Monthly Archives: January 2018

„Mobility is finally making the shift from an international benefit provider to an appreciated strategic partner to the business.“

Chris Debner

 

Like ever so often in Holland events start with a slight delay because of traffic. The Swiss in me rebels but I tell her to enjoy the tropical atmosphere of the Royal Tropical Institute. I check out the remainders of colonialism: masks, spears and painted world maps in white marbled halls. The smell of adventure still hangs in the air. Here we meet the pioneers of Global Mobility, the seafarers, discoverers, and conquerors. At the time with weapons and bribes, now with the promise of prosperity. The UN Global Goals are printed on the beer coasters as if to remind us that we have moved on, that we are now looking for „peace and prosperity for all people.“

Inge Nitsche, CEO of Expatise Academy welcomes the Global Mobility folks to the New Year, launches the brand new Expatise Global Mobility Online Certification Course of the Expatise Academy.

Inge then kicks off the day by setting the scene. Inge poses the question if we are in transformation or being transformed. She asks if we are under siege. Before we get our seat at the table we need to check if we are still on the right track.

Do we still fly up or are we going down or do we have to do a restart in the air to land in a better place?

Key Note

Chris Debner opens the session explaining what a Global Mobility Strategy is made of. The elements of policies, processes and operating model. He shows us the building blocks from business objectives, stakeholder needs, assignment types, talent management & workforce planning, competence and capacity, culture to competitiveness, trends and external influencers.

Chris summarizes the paradigm shift in Global Mobility leading us from a compliance focus to a purpose-driven mobility, improved employee experience and increased outsourcing of transactional tasks and dedicated compliance functions.

Then he continues to explain how the needs of Gen Y (instant gratification, clarity, flexible approaches) will change mobility policies to customized packages for everyone. I also predict that this will happen. What I like about Chris’s presentation is that he is realistic. He knows where GM Teams currently struggle and proposes three key challenges:

  1. Skillset
  2. Time & Resources
  3. Engaging with the business.

As suggestions to work on these challenges Chris sees three points

  1. Invest in your training, education and work with a flexible workforce.
  2. Build the business case for change
  3. Collaborate with other areas outside of HR, invest in change and meet the business line managers to find out how you can provide values.

 

Open Discussion

I get up to facilitate a peer consulting exercise. This exercise helps with listening skills, ideally solves one current issue of a participant and helps participants to build trust amongst each other. Afterwards, we have coffee. I listen in on conversations. I understand that we face similar challenges in Global Mobility here and in Switzerland.

One difference might be the European Union context. It also seems that Brexit is more prevalent in Amsterdam. Companies shift their presence to Amsterdam, rents increase, „knowledge migrants“ flock the city, the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) directive is leading to more migrants and the city seems diverse. What I immediately notice in comparison to events in Switzerland is that I do not feel so old. I am sort of middle-aged here. I see grey, and white hair. I like it.

After the break, we split up into two discussion groups and look at Concerns, Challenges, and Opportunities.

 

Lunch is a standing lunch with sandwiches. What I find interesting is the different types of industries that are present. We see different challenges and different views on GM.

Afternoon Sessions

In the afternoon Bettina Tang presents a tangible step-by-step approach on how GM Leaders can learn to engage with their stakeholders. Bettina brings in the perspective that alignment between legal requirements and managing expectations of the assignee and family.

She also explains that the organizational structure matters. The closer you are to the CEO the better. It important to understand the persons you are dealing with and to know how to build relationships with them. As mentioned she introduced a tangible model, easy to follow.

Bettina also urges us to get the basics right because assignees that are constantly complaining are not helping your credibility. I also took away that if you would like to be invited to the party, you don’t wait for the invite. You find a burning platform, address and solve it and then you claim your seat at the table.

Next on stage is Michael Joyce from AIRINC. He, first of all, apologizes for all the Brits coming to Amsterdam on a weekly basis. Not sure what they are doing but I assume they come to the party. Michael shares data. He claims that the pathway to the seat at the table is hard figures. It seems fine at times of fake news.

He brings examples of clients where either an internal perspective based on data (on housing cost, security, and education)  or an external perspective (a benchmarking that revealed that only 2% of companies in the survey applied negative COLA fully) gave the GM Leader the right to be invited to the table. This means that we all must upgrade our metrics (46% of their clients are doing that just now – you feel the pressure?). He also mentioned that 59% of all companies measure some aspects of assignment success.

