Digitalizing Intercultural Coaching – Hype or Hip?
Angie

In 2018 I wrote an article called “Digitizing Your Intercultural Coaching Practice – Ten Steps to a Digital, Global Coaching Practice” which was published in in the SIETAR Europa Journal. Since the publication, I have made further progress and hope to be able to answer your questions on how to deliver digital, intercultural coaching and what it actually means for your business model as a coach, trainer or consultant. Many of the lessons learned work for consulting as well. You probably don’t know this but I spend a large junk of my week working as a Global Mobility Project Manager inside companies. Due to the Pandemic I currently work from home and only go to the client when it is absolutely necessary. Our living room has been converted into a spaceship that could easily compete with the Millenium Falcon. We divided the space in three sections: Eat, Work, Play. Who would have thought that I could convert my “practice” into a fully digital operation in just two years. The only issue I am still struggling with today is that I am using the printer too much. 

Most executive and business coaches I know prefer to work face-to-face with their clients. This is usually possible because classical coaching happens within the same city and like with a therapist a client builds a relationship with a coach over a relatively short period of time to follow certain goals. However, a lot of coaches are passed on between clients based on good old word of mouth. It’s not really a topic you openly write a review about on LinkedIn. Hence, I find it hard to ask my clients to write an honest review. I feel it breaches our confidentiality agreement. 

Digital Intercultural Coaching still is new in the Swiss market. I’ve been running a coaching practice since 2012. My clients are all international and they are all busy global people.

In the early days of my business, I used to travel to a client in Basel for two hours for a 1.5-hour coaching session. I sometimes coached up to 15 clients in one week. That was the maximum I could manage with a good distribution of hours, without exhausting myself completely and with a good quality for the clients. Despite having a 60-hour workweek my income had dropped to one-third of what I had made as a Global Mobility Leader earlier. I know that you have to accept a loss of income in your first two years as a founder but I was not making enough money to survive. I am the breadwinner in the family and Zurich is one of the most expensive cities in the world. The cost of running a physical practice was eating up a lot of the earnings so in 2018 together with my wise accountant we decided to digitalize as much as possible.

In addition to corporate seminars, I offer a job search support group through HireMeExpress and the one-week RockMeRetreat. (Before Corona this was all possible offline, now we needed to reconsider and we offer many programs online via Zoom as well.)

If you want to build a coaching model with potential to scale you need to adopt digital practices in order to serve more clients in a shorter time frame. I had experimented with Skype coaching and other online methods already and I figured out that a lot of my methods would work online too.

The 10-Step Plan to a sustainable Digital, Global Coaching Practice

Step 1: Understand Your Ideal Client

You are not in business for yourself. If you don’t work with a client as in a person who is willing to pay for your services you probably have a hobby. Before you think about your positioning in the market, you should know what your ideal client looks like and how she or he lives and works. It’s a good idea to write a story about your ideal client.

Step 2: Have a Profile on LinkedIn

You need to have an authentic online presence. Even if you work as a freelancer you need to be able to show your qualification and approach online, you need to be able to connect with clients and potential colleagues online. At a minimum you should have a good and solid LinkedIn profile. We have several articles on how to improve this and LinkedIn has courses on it as well. 

Step 3: Own a Mobile-Friendly Website

If your website dates back to 1990 and is not mobile-friendly you should invest in making it mobile friendly. You could easily have a WordPress or google site without investing a lot of money.

Step 4: Work from Home

One advantage of a digital coaching practice is that your practice becomes location-independent. If you now think that you can work from coffee shops and the beach I would say that yes, in principle that is possible. You will still want to take calls from clients but you might be able to have those during specific hours of the day when you are in a disturbance-free area.

If you can work from home without feeling distracted this is your chance to move to the mountain hut you had dreamed about. However, in my experience, you can get lonely quite easily. I prefer to work in the city of Zurich so I can engage in offline networking and still offer physical meetings with my clients when they are close to my office.

You will need a reliable Internet connection in order to hold Skype or Zoom calls. It’s worthwhile to invest in good headsets and a comfortable office chair.

Step 5: Work with an Email Marketing Provider

It took me a long time to figure out the best tools and media for sharing my messages with my clients and readers. I read a lot of blogs and reports and I curate content and events for my readers. They spend time reading interesting posts or watching relevant videos instead of digging through the social media circus. I always enjoyed sharing interesting content and now I use this skill professionally. 

It’s important to understand that despite social media marketing you still need to build an email list with your own clients and prospects. I recommend a two-list approach. One list is for everyone who is vaguely interested in what you do. This is the where you let people join when they sign up on your website for free. In my view, it is mandatory that you have such a sign-up option. In WordPress, you could start with Magic Action Box for example.

