Tag Archives: international assignment

GCWB Front Cover Epubli copyWe are celebrating a book launch party of “The Global Career Workbook”.

 

The book launch event will take place on 7 July 2016 from 6 pm to 8 pm at GAINSBOURG in Seefeld, Zurich.

IMG_3155 IMG_3167 IMG_3168


 In Erik Fisher and Jeff Brown’s podcast on improving your focus, I found a fascinating thought: You need to focus on your strength and “buy” others to support you in your area of weakness instead of trying to learn or even out your weaknesses. In a corporate organization, this sounds doable in a team or you might hire staff to support you. As a solopreneur, this is much harder. I think managers can learn from start-up entrepreneurs in that you can do a lot more than you think if you have the right mindset, discipline and a process for encouraging your own learning.
As we climb up or sideways on the corporate hierarchy ladder (which is still referred to as a ladder) we tend to become “subject matter experts” and we “focus” on our core skills. In most organizations this meant that we neglected a lot of our non-core skills. In our ever increasing need  for more productivity we are asked to assign certain tasks to others such as travel expense claims, accounting, making appointments, booking travel, changing data in a system and we tend to become dependent on our assistant or our team, because we frankly do not really know how to do these little tasks that fill job descriptions of personal assistants. One of my clients once admitted that he did not know how to use MS Word. That’s an issue when you want to create a paper-based resume. (And yes, even in our digitalized world these resumes are still needed.)
Assignments
When you are moving to another country you could be in a situation where you need to be a lot more self-reliant. Maybe banks have different processes in Switzerland than in the US. You might need to read different websites in order to get the information you are looking for. Maybe you have to drive on the other side of the road. Let alone learn a completely new scripture or language.
One of the problems with large organizations is that they were often built during industrialization. Most of their role profiles and processes suggest a strict division of labor. A collaboration was not really encouraged. Performance Management Systems usually focus on the weaknesses of the managers and development plans are often paper-exercises with no clear follow-up. The term “Human Resources” even suggests that people in organizations are similar to money and machines. You “invest” in them and over the years their value decreases. Paradoxically, the more time, energy and money you invest in your people, the more market value they gain.
From an individual perspective, we tend to stop investing in ourselves after graduation. Often, we feel it’s our employer’s obligation to take care of our education and our career. We get annoyed when training budgets are cut, but hardly anyone considers to take initiative and seek education outside. You can blame stress and performance pressure, but I think it is not the only reason. I think, we hinder ourselves from learning partially due to being complacent and lazy. It is so comfy in our comfort zone. Why should we leave it when we get a monthly salary and have all our needs fulfilled instantly?
If you move abroad with work your spouse might be unemployed for the first time in his or her professional life. This could trigger identity questions. For my clients, the hardest part about moving to another culture without a job is to reclaim their professional identity. Another hard part is that they face competition from professionals who are already in the job market, know the host country language and have a functioning professional network. This is not developed in a short time frame.
I encourage you to look at yourself, your strengths and your learning potential and start to work on whatever it is you need to learn in small steps. Then if you ever need to be self-reliant you have already started to build a system how to work through new challenges. Going abroad could be a good step but you can also volunteer for a social project. That would help as well.
If you need support planning your next international career step feel free to set up a 1:1 Skype meeting with me.

Here is the podcast:


by Angie Weinberger

We work with a lot of highly motivated Global Mobility Consultants but sometimes we feel they should get their act together and feel more passionate about their work.global-606828_1280

Most GMCs I know are well educated at least to Bachelor degree, speak several languages and have good business acumen or psychological understanding. Some are tax advisors or immigration lawyers. What unites us is that we breathe Global Mobility and we are approachable people with a big heart. But what I don’t get is why I still meet people in this profession who complain about the job.

It’s hard to work in GM if you are not passionate about global people

Once in a while though you might feel a bit frustrated. It could be because you just worked so hard to fight through a contract and did overtime to have the assignee on host payroll on time…when the business line manager calls to tell you that the assignment is off.

Or you spent hours in conference calls to work out a good compensation package for an assignee…when you are told by your manager that the assignee stays back in home because she or he just negotiated too hard.

And these are only the slightly annoying days

Remember when you fought for keeping policy and then the boss of your manager overruled your decision with a simple “Don’t overcomplicate everything…”.

Or when you were told by an assignee that they had the best moving experience and then your key account manager tells you that the assignee was adding moving goods after the quote which will make it impossible for them to work at the price they had quoted you. Or that day when an assignee called you to tell you that she had just moved into a hotel but her visa and work permit process did not seem to have been approved yet and you help her find a hotel as you feel bad even though the delay had been caused by the authority.

As GM Professionals we deal with a lot of issues every day but often we don’t get the recognition we deserve.

When I was at the start of my career I had a folder where I placed “positive feedback”. I got really lovely emails and printed them. This folder I collected for the rainy days…but nothing prepared me for the days of real frost.

Winter is coming

The “winter” (as GoT-fans might say) in my career came fast. One of my assignees died in a car accident, another one had a heart attack and one of our US assignees died on September 11th. All within about two years. You are so close to your assignee population that losing an assignee is the worst that can ever happen in your professional life. I became an expert on death in service. Then I moved into another role (with other challenges…).

Fast forward to about 10 years later I was sitting at the hairdresser on a Saturday morning. I read everything on Twitter related to #Fukushima. We had a crisis in Japan.