A new trend in data is predictive metrics such as the retention rate after assignment, assignee satisfaction after assignment, job promotions and job performance rating after assignment. In an example case, AIRINC was helping the client to show the correlation of these metrics with performance.

And while these correlation factors might not fall within your remit, they are helpful data for management. I would include repatriate retention here.

Finally, Chris Debner concluded with showing that change does not always have to be transformational. There is also incremental change, where you target a specific aspect of your program and optimize that.

The room is full of mobility professionals. When I take my eyes of my notebook, I see eager faces. A few a bit drained of energy but most of us engaged as we want to understand how we can provide value to the business, how we can help the business with its transformation programs and where to start. A few suggestions include

  • Cost reduction
  • Easier administration
  • Improved employee experience
  • Fewer exceptions and conflicts
  • Lower risk exposure and
  • Reaching organizational objectives.

It’s almost 4 pm and I have not connected to WiFi yet. The temptation was there but I am trying to keep fully present. The next group exercise is a marketplace where the workshop on International Business Traveler compliance joins us. I speak to Maarten from PwC about the tax news and he tells me about a risk framework he is taking to customers. I ask him if he is willing to share it.

I smile as I am reminded of the early days in a role I took on in 2007 when I had to develop such a risk framework myself because I did not know where to find it online. Maybe it also did not exist then. Now, it’s just a matter of a short conversation.

The voices in the room with now around 50 professionals do not want to die down. We chat, we like this. Inge Nitsche decides to clink her water bottle and the birthday boy Ernst Steltenpoehl commands our attention. She closes the event on a positive note and invites us to drinks in the restaurant of the Royal Tropical Institute.

And while I order a glass of wine I look at the people of different cultural backgrounds in the room from India, South America, Europe and the Middle East and I’m hopeful that we Global Mobility folks may set an example and that we can help our businesses succeed in any country in the world.

If you are interested in having a conversation about the topic mentioned please let me know.

Kind regards

Angie Weinberger

PS: If you are looking to move into a new role this year, I would like to invite you to an exploratory session of HireMe!


I have a funny habit. I prefer to write these posts on my red sofa at home on my laptop. It does not make a lot of sense because I have the beautiful Global People Club Lounge at Hedwigsteig. There I have a bigger screen and a printer. I like to do the editing, designing and fine tuning at the desk. This part feels more like I am paid to do it. Writing itself to me is so relaxing that I do it where I watch movies and where I chill. I’m not sure if you know this but as a child I wanted to be either a writer, a journalist or an actress. I was never meant to end up in a bank or professional services firm. My parents were hippies. So, it might not surprise you that I have a very relaxed attitude to consumption and money. If I did not have to pay invoices and rent, I would spend my time volunteering on Chios. (I will tell you more about that soon.)

 

It could happen that you don’t always want to read my posts and that you feel that they could be punchier or more business-like. And if you feel like that and want to unsubscribe that’s fine for me. I am using storytelling as method but you might prefer boring business reports.

 

So here’s my story on the jacket order.

The Situation

In November my partner showed me his branded dream jacket online. I was in the Christmas giving mood and thought that this would be the perfect gift for his birthday (which is shortly after Christmas). We used to buy his present together in the last few years and it was always a little weird, because most of the time I then ended up giving him the present a lot earlier. Then on the birthday I would not have a present anymore. This is so against the German in me, who believes it’s bad luck to celebrate a birthday a few days before the actual date. My Kashmiri partner could not care less. For him, it’s the value of the present that defines the relationship, not when it is given.

 

I ordered online without paying much attention to what I was doing. It was late at night. We received a confirmation and I was happy. I was a little concerned when after 10 days and a short email reminder I did not get a response. However, with my previous bad customer experience I gave them benefit of the doubt.

The Event

Three weeks later the jacket hadn’t arrived yet so I started to get worried. A parcel from China was in transit and then the birthday came and again I had no present. Early in the New Year, I checked for a scam alert and yes, it was a highly risky site. I had almost lost hope when the Swisspost tracker said that the parcel had  arrived at customs. Then it was on its way to us confirmed. For a day I was hoping for another Sam story. Maybe the website was new, maybe the owners had just been inexperienced and yes, my hopes were high.

My partner was waiting for his branded jacket.

I had pulled up the forms from the credit card company to stop the payment but I did not touch them. Then, we received a parcel from China with fake Rayban sunglasses. Disappointment all around.

The Superhero Moment

When I held the fake sunglasses in my hands and saw the sad look in my partner’s eyes, I became so angry. I informed the credit card company and printed every proof I had that we had been dealing with a scam.