You should also have a list of paying clients. This list is important for your targeted marketing campaigns. It’s also possible to “segment” lists if you have several programs to advertise.

Step 6: Invest in tech and your user platform

We developed our own web application called RockMeApp so we could run sessions without the use of paper and in parallel to an online session. Clients can enter their coaching targets and I can follow their weekly progress. There are platforms out there offering similar options but you can obviously not influence their layout and design. If you are just starting you might want to work as a sub-provider first and invest in your own technology later, when you have a better understanding what is out there.

Step 7: Focus on Selected Social Media Channels

I could spend all day on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube. So, I have hired a DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER to help me. The main reason is that I want to focus on writing content and creating rather than sharing and discussing. With good organization I believe you can spend less than two hours a day on social media.

My advice is that you focus on the channel that speaks to your ideal client the most. I assume that most of my clients hang out on LinkedIn and this platform also serves for connecting clients and contacts with each other. Also, I often find inspiring articles there by following the hashtags I work with. 

Step 8: Organize with a Shared Cloud Drive and Master Sheets

One of the challenges of today is that we all share everything. It is more difficult to find what you need especially if the documents are not tagged correctly. I use a system where I try to sort all my work according to event date because I have a lot of events. I also use names and tags on my documents.

As a shared drive, I work with Google Drive because it allows me to share work with my global, virtual team without having to send emails back and forth. It also works with corporate clients if they use Google Drive. In order to keep overviews of projects and tasks, I developed very simple master sheets in Google Sheets. I like to use sheets as I can post a link (URL) to the relevant document or website there.

We are also using SLACK for our team to message each other and keep track of progress. However, for me (probably because I am Gen X) a simple spreadsheet is a lot easier to work with.

Step 9: Clarify your Purpose and Pivot

One of my main enjoyments in having my own company next to working with incredible Expats, Expat Spouses and Global Mobility Managers is the fact that I have the time and capacity to write and edit. I have been pretty good at maintaining a weekly blog called the “Global People Club Sandwich”. I regularly get requests for guest posts and together with collaborators my company has published two workbooks in different formats and editions. A third workbook “The Global Rockstar Workbook” is in the making.

I am considering a pivot for Global People Transitions into a publishing company, which will develop digital tools for global people in intercultural transitions. However, at the moment I still have a lot to do to fulfil my mission to “bring the Human Touch back into Global Mobility”. Hence, the publishing company probably has to remain a side business in 2021 as well.

Step 10: Use Paper as a Strategy

As mentioned my final step to full digitalisation will be to reduce all the paper in the office. In order to do that, I do not allow myself a large quantity of printing paper in the office. I try to have flyers and seminar presentations and folders printed by professional printing companies in order to be more environmentally conscious.

One of the issues is that I seem to need paper to remember information better. So now I use paper as a strategy, for example, to write “morning pages” or “have-done-lists”. I use paper to write my coaching notes.

To avoid printing, I use “print to .pdf” as a default on my printer and I work on a big screen in my home office so I can reduce the necessity to print.

I have noticed that if I cannot read a document online it might be because they were formatted for print. In that case, it helps to go back to the original source and check if the same article has an online version.

Kind regards

Angie Weinberger

PS: Usually our readers are Expats and Expat Partners. If you aspire to be a digital nomad with a coaching, training or consulting business and you enjoyed this article, please sign up here for more.

The Digital Nomad – Part 1 – Why I’m inspired to grow Global People Transitions Organically
Hotel Des Finances

As we already mentioned in previous posts “Digital Nomads” are the new black in Global Mobility.  A survey from MBO partners revealed that, only in the US, 4.8 citizens identify as Digital Nomads, while in the UK, the Trades Union Congress calculated that remote workers grew by almost 250,000 between 2005 and 2015. While in one of their Facebook Groups like FEMALE DIGITAL NOMADS I sometimes come across horror stories of visa issues, assaults and taxation issues

The idea of working from a beach in Croatia, a hut in Estonia or below palms in the Bermudas seems an attractive vision for Millenials. However, even trying to log-in to my G-Hangout from South Tyrole or sometimes even Germany can bring down that fantasy castle (in which I also look 20 years younger, have 20 kilos less and my nails are always immaculately painted red).

Despite being almost 50, I aspire to become a Digital Nomad as well so I thought I should dig deeper into what that actually means. We therefore present a series on the topic. 

  • Part 1 deals with the mindset you need to run a “Company of One”,
  • Part 2 explains the technical Global Mobility aspects of being a “Digital Nomad”,
  • Part 3 focuses on one method to become more productive which is the Kanban-style.

