markets! Your counterparts’ workloads are often significantly higher than stable-growth markets. Realizing what they deal with on a day-to-day basis will help in knowing how to work with them. In relationship-oriented and hierarchical cultures such as India, you have to know whom to contact to get things done. It is critical that you build a good relationship upfront.

5) Limitations to spouse employment

Depending on the location and type of work permit issued, your spouse might not be able to find employment . If your spouse is allowed to work, finding employment can be challenging. Find out if your host company offers support.

6) Personal security and health

In many of the locations mentioned you need to be prepared for the worse including mugging, terrorist attacks, health issues, and natural catastrophes just to name a few. Ensure that your company equips you with an emergency service, such as “International SOS”, and that your security needs are met.

7) Being blinded by idealism

The idea of being given an international assignment may seem like the ideal opportunity to advance your career, but beware! Surviving high-growth markets means you need to be able to deal with ambiguity and stress. Life functions at a different speed and the economy is often volatile. Processes often get stuck, attention can shift very fast, and several projects run at the same time. Be prepared for change!

8) Slowing markets

This is a challenge no matter where in the world you are, but it’s particularly tough when you are sent to a thriving market only to see it slow. This could result in not being able to achieve targets or being sent home earlier than expected. Plan for the unpredictable.

What is your experience with working in high-growth markets, especially on a local package?

BTW: For me working in India was an eye-opener in an early stage of my career. The experience taught me that many of our “Western” assumptions can be completely ineffective in a fast growing market.

by Angela Weinberger

10 Life-saving tips

Through my years as a global mobility expert, I’ve confronted the challenges of international relocation side-by-side with my clients. We’ve worked through topics like deciding if relocation is the right choice, finding a home in the host country, supporting their partner, preparing for the move, and making new friends. In many cases employers are there to assist assignees with these issues. However, there are still several points I encourage my clients to handle themselves. The following 10 points are the most valuable, life-saving tips I can offer anyone moving to a new country.

  1. Know Your New Job Title / Role Knowing exactly what your new position will entail can help you manage expectations early and be sure the position matches your experience. Ask for a written description of your new position from your employer.
  2. Have a “what’s in it for me” Plan Don’t go on a foreign assignment without considering what you will get out of the experience and that this means for your career once you return home. Create a plan of what you want to gain from working aboard and consider how that applies to your long-term career goals. Read more about deciding what you want.
  3. Speak to your Partner The decision to move aboard involves your partner as much as it involves you.  As the assignee, you will enter the host country with a meaningful job and professional network. This may not be true for your partner. Discuss in advance what your partner’s role will be when away on assignment and discover networks for him/her to become connected with.  Read more about supporting your partner.
  4. Consider the People at Home When deciding whether to accept an international assignment or not, think of the people – especially the elderly – that you might leave behind. Develop a plan on what to do when a parent or loved one is sick, has had an accident or needs immediate care. This could be going home to be with them, creating a care schedule with other family members or providing financial support.
  5. Budgeting and Salary Before you move to your new country check what the average cost of living and home rental costs are. Knowing this will help you plan a monthly budget. You’ll also have a better impression of what kind of salary you’ll need. Salary in the host country is often determined at “peer level”. This means that your salary is comparable to what a local working in your team would earn. Once you start living and earning in the host country, stay on a monthly budget until you are familiar with the currency and actual living costs.
  6. Sort out the Legalities Administration needs like immigration, tax and social security are three areas you will want to take extra care of. Mistakes in any of these areas can result in high costs. To make the process easier, follow the instructions your employer gives you, complete all requests before the deadlines, understand your assignment conditions, and seek additional support if needed. Read more about other things to organize before moving.
  7. Support your Children Having moved several times as a child, I know firsthand the strain of new schools and countries. As your children adjust to a new school system, find new friends or even learn a new language, they might need extra support and attention. Listen to your children’s needs and speak with other global parents about their experiences.
  8. Emergency Planning Natural or civil emergencies are real threats when living abroad. Although we’d rather not consider what to do in a state of emergency in the host country, it’s best to discuss a plan of action for when/if disaster strikes. Decide what to do if you are injured or die. Learn what emergency services are offered in your host country and the phone numbers for these services.
  9. Seek Professional Support Experts like Global People Transitions are here to advise and support you in your transition. We put priority on your needs as an expatriate and seek to maintain an active relationship with you through the whole transition process. Please contact us for support at any time. Read more about expert advice.
  10. Enjoy Your New Home! Life aboard is an adventure and one that is meant to be enjoyed. Learn about the culture you live in and make friends. Establishing meaningful relationships is key to feeling at home in a new place. Work will always be there, so remember to take some time to share new experiences with people, visit interesting places and do special activities.  Read more about developing relationships.