The price I paid

I am not yet sure if I will receive my money back. I had been stressed and angry too.

Not only have I lost a few hours of my life, I also lost faith in Online business transactions and digitization after the Rotterdam Hotel issue and this one. I feel abused and am concerned that someone might have my personal data.

The Price I have won

Normally here I would talk about the price I have won but I cannot see that yet. The story does not have a happy end. What could be a learning for the future is to take more time, check sites before buying and only to buy from trusted sites.

 

Why is storytelling important for you?

On a more important note, I just showed you an example of how to tell a story. I did not invent “storytelling” for the HireMe! program. I took the advice from my writer friend Libby and teach storytelling in the context of preparing expats and their spouses for interviews. As we are normally trained to write short, concise and academic with as little words as possible, we often speak like we are on Twitter.

“Did you also apply COLA and then when you calculated the C2C what happened?”

Or

“I would like to compare the L2L total comp to the SD net and I came across a huge NDI.”

Are you sometimes wondering why your expats do not “get you”. If you are speaking to them like a robot with technical terms they have no chance. Many of us spend hours writing emails to explain why COLA is now lower than the previous year instead of calling the assignee to explain it in layman terms.

We are so afraid of conflict and of explaining the rationale behind the home-based packages that we hide behind a screen and our jargon. I understand why “storytelling” is deemed a quality of GM Managers, not only in interviews. Mercer says so, so it must be true.

I talked to you about my latest shopping failure to explain you the structure of storytelling and to let you know to not order anything from a silly website that promised ridiculously low prices for overpriced branded jackets.

You can pull the template from here.

Have an exciting week ahead.

 

Angie Weinberger

PS: If you need help with storytelling come in for an exploratory session of HireMe!

PPS: Seems I am getting my money back. At least something.

Last week I told you the story of my car sale and how it challenged one of my principles of intercultural effectiveness. This was a story with a happy ending and thanks for your reactions and Sam-stories.

I have two more stories on digital client experiences. The hotel in Rotterdam is not a story like the last one. This is a story of my inner secretary’s failure. Some of you met my inner secretary already. She is not a perfectionist unfortunately and when I ask her to work for me (instead of a real assistant) she usually messes up something.

I had been to the Brainpark Hotel in Rotterdam several times already because it is convenient when I hold lectures at the Erasmus University. I was very happy the first and the second time. Service is good and food as well.

The third time was last March and there I wanted to cancel the room for one night and it required the intervention of a Dutch colleague cancel the booking without extra charge. I am not sure why I don’t seem to have authority in the Dutch context but maybe it is because I don’t function in that culture yet or maybe the clerks working at the reception are quite inexperienced. So let’s say there was a pre-history already and I had been a little put off by the March experience.

In November, when I booked a room through their website again, my inner secretary was happy that it all worked fine until I contacted the Expatise Academy again to discuss a few more small topics. I found out that we are actually in Amsterdam for this particular event. (“Never assume anything!” is a new principle of intercultural effectiveness),

The event was happening in Amsterdam, not Rotterdam and I had taken a late flight already. There was no point in going to Rotterdam first.

Normally, this should not be a big deal. Most hotels have a normal cancellation period of one or two days before the actual reservation. It was 10 days before the actual event.

I was not concerned at all until I contacted the hotel to cancel the room. They told me that they still needed to fully charge the room to my credit card as this was in their terms and conditions and I had agreed to them. If you are like me you probably don’t read terms and conditions for these kind of transactions either.

It took me now at least a minute to even find the T&C.

They look a lot worse than an expat tax policy or expat contract.

While I find this a strange business practice here is what the T&C say about cancellations:

“3. Reservations with prepayment cannot be changed and/or canceled in any way, and sums paid in advance as a deposit cannot be refunded. This is indicated in the conditions of sale for the rate.”

I asked them again, explaining the circumstances. I also asked if the manager could call me to discuss. Same response, no calls from anyone. I tried not to get angry. Remember, I am self-employed and for me 130 EUR is a lot of money.

Then, I also received about five automated notifications talking to me about my upcoming trip to Rotterdam. Responding to them did not work because they were sent from noreply email ID’s. Tripadvisor asked me for a review of the hotel I had just “spent a night in” and for the first time ever I gave a 1-star review called “No one cares.”

Now, I still don’t get my money back because it also seems that they do not care about their reviews but now my credibility on Tripadvisor has risen. Seems when you write good reviews you look like you are paid to that. When you write bad reviews you become an authority in the hotel business. I will continue to write bad reviews going forward and call a spade a spade.