Paul Jarvis is one of my favourite creators. I read his “Sunday Dispatches”. I love his online course Chimpessentials, which taught me almost everything you are seeing on the Global People Club Sandwich and which also encouraged me to continue writing to you on a weekly basis by email in the age of social media.

I ordered several of his artistic books already. The latest book “Company of One” was a special delight. Okay, I might be crushing a bit on Paul J. He has an amazing voice too.  However, you really should read the book and follow him. Paul is one of the creators who runs a business from an island in Canada and is very successful with it.

I finally got confirmation that all I had done over the last 10 years as an entrepreneur was not completely wrong. No, instead of founding a “scalable startup” I had founded a “company of one”. And I believe that scaling is possible in my business. However, if I want to continue to stay aligned with my mission of bringing the human touch back into Global Mobility, I cannot scale, automate and robotize everything.

“Au contraire…” (you need to say this with a glass of Rosé in your hand), I really believe that Paul Jarvis hit the nail right in. There are companies who can and should stay small because otherwise they might lose their special “umpf”. And you know what I noticed? This is not a question of what kind of business you have right now. It’s more about where you are heading. If you are dreaming about leading a digital nomad life where you can live in the Italian countryside near a vineyard, spend the summer on Long Island, the winter in Kashmir and a lot more time in between with your elderly family members…then my friend you need to start to take action now.

When I decided to go fully digital in 2018 I knew that I would need to take a few side turns and that this will not happen from one day to another. What I hadn’t anticipated though was that I actually am quite old-school and that I prefer human interaction over online interaction. 

I also noticed that the more I work online (and COVID-19 has brought this to an extreme – online and at home 100% of my work time – ), the more I feel a need to write stuff on post-it notes and use paper to organize myself. For example, I used a Kindle a few years ago. This year during my vacation I had it with me but I preferred to read paper-books. I journal in a diary and I only use my laptops for calls and managing my business. When I now have to present I even print the presentation before because I don’t seem to see enough detail on my laptop.

However, the main idea to have a digital business that I could run from anywhere has been magnified by the corona crisis. Still, the main reason that keeps me in one city right now is my professional network and that a basic income needs to be made every month.

I think Paul is right. Obviously, it depends on your business model and if you are a creator, an artist or a programmer.  I love the creative part of my business but over the last few years I also always had to have enough “billable” time to make a living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. 

My friends in corporate are all wealthier now than I am and I have doubted myself a lot and I’m still not sure how I will manage to survive during my retirement. You might think now that I’m exaggerating and maybe you think that it can’t be that difficult with all my contacts and all the income streams that I have created. You might be right. 

However, I live in a very security-oriented environment and I also come from a family which was poor after the second world war so I have to practice to shake off this insecurity-poverty-story.

For me, the best way to get out of that spiral is through continuous education and ongoing learning. I notice that I am growing when I am implementing new technology or improving programs or just see faster progress with my clients because I could show them a hack. I buy into organic growth because it allows me to maintain my quality standards. In the corporate world I often see a lot of back and forth and low quality products. This is not what I want to create with my team.

How much income is enough?

As I’ve been following Paul’s work for a while I have been asking myself the “enough” question a lot. You probably heard me say this before but my relationship with money completely changed when I became an entrepreneur. I would say that I need only 60% of the monthly income that I needed when I was employed. The main reason, aside from lowering my base costs, is that I feel a lot more satisfied with my life since I started my business. 

Helping you directly through writing, coaching and training makes me happy.

Paul Jarvis asks three questions:

  • How much is enough?
  • How will I know when I got there?
  • What will change if I do?

He explains how he maintains a minimalist lifestyle and how this helps him to save and reinvest while also allowing him to take extended offline periods over the summer and winter. I’m working on getting better at taking these longer breaks as well.

I translated this into ongoing questions on what I would like to achieve financially in my business and when we are there it will help to have a buffer as well. My minimum income is 60k CHF gross. This allows me to survive, not necessarily thrive and the minimum turnover for that is around 140k CHF. You might need to calculate this for yourself but interestingly enough the minimum salary is exactly what has been determined as a substance for people living in Switzerland. 

I usually say that you should have 100k CHF in the bank before starting a business full-time. At the time I started mine, I needed this buffer to get through the first few years. Later on, I would find regular income mainly through consulting projects, interim mandates and classroom lectures or workshops. 

Now, these are usually onsite so they won’t fit a long-term digital nomad strategy. So for me the last question is easily answered: Once I have enough income to stop working onsite in consulting projects and I have a buffer for hard times I will be able to move around more in the world.

How can you digitize even further?

I think it is important that you go through your idea or your current offering and check if you can offer the same service remotely or not. For example if you are a consultant or coach, you might find it easy to digitize your sessions with clients by offering an online course or coaching via ZOOM.

