Tag Archives: Global Mobility

 

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?

 

International assignments are challenging enough…

With changing demographics and shifts in the global balance of economic power we have all experienced a shift in target locations. When in the old days we used to mainly send international assignees into developed markets we now have more and more assignments into high-growth markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, China or into places like Singapore, the UAE and Central and Eastern Europe. I used to work as an HR International Advisor for a global bank in the years 1999 to 2002 and was responsible for international assignees to and from Asia Pacific. Some of the challenges we had back then significantly changed. For example in 1999 you could not pay expatriates to India in Rupees as the currency was highly volatile so they received a net guarantee in USD and the salary was converted on payroll day. We had regular discussions about FX losses and gains with our expatriates but mainly their packages were home-based and they usually lived a life of luxury compared to local international hires. These days are gone.

1) Local Market Salary

With increased cost pressure and companies creating shareholder value throughout all of their processes expatriate packages have been reduced and are often more aligned with local markets. In high-growth markets the cost of living is not fully aligned with the local market income level. Often costs rise faster than income. Purchasing power is lower than what an expat might be used to.

2) Housing Supplement

Real estate is often proportionately expensive. It could help if you pay the accommodation in addition to a local market salary.

3) Home Social Security

Home social security might be proportionately higher than social security in the local market. Expats from countries such as Germany or Switzerland would not accept to local social security for a period of three to five years: You could protect the potion of their salary that is used for home social security. In Switzerland it might be even advantageous if you pay this portion our as a split payroll in home currency. Depending on the social security agreement you might be able to maintain home social security then.

4) Processes & Cultural Difference

In my experience process and cultural differences are usually underestimated. Especially expats from a German-speaking background expect the written word to count as the truth. This might be a shade of the truth in many of the cultures mentioned. It helps to build the right relationships early in the assignment process and to know who is a point of escalation as in some cultures you need to involve senior management in order to get things done.  We also often do not understand the other person’s workload. In my experience for example in India a manager leads about ten times as many staff as a manager on the same level in Germany. Due to the high growth everyone is extremely stretched. A team members’ daily priorities are given by the manager. If an assignment does not progress it might be necessary to escalate to the manager. In Western Europe this is culturally often seen as an issue. In other cultures it is the norm.

5) Spouse Employment

Depending on the country the assignee’s spouse might not be able to work with the work permit of the assignee. It might also be a challenge to find employment in the field in the first place. It is important that this factor is considered before the assignee is selected for the assignment.

6) Forget perfectionism

In Switzerland especially we tend to believe that the world can be regulated by perfecting a process through repetition. The world does not work like this though. In the international world processes often get stuck, people shift attention very fast between different processes and run several projects at the same time. If you want to get things done I have four tips for you:

No 1: Build a personal relationship to all the people you deal with in the process!

No. 2: Practice patience and understanding. It works better than aggression!

No. 3: Keep the lead and drive the process.  Learn to understand how people in other cultures communicate “No.”

N0. 4: If a matter is really important to you, explain why it is so important and repeat what you want exactly!

What is your experience? What have you learnt?

Angela