My insurance company does not cover “miscommunication” as a reason to pay back the lost amount and even interventions by Expatise Academy did not make a difference.

Why am I telling you this?

  1. If you are in Rotterdam and you stay at this hotel tell them that they should be more careful about how they treat their returning customers. 
  2. On a more serious note: Our expats and their spouses and children often feel like I felt in this case. They feel like a number, a case and not like a human being that has issues and circumstances.

Please do not assume that expats have read their contracts, the policy and other documentation you have sent to them. Try to put yourself into their shoes. They are your client and they have a lot of other topics to worry about during that time. I would appreciate if we can all add the human touch back into the Global Mobility Agenda 2018.

Bring back the human touch into your Global Mobility population

Put that on your agenda! Collect ideas with your team about where your processes are disintegrated for the expat and their spouse. Check in with your population and improve your expat experience. You can email them one by one or through a mailing program such as Mailchimp or Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM).

————

The Global Mobility Workbook (2019)  gives a lot of advice on how you can check in with your expats and spouses regularly.

 


The Triggers

It was a grey October Sunday and I had just returned from a trip to Munich. Driving with the car had been a choice. It was not a good choice. The weekend in Munich had inspired me but driving there and back drained a lot of energy out of me. I realized that having a car made me a victim of possession. If I did not have a car I would force myself to take the train and I would be safer, arrive more relaxed and use my time better.

Yes, I know that we will have self-driving cars one day but by then our roads will be so full that we will stand most of the time anyway. My value as a citizen says that using public transportation, using a train in this case is a better option than driving a car. It is more sustainable and better for the environment. There was another reason though why I wanted to sell my car. I needed money to pay for a course. And this was probably the more urgent trigger. The reason that really made me go online and find a way to sell a used Audi with over 220k kilometers.

I know, don’t ask.

The Sale

Anyway, I found two websites and filled their forms and shortly after received a phone call of a potential buyer. We set up an appointment. The other potential buyer called me as well and I also set up an appointment with him. Both were supposed to look at the car, make an offer and then present me with a nice contract saying they will pay me 5k CHF.

When the first buyer came, I was surprised how fast he looked at the car, how little questions he asked and I was a little suspicious of him because he immediately wanted to pay me money. This seemed strange to me. Clearly, I have no clue about car selling as I should have known that you can sell a car on the spot if you bring enough cash. I did not trust the man’s competence, looks and I did not want his money in cash. He quoted the value at 4’300 CHF.

I told him that I wanted to have the second offer first before I could make a decision. He asked me to let him know as soon as I could and he told me that his uncle would call me. Seems his uncle was better at buying but he made me relax a bit and made me promise that I would call him if I received a higher offer. I said that I would only sell under certain conditions including a contract, advance payment into my company account and that my price was higher. I cancelled the second viewing and thought I could be saving time by just giving the second quote.

The Bargain

A few hours later, I called “the uncle” again and told him that the other buyer would be 5’200 CHF. Then the uncle offered 5’300 CHF and I agreed verbally. All normally business transactions work like this. At least this is how it used to be done pre-Internet. But I had gone online already and read about every scam that you can find in car sales and I was so worried that I could not think straight anymore.

The Sale

I was close to tears when I finally closed the transaction two weeks later. In the meantime I had stalked the buyer on LinkedIn, called a common contact about him, asked him to come to my house again with a copy of his passport, drafted a contract and made him sign it. When I picked up my tires from the garage I was so nervous that one of their staff members had to drive the car out for me. And for weeks after the sale I had been expecting someone telling me that I did something wrong. I was expecting that the money would be pulled back out of my account, the insurance company would call me to tell me that my insurance was abused.

And then?

Nothing happened.

Everything went well.

The Morale

The only one who suffered in this (apart from my man) was me and probably the buyer. Let’s call him Sam. Sam probably did not fully enjoy his client experience with me, because he could feel and I even told him that I did not trust him several times. I could have trusted him though if I had listened to my heart instead of my monkey brain.

We have processes and laws for reasons. We do not live in the Wild West. There are ways to get things done around here in Switzerland. Poor Sam, even had to show me his Swiss pass.

I should not claim that I know everything just because I have access to Twitter. I know quite a lot about contracts and while I was freaking out about a car sale, I negotiated a contract with a client in English, according to international law and without a big fuss for several months because I fully trusted the person behind the deal.