However, if you lecture or run brainstorming sessions it might take more effort to change these sessions to online sessions. Or if you sell actual products, you might need a warehouse or similar production facilities. If you identify those you can start to think about replacing those income sources with digital income streams. You should consider active and passive income. 

Most of you will probably have either no business yet, or a business that could be a “Company of One”. In order for you to become a “Digital Nomad” you need to solve a lot more issues than if you just stayed in your home country. Assuming that you are an expat or expat spouse in Switzerland we will show you next week five technical aspects that you will need to consider if you want to become a digital nomad and run a location-independent business.

For now, I would start with the question of determining whether you want to have a home base and where that should be. I think that you probably also need a “home base”, a place you can call “home” and return to. This will also be relevant for taxation purposes. Your business needs a home as well.

Then I want you to start thinking like a CEO. If you are thinking about starting a company of one, I would suggest that we have a coaching conversation. Let’s have a 15-minute chat to see where you are at right now.

Resources 

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/high-salaries-aren-t-what-they-seem-in-switzerland/45810010#.XzoYb0AgLTc.whatsapp

https://ofone.co/

https://www.audible.de/pd/Company-of-One-Hoerbuch/B07KFLTK58?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIxd7U_aWW6wIVyAJ7Ch3tsAcnEAAYASAAEgKb5PD_BwE&source_code=GAWOR12604212090BN&ipRedirectOverride=true&ef_id=XP4aQwAAAEgLUl39:20200812182957:s

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/digital-nomad.asp

https://tandemnomads.com/podcast/tn75-how-to-legally-set-up-portable-business/

https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/home-working-fifth-over-last-decade-tuc-analysis-reveals

References

Jarvis, P. (2019): Company of One.

Assignment Failure on the Rise? The Solution is to Prevent Family Separation – Part 1

Stop me if you have heard this before, but the general belief among people seems to be that separation rates among expatriates are higher than those among the native (aka stay-at-home) professionals. I would like to point out that this is not the case. The reality is in fact that this idea comes from the fact that the impacts of family separations are much greater. Think about the difficulty of handling separation and potential custody disputes through geographical boundaries.

Discussion among multinational Global Mobility circles is centering on the issue of Dual-Career Expat Couples. 

Why You Need To Care About This

You may be wondering, how do their personal relationships and related problems impact businesses? The answer is simple: 

People would choose to leave their international assignment in order to save their marriages or as one Partner in one of my former GM Leader roles once said “Happy Wife, happy Life”.

In fact, a McKinsey study shows that 70% of expat assignments fail, meaning the position gets vacated, companies have to spend extra money to replace and train personnel, meaning their growth slows down.  Businesses therefore have a vested interest in seeing these relationships continue to succeed. 

To get the perspective of the professionals, research conducted by PwC found that most employees listed the spouse’s career as a barrier to mobility. 

Many would not choose to disrupt their spouse’s established careers and move them to another country.

Reports from Crown and Brookfield pointed out that family challenges of international relocation remain a top reason for assignment refusal and assignment failure, while a growing body of anecdotal evidence suggest that many expatriate marriages fail often at huge cost to organizations (McNulty, 2015). In fact, nearly 70% of expatriates and their spouses reported “marital breakdown”as the most important reason why relocations fail (Lazarova et al., 2015; Lazarova & Pascoe, 2013). 

The reasons for Expatriate Failure are usually not well captured. There is a data hole here and we have to assume that family reasons are a major reason for expatriate failure rates. This lack of data is something that needs to be addressed in the near future as the importance of this issue rises, like a recent survey from Mercer highlights. According to the NetExpat and EY Relocation Partner Survey 71% of the companies they surveyed claim that Expat Spouse’s unhappiness is the primary reason for Expatriate Failure. 

In the light of all these findings, improving spouse and family assistance as well as spouse career support clearly need to feature at the top of the list of challenges and priorities of Global Mobility programs.

When it comes to Expatriate Failure rates, one example that I tend to criticize is that often assignments end prematurely because of business considerations, expats accepting a new role in a new location or ending school years. However, the assignment was still a success. 

The current definition of Expatriate Failure would categorize such an assignment as a “failure”

In contradiction to “Expatriate failure”, “Expatriate Adjustment” is used as a common way to measure “success”of an  international assignment or project and often equalized with carrying out the assignment during the assigned period.

There isn’t a quick or easy solution to this issue, especially with the data hole present. Let us therefore look at possible solutions to this issue, how to improve the Expat Experience (XX) for your spouse or life partner and how best to handle the issue in case the worst outcome becomes inevitable.

Besides Expat Spouse’s career, KPMG identified another main demographic reason that leads employees not to take up an international assignment: sexual orientation. 