This completes the blog series about international relocation. For more about these topics and others, please contact me.

Next week will be the start of a new series covering self-development.

 

Finding a home in a new country like Switzerland can be a challenge.
Finding a home in a new country like Switzerland can be a challenge.

by Angela Weinberger

It’s typical for assignees to become overwhelmed with the prospects of moving to a new country. As it is for many of us, the idea of moving or being without a permanent home for a period of time can causes feelings of unrest. Thankfully, assignees can rest assure that professionals like myself are standing by to support in finding housing in the host location.

Relying on expert opinion is recommend for several reasons:

  • Relocation specialists know the local market and features of the city and surrounding areas.
  • Real estate laws, rental agreements and rights of tenants are different in each country and can be difficult to understand.
  • Terminology can also be confusing from country to country. For example, houses in the U.S. are described by how many bedrooms they have, whereas in Europe it’s by the number of rooms, including living and dining rooms. Another example is that in Germany an unfurnished apartment isn’t just without furniture, it doesn’t even have a kitchen!
  • In a tight market like Switzerland, a relocation expert will have better established relationships with landlords – something that can go a long way when in need of a home.
  • There are cultural differences in how contracts are made. For some your word is your bond, but for others it’s common to have a third party review the agreement documents. An expert will know what is culturally acceptable and ensure negotiations are handled without offending.
  • The emotional demand of moving abroad can be eased when you have assistance.

So while it may sometimes be difficult to let someone house hunt on your behalf, do have trust in your relocation expert and give them time to find the right place for you. I’m certain that they will.

Tell me, what challenges have you encountered when looking for homes in a new location?

BTW: It is customary to be offered temporary accommodation when you get hired directly by a Swiss company. You will need at least one month to find suitable accommodation.

Monica is a career woman. She is successful until the day when her husband gets an offer for an international assignment to Switzerland. First, she cannot work as their two children of 4 and 6 need to get used to their new school / kindergarden. Once the kids feel settled and the new apartment is fully furnished, Monica starts looking for a job. She finds out that she has the wrong residence and work permit (the L-permit) and that her résumé gets rejected instantly. Her great experience is a corporate inhouse lawyer of more than fifteen years is suddenly worth nothing. Her former company did not want to lose her so they gave her a return option. Monica calls her former boss and asks if she can do freelance work so that at least she stays up to speed in her field.

After speaking to more lawyers she finds out that she is not an exception. Many of them work in roles that do not exactly match their experience. Then after a year Monica finally finds a role in an international corporation. A year later her husband is offered a new role in the Middle East. The discussion starts afresh.

Do you recognize yourself in this story? I have met many Monicas over the last few years especially in Switzerland, the haven for international corporations. One of the issues in my coaching sessions that comes up a lot is that women easily give up their career to move abroad with their husband. Sometimes I hear similar stories from men, but they are a lot less. Often the woman loses her professional identity which is an important part of her and feels lost for a while. Sometimes companies help with career coaching, often the woman is on her own, left alone, depressed and the relationship suffers.

Another issue is a lack of communication on the part of the assignee’s company. Sometimes women move here and find out what their work permit entails. An L-permit in Switzerland can be converted into a work permit but it is often harder to apply for a job with this permit type.

Many women or “trailing spouses” do not know how to convert their résumé so that it fits Swiss standards. The HR recruiters on the other side do not have enough international experience to “read” an international résumé.

What can you do, when you in such a situation?

1)   Gather as much information about your host labor market as possible.

2)   Find professional advice on how to adapt your résumé to the local market.

3)   Define your transferrable and global skills.

4)   Discuss freelancing with your former employer before you quit.

5)   Get a return ticket to your former employer.

6)   Discuss with your spouse how your career will benefit from the move.

7)   Agree on a long-term vision of both of your careers and how they will fit in your life plan.

What is your view?