As I am not an expert in cars, I need to trust a car expert’s judgement. I cannot solely rely on hearsay and rumors. Do you notice that nowadays everyone mistrusts their doctor? Are we not taking this all a bit too far?

And just because I have a degree I am not entitled to treat others as if they are stupid just because they do not wear a suit to work. The guy who bought my car has a degree in business, is also a web designer, runs a company that sounds amazing and the only reason why he buys cars for his uncle is probably similar to my reason for selling the car. Sometimes we just need money, or the experience or we need to help our family members out.

I want to be careful not to judge someone based on looks. Our interactions were professional and even kind and because I told him that I was paranoid we built trust over the sale. I really wish Sam would come and see me as a client so I could show him that I have a kind heart. If you read this Sam please come in for a free coffee.

Do you still struggle to get up in the morning at your regular hour and have you noticed more kilos on your scale or are you already back in full swing? It’s another year and as usual, we are full of energy and hope. We think that this is our year of transformation, our year of success, our year when we finally meet Mr. Right. Correct?

New Year Resolutions do not equal Success

“Success” is different for everybody. How you define your success depends on what you struggle with the most. Success might not be to have an academic degree or an MBA. It might be to have a permanent relationship, where you are able to live a person for more than two years. Or maybe it is not wealth but an income which allows you to travel for four weeks a year. Maybe you define success as being able to maintain your family life to a high standard while having a career. Or maybe you define success as managing fifty employees. Maybe you think that if you manage all the projects that are on your plate you are successful.

Whatever success is for you in 2018: Write it down! Or paint it! Or take a photograph of it.

Break “success” down into three goals for next year

Stop being vague about what you would like to have in your life.

This is my wish for you for 2018. That you learn to write down, paint or visualize what “success” is for you.

For your professional life, it will be helpful if you write down your goals in a way that keeps you accountable. You could also check in with yourself on a weekly basis to see if you are still on track.

Stick to three goals and follow through with them before you set yourself new goals. You might need to learn stuff along the way. That’s why I also recommend you set yourself learning targets according to our global competency model.

Do you want to create habits through daily routines? Break down your goals into small junks you can do every day such as reading for 25 minutes or walking 5’000 steps?

If you want to create a successful life in business you need discipline and perseverance. In my experience, this only comes with routine. Talent is important but having routines and creating habits is key when you want to create sustainable success. Once a habit is formed it will cost you less energy to do it. You know this from sports. The inner couch potato is very strong. Once you have interrupted your gym or your running routine it is very hard to motivate yourself again to get up at 6 AM to run at 0 degrees Celcius.

It’s the same with active meditation, regular relaxation practices or even daily writing. If you follow a strict routine you will stick with those habits longer. You could now read numerous books on these topics and overwhelm yourself with resolutions and then feel frustrated and depressed in a few weeks when you did not achieve everything you wanted to achieve.

Based on my long experience working with clients, I would like to suggest that you get started with small steps of action. For example, if you would like to build a professional network start with meeting one person for lunch a week. Once this is easy for you, you can increase your target to one lunch and one coffee meeting. Or you can really challenge yourself and say you have to meet a stranger for lunch once a week.

Please do me a favor and don’t overwhelm yourself with New Year’s resolutions. Start with creating one habit and move on from there.

Baby steps, honey…baby steps”

If you are already on RockMe!, you have the option to track your success every week and tick off your weekly tasks.

If you would like to join RockMe! now please reply to this email so we can set your three main career goals for 2018 together. It will require you to pay for one regular coaching session at CHF 350 + VAT. 

If you are not a client yet, you will need to pay a fee of CHF 390 + VAT for the initial coaching session with me.  Included in this fee are also regular reviews and follow-ups online. You can purchase the full RockMe! program at CHF 2600 + VAT. Included in this price are 10 hours of 1:1 coaching with me exclusively and monthly RockMe! Inspirations. If you pay the initial fee first and then decide to buy the full program we will credit you with the amount paid already.

Please fill out the form here to become one of my private clients. Nothing goes without effort these days and you simplify my life by giving me your details upfront.

I will give a 20% discount to everyone who books and holds a 1:1 2018 goal setting session before Friday, 12 JANUARY 2018 5 PM. 

By then your New Year’s energy is probably already at 50% and you are ready to celebrate at least this one achievement for the year.

Am I too cynical?

*Cheers*

Angie Weinberger

PS: Speaking of baby steps…are you relocating this January or February?
I know that my brother from another mother will move so I just put this here for him: Baby Steps in Relocation – 7 small tips to keep sane in international relocation.