In 2018, only 40% of the companies they surveyed had Diversity and Inclusion objectives as part of their Global Mobility strategy, while only 20% had actually planned to review their policies after reassessing the demographics of their globally mobile employees based on diversity. 

Additionally, excluding gender, other points such as ethnicity, age, religion, disability status, have not yet been captured in the global mobility space. 

Like in most of today’s international companies, you too have probably come to recognize the proven benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace. However, if you are in a same-sex relationship the reality of Global Mobility can be complex. Even if your Global Mobility Manager is open you could be faced with immigration challenges and prejudice in the host country.

How we Define Expat Spouse

As most countries require you to be legally married to enter their borders, I will be using the term Expat Spouse for life partners as well. Also, this term applies to all genders and same-sex relationships. For the sake of clarity, with the gender neutral ‘spouse’ is meant the expatriate’s life partner and the term is also commonly included in contracts and policies for international assignments. We will also use the term Expat Couple. For further definitions and terminology you can consult “The Global Mobility Workbook”(2019).

What you can do: Eight  Ideas to Avoid Family Separation on Your Expat Assignment

1 – Involve Your Spouse 

It is crucial that you (the Expat) appreciate and contribute in any way possible in order to not let your Expat Spouse compromise their career. Many Expat Spouses can probably relate to the experience of living in a country which is not always of their choosing. 

Often, they also have very high professional qualifications and years of solid work experience behind them. Suddenly though, they are left without any employment despite real efforts to find work, and might even struggle to have their degrees recognized in the new country. 

The most important point here is that you involve your Expat Spouse in the decision-making process from the beginning, not only when the moving truck pulls up the driveway.

2 – Understand Immigration

Many countries do not automatically grant the right to work to the Expat Spouse. You need to check if your company will support your Expat Spouse with obtaining a work permit. You can check the host country’s immigration websites for initial guidance.

3 – Support as Long as necessary 

Assist your spouse in getting a job or starting their own business by being financially supportive. You can agree on a temporary loan so they don’t feel dependent on you. Discuss the financial situation during the assignment and what it will mean for their old-age pension and other saving plans they might have. Make sure you aren’t troubling them by overemphasizing.

4 – Spend Quality Time Together

A new place can feel daunting and scary, often lonely. Spend quality time with your spouse so they don’t feel alone in a new place. Plan weekends away so you get to know the positives about living in a new culture, not just the daily life. Explore the new culture and meet other people to build a network of friends fast.

5 – Consider Joining A Support Group

Joining a support group of people who are going through similar experiences can also guide your Expat Spouse in adjustment to change. There are several online and physical communities around the world that are worth looking into. And when it comes to Switzerland alone, the choice is large: from the well known Internations to Expatica, and from the Zurich Spooglers to the Hausmen of Basel, the opportunities to connect with fellow Expats and Expat Spouses in the country are plenty.

6 – Help Your Spouse In Finding Volunteer Work 

In Switzerland a lot of associations depend on volunteers. Search for English-speaking groups your Expat Spouse could support, like SINGA Switzerland or Capacity Zurich. If you have children , you can also offer your help to international schools and kindergartens. Generally, this is easier done by joining parents’ associations like the one at the Leysin American School in Switzerland, or at TASIS, but also at the Zurich International School or at the Inter-Community School Zurich.

7 – Give them a Coaching Voucher for a Session with Angie

I have a lot of experience with helping clients to mend their broken relationships. One session can already help to shift the Spouse’s mindset from victim to self-reliant, strong, and active professional.

8 – Step Back For The Next Career Move Of Your Spouse

Even though this one idea is pretty self explanatory, it is hard to do in practice especially if your income is a lot higher than the income of your Spouse. Take turns in whose career is leading the decision for the next assignment. That means stepping back when it is your spouse’s turn to move up in their career.

Kind Regards,

Angie.

Resources

If you cannot afford our program you can still profit from our expertise if you purchase “The Global Career Workbook” (2016) and read these blog posts.

Hit post No. 1

How to Get a Swiss Recruiters Attention Through Well Written Cover Letters & Organised Testimonials

Hit post No. 2

Top 10 Tips for a Killer Linkedin Profile

Hit post No. 3

Bourne Effect

Other helpful posts:

References:

Black, S. J., Mendenhall, M. E., Oddou, G. (1991). „Toward a Comprehensive Model of International Adjustment: An Integration of Multiple Theoretical Perspective”, The Academy of Management Review, DOI: 10.2307/258863

Bruno, Debra. (2015, March 18). „Divorce, Global Style: for Expat Marriages Breaking Up is Harder to Do”, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 29, 2020, from https://blogs.wsj.com/expat/2015/03/18/divorce-global-style-for-expat-marriages-breaking-up-is-harder-to-do/

KPMG. (2018). „Inclusion and Diversity in Global Mobility”, KPMG. Retrieved April 30, 2020, from https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle.pdf

Hsieh, T., Lavoie, J. & Samek R. (1999): „Are you taking your Expatriate Talent seriously?”, The McKinsey Quarterly. Retrieved April 29, 2020, from https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-63725939/are-you-taking-your-expatriate-talent-seriously.