With the support of SOS International and three hours later my assignee with spouse and two small children were on the way to Tokyo airport. Our assignee was back on his desk at “home” on Monday. Many other assignees did not find the time to leave Japan on time during the Tsunami as their companies were not prepared to deal with emergencies. Even though I was criticized by our CEO for what he thought was an “emotional” and hastened decision in the end I knew I did right. I will never forget the moment when I met our assignee afterwards.

Maybe this event is one of those reasons why I will never leave Global Mobility. Once you get sucked in into this world it is hard to leave. Another reason is that the colleagues you meet they are also big-hearted people.
For me GM is one of the most interesting areas of HR. Our work can be critical to the business and we are subject matter experts. No one will say “Oh that balance sheet…I could have calculated this with a bit of common sense…” (which is a typical reaction you get as an HR person when you want to implement a new idea).

Advice to my less experienced colleagues in Global Mobility

Dear junior colleagues I advise you to pick your battles wisely. Use your energy to support your assignees and your business line managers but remember that most of your discussions are not life and death situations. Learn to focus on solutions not problems.

Invest in personal relationships to your assignee population. You are more effective when assignees trust you blindly.

Prepare yourself for emergencies of your expat population so you know how to react to such a situation like a robot. Ask for security training from your corporate security. Go through the same training as your expats. Learn everything about high-risk countries and how to deal with natural disasters, political turmoil and health issues of assignees.

Attend intercultural trainings as often as possible to understand the host cultures and your HR colleagues in those countries better.
Manage at least 200 cases in your early career so you understand the breadth of the work. Then find a focus topic that you are interested in and deepen your expertise there. Examples include tax, social security, immigration and employment law.

Build up a strong professional network of GM colleagues as they will be able to have advice when you deal with a new country or when you deal with a special topic that you did not encounter yet. Your network will also encourage you and help you gain perspective in case you ever feel frustrated with the work.

And if all else fails you can always call me. We offer a new program for GM Professionals called “FlyMe!”. Reach out to me if you would like to discuss anything.

 

 


1

“Given the inordinate amount of cost pressure on mobility today, it is somewhat surprising that more companies do not seem to have basic cost management practices in place. Only 62% of respondents indicated that they track costs during an assignment, and even fewer noted that a cost benefit analysis is required at the outset of an assignment. With barely two-thirds of companies actually tracking the basic and most transparent part of their investment in assignments – their cost, it is not surprising that 95% of companies do not measure international assignment ROI.” 

See more at: http://globalmobilitytrends.brookfieldgrs.com/?q=5#/keytrends

Yes, Brookfield. Well researched. I just want to say though: Measuring international assignment ROI is easier said than done. There are a number of reasons.

1) International assignment targets are usually not that well defined.

Usually they are blurry, hard to measure or non-existent. In order to determine ROI a mix of operational indicators would need to be measured regularly (performance on assignment, repatriate retention, business volume driven by expats, savings and improvements through knowledge transfer run by expats, risk reduction through expats, staffing stability and culture transfer from HQ to other areas of the organization). Most of these indicators would need to be transformed into measurable KPIs first. They would need to part of management information systems and we would need to have a clear understanding of what is actually expected of our expats around the world.

2) An international assignment is not only an “investment” by the company.

There should be a business case behind it. BUT: Surprise…many companies have a hard time even differentiating between a developmental assignment and a strategic assignment. Often international assignments are not really thought through. Assignees are sent to “fill a gap”, “to accelerate a process”, “to drive more sales” and “to make them there do everything the way we do it here.” (Ever heard this before?)

3) Decision makers are not involving Global Mobility Professionals enough.

Most managers still think of HR as the troublemakers. Instead of asking Global Mobility Professionals for support in defining assignment targets and setting up a business case, they see this task as an “administrative burden”. So they involve the Global Mobility Professional as late as possible in the process. Just to be sure no one is challenging them. Here assignment sponsors, senior managers could just trust a bit more in the competency of the Global Mobility Professional and ask them for support in defining the international assignment business case.

If you need any help in setting up a structure for measuring ROI, defining the international assignment business case or Global Mobility in general do let us know.

 

So here you are. Settled in Switzerland and ready to start looking for a job. Your spouse, whose international assignment led you here in the first place, is enjoying his/her new job. The children are feeling comfortable in their new school and your house finally feels like home. Eager to reestablish your professional self, you prep your résumé, send it out and wait for the interview invitations to roll in. After all, you’ve been working in your field for 15 years in a well-known company. So what’s with all the rejection emails you’re getting?

When a dual-career family accepts an international assignment, it’s likely that the trailing spouse will be left with the challenge of finding a new professional identity. In many cases the visa issued to the non-working partner limits the kind of contracted employment they can accept, the type of work that existed back home doesn’t necessarily exist in Switzerland or requires speaking the local language plus one of the other three official languages, and sometimes it’s a simple matter of adapting your résumé to Swiss standards. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable and expected to include your picture, birthdate, marital status, citizenship and visa type in your résumé.

Expat spouses in search of new employment is a common theme for many coaching sessions. Giving up your career for the sake of your partner’s means you’ve lost an important part of yourself and often feel lost. While the assigned partner starts a new career and receives career coaching from his/her company, the non-working partner is on his/her own, feeling alone and depressed. This inevitably leads to frustrations in the relationship.

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, not just theirs, 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.

This will not only help during your time in Switzerland, but also prepare you for the next time you move to a new place.

What else have you done to prepare for job searching in Switzerland?

Global Mai 13 _074