Lazarova, M., McNulty, Y. & Semeniuk, M. (2015). „Expatriate family narratives on international mobility: key characteristics of the successful moveable family”, in Suutari, V. and Makela, L. (Eds), Work and Personal Life Interface of International Career Contexts, Springer, Heidelberg, pp. 55-76. 

Lazarova, M. & Pascoe, R. (2013). „We are not on vacation! Bridging the scholar-practitioner gap in expatriate family research”, in Lazarova, M., McNulty, Y. and Reiche, S. (symposium organizers), ‘Moving Sucks!’: What Expatriate Families Really Want (and Get) When They Relocate, Symposium at 2013 US Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Lake Buena Vista, FL.

McNulty, Y. (2015). „Till stress do us part: the causes and consequences of expatriate divorce”. Journal of Global Mobility, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 106–136. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-06-2014-0023

McNulty, Y., Selmer, J. (2017): Research handbook of expatriates.

Weinberger, A. (2019a): „The Global Mobility Workbook“, Third Edition, Global People Transitions, Zurich.  

Weinberger, A. (2019b): „The Use of Digital Intercultural Coaching with Expats and Implications for Transition Plans in Global Mobility”, Master’s thesis, The Institute for Taxation and Economics, Rotterdam, from https://feibv.nl/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Master-Thesis_Weinberger-Angela_Jan-2019_Final.pdf

Why it is Hard to Measure Expat Performance
Performance

A study by Learnlight shows that four in ten international assignments are judged to be a failure. And yet the number of overseas assignments continues to rise. Global companies are under considerable pressure to determine what makes a successful overseas assignment and to understand why they so often fail. However, what has been so often overlooked is why it is difficult to measure expatriate performance. Since both assignment failure and success depends on how expats perform on the job, it becomes pertinent to consider how expats perform and why it is difficult to measure their performance. In the following points, I will highlight and elaborate on five reasons why it is difficult to measure expatriate performance.

  • Goals for Expats are often not clearly defined. They are often conflicting as they have to take into account the interests of the home and host company, or headquarters and subsidiaries. It becomes difficult to work effectively when expats are trying to achieve the home company goals while simultaneously trying to fit in the expectations of the host company. More expats would perform well if the goals of the host company align with the objectives of the home company.
  • Performance ratings have been calibrated for years. However, we know that there is an unconscious bias in the data. The first rater is usually a direct manager.  This person potentially judges their own weaknesses less and thinks that the expat is responsible for failure alone. However, often the manager in the host country does not help the expat to solve dilemmas. The home country manager should consider it a responsibility to make it seamless for the expatriate to integrate well into the system. One of the biggest factors that determine whether or not an assignee would be successful is who his or her line manager is. 
  • Cultural concepts of performance are biased. Definitions of “high performance” have been largely influenced by Western values and did not take team performance into account. The gig economy will need stronger team collaboration and fewer individual players. Eastern values and approaches might have an advantage now.
  • Management by Objectives is outdated. We need a new conceptual framework of performance. Even in the past setting annual targets was not always the best method of judging performance (irrespective of expat or local).
  • Expat managers usually lack the informal network and access to the host culture so it is not surprising if their performance drops in Y1. It is quite impossible to know how to navigate in a terrain that you are not familiar with. Also, they are busy adjusting and have a family to integrate into the new life abroad. One might think that we can accelerate the cultural adjustment and then just go “back to the normal way of judging performance” but I would advise against such thinking. It takes time to fit into the system and culture of a new location. Hence, the whole process of cultural adjustment takes its tolls on expat performance.

Expatriate Performance and Potential Assessment

Scullion, Collings (2011) describe the performance assessment system at Novartis which will be used as a generic example for global companies. The system “…grades employees on (a) business results (the “what”) and (b) values and behaviors (the “how”). While the business results are unique to each business area, the values and behaviors (ten in all) are common across the entire firm.” Together with the potential assessment talents are assessed in a nine-box matrix. (Scullion, Collings, 2011, p. 29)

Basing expats’ performance solely on business results may not give the overall picture of all that transpires to make an assignment either a success or a failure. There should be a holistic overview of all the processes that go into cultural adjustment and family acculturation. 

Expat adjustment as a success factor – The Term “Expat Failure” and what it commonly refers to

When discussing the success of an international assignment or project a common way to measure “success” is expat adjustment which in contradiction to “expat failure” is often equalized with completing an assignment for the planned assignment period.

“The authors leave open how long it may take an expatriate to attain the same level of applicability and clarity abroad as at home, stressing that one or two years may not suffice. To reach higher levels, the person may very well have experienced an identity transformation far more profound than passing through a cycle of adjustment.” Hippler, Haslberger, Brewster (2017, p.85)

“A “comprehensive model of success is missing” and Caligiuri’s (1997) suggestion that future studies should clarify what is meant by adjustment, as opposed to performance, indicated the need for definitional and discriminant clarity when examining performance.” Care and Donuhue (2017, p.107)

Talent management approaches in Germany and Switzerland and most of Europe are driven by the U.S.-based ideas about talent identification and definitions and use the “nine-box grid” to select key talents with a halo-effect towards white males. 

Influence of psychological contract on expatriate retention

An issue in expatriation is often the lack of clarity around the role after repatriation. A psychological contract exists between the expat and the company but there is no written agreement or clear understanding of the next role or roles in the process. Expectations are not properly managed and often expats are disappointed with their title, pay or role content in the next role when returning from an assignment.

Two years after repatriation there are several factors influencing retention significantly. 

  1. a) re-entry cultural adjustment, another 
  2. b) role expectation mismatch and 
  3. c) the lack of applicability of the learning from the previous assignment.

The Integration of Global Mobility and Global Talent Management

One of the reasons for this lack of synchronization is the missing integration of global mobility and global talent management activities and functions in today’s organizations. The only guidance focuses on academic concepts of expatriate return on investment.

A Holistic Competency Model is Needed

I claim that we not only need a better integration of Talent Management and Global Mobility (hence the term Talent Mobility) but we also need to look at our performance management systems, global competency models, recruiting and talent identification process under a new light. We finally need to advance HR to an interculturally competent function and reduce the inherent bias in all of our processes, tools and leaders. This will be a major task in a post-colonial BANI World.

My Global Competency Model has been an attempt to integrate Eastern and Western mindsets into a model. Our coaching approach builds on Eastern and Western coaching practices. We included the ethics by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The holistic approach of my coach, educator Drs. Boudewijn Vermeulen, further developed by Dr. Eva Kinast into a holistic, body-oriented and intercultural coaching method. This method focuses on building and maintaining effective trust-based relationships, the body-mind-heart connection and is linked to the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung. 

The model also assumes weekly reflection, regular practices, which originate from Eastern mindsets and concepts such as ZEN. We integrated body learning which was taught to me by Dr. Jay Muneo Jay Yoshikawa in a course of Eastern Mindscapes (back in 2005 at the Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication in Portland, Oregon). Reflected experiences are based on the single-loop and double-loop learning theory of Argyris and Schoen. Also, experiential learning that I first learned from Thiaggi about 20 years ago and have further developed into all of my programs.

Trust and Relationships are Collaboration Glue

In almost every coaching session right now leaders talk to me about the need to get better at building trust (also in a virtual setting) and relationships. Relationships in my view are the glue to working well together within a monocultural but also multicultural environment. Collaboration (as opposed to Cooperation) requires a higher level of trust among project team members. Agile needs it. And Diversity, Equity and Inclusion demand it. 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR GLOBAL MOBILITY?

“Better alignment between global mobility and companies’ global talent agenda is a precondition for making mobility truly strategic and helping companies achieve a significant return on investment with their international assignments.”

  • Widening the scope of Global Mobility to include international hires, cross-border commuters, international transfers, lifestyle assignments, global digital nomads and other groups of internationally mobile professionals.
  • Reviewing all HR models and processes to reduce bias and White Supremacy should be on the priority list of every HR leader but you can also make it your personal mission. Help us create a world where everyone has a chance and invite those to the table that are often overlooked.
  • Defining assignment objectives up front and tracking progress throughout assignment. You must ensure that not only the home company or headquarters have clear cut objectives for the expat  but also that the host company’s objectives are in sync and align with that of the headquarters. Coach the expat or send them to me for coaching. Help them be a success rather than a failure.
  • Improving productivity by addressing development areas such as communication, process and culture barriers. Key problem areas should be identified. Oftentimes, expats complain about loss of connection to the home company. Nobody from the headquarters or home company is interested in how they fare in the new environment. If expats feel deserted, it could adversely affect their performance output. Proffering viable solutions to pain points of expats, such as cultural roadblocks would help improve expats performance. Give them the vocabulary to speak about their blockers, send them to intercultural awareness training. 
  • Helping coordinate annual talent review of all expatriates. Reviews like this give expats the opportunity to express their perception of the international assignment. 
  • Increase the expat’s self-awareness. Let expats learn more about themselves. We use the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) and ICBI™ (Individual Cultural Blueprint Indicator) for example for self-awareness assessment and the outcomes can be a great conversation starter in a coaching session.

You already know that I am on a mission to bring the Human Touch back into Global Mobility and therefore we would also like to contribute to research in the growing body of knowledge around Global Mobility. Our Academic Intern Monica Kim Kuoy is running a research project and I hope you would like to support us by being an interview partner or sounding board for our ideas.

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

RESOURCES

Who is an Expatriate Employee?

https://expatfinancial.com/who-is-an-expatriate-employee/ 

https://feibv.nl/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Master-Thesis_Weinberger-Angela_Jan-2019_Final.pdf

Performance
Expat Performance
What others say about Angie Weinberger

While delivering intercultural training for all in-bound hires at PwC in Switzerland, I was impressed by Angela Weinberger’s commitment to those on secondment. Evidence of this is that Angela personally attended the training regularly as a sign of her support – and to keep abreast of their challenges and immediately address their questions. She has a holistic approach to supporting the in-bound hires, understanding that the success of the secondment depends on both the employee and their partner. Finally, I see Angela at the forefront of Global Mobility trends. Angela is someone you want to partner with – as she is highly competent, professional, and understands holistically the factors that are important when making a global transition.

S. S. B. – Intercultural Strategist

I would like to strongly recommend Angie as the extraordinary coach and her “RockMe!” Coaching Program, which helped me with my job search strategy and I had learned to build a sustainable professional network in the Swiss job market.

A. A., Sales Account Manager at Oracle

While working with Angela on corporate blog writing, I was always impressed by Angela’s insightful and thorough questions to preparing a good blog post. She didn’t simply ask “why”, but she really wanted to understand the situation at hand and determine, wholeheartedly, the best way to approach it. I can image this is how she is when dealing with her own clients. She also does a fantastic job with The Powerhouse Collective in Zurich. I’m a regular attendee and have even presented once. I must say that I am impressed!

A. R. – Early Careeers Coordinator at Cambridge Assessment

I felt very confused about my career before I met Angie. After talking to many people from different backgrounds, I still wasn’t sure what I was going to pursue. I thought that, because of my unconventional path, I was never going to have a successful career. Angie’s help came at a good time and she listened carefully to my problems. I felt understood and found the courage to define my own purpose. After that, I started to have some clarity on what I was going to do and the rest followed. I am thankful for Angie’s help and her great listening skills, as well as her determination to help expats who feel stuck rediscover their paths.

J. R. – Master’s Student at the University of Zurich

I had the pleasure to meet Angela few months ago. She was my career consultant at Global Career Support Program. The outcome of working with Angela strongly exceeded my pre-program expectations. Angela is a highly professional consultant providing you not only with the “technical aspects” of the job market (like country adapted CV, interview techniques etc.) but above of all she is inspiring and encourages you to take the opportunity to reconsider your life and career needs. I would highly recommend Angela as a career coach.

M. S. – Senior BPA, Finance IT and Business Partner at Novartis

I met Angie on social network when I was in mid of my graduation. She was always kind, friendly and someone who always wanted to do things differently. She was Global mobility Head at Pwc (Switzerland) at that time. Later, she left her job even when she was at peak and started her own company known as globalpeopletransitions.com. She inspired me to be an entrepreneur myself even in a country like Pakistan. She is extremely strong and optimistic even when things don’t exactly go her way. Like any other person, she panics when she fails but always have something else to look forward to. I left my job after my post graduate and she officially started mentoring me for no money! I won a mini competition that she held for female entrepreneurs to provide some initial funds and lifetime coaching. She believes in supporting females in business especially from third world countries. Since after leaving my job, I earned more in business than I could’ve in one year of job. She is now my guide and support in everything. Whether if they are for fears regarding owning a business or life crisis, she is always there for me and her advices are actually life saving. I know that she mentor other females in business but never brags about it. What makes her unique is her ability to relate with how other person is feeling. She is not fake! Her every advise is somewhat from her personal business or job experience. She believes in sharing. She recommends people open heartily, without thinking what she will get out of it. I’ve achieved my own business, own a company known as sparkzing in Pakistan. We provide social media marketing services internationally. I am doing so well that this year I might even expand! I thank her and recommend her to be your coach,if you want to do better in career or personal life.

Nabeha Latif – Digital Marketing Manager at Global People Transitions

I worked with Angela to recruit our Marketing and Communications manager, a new departure for my international Association after 9 years of operations in Zurich. Angela also planned and organised a workshop for heads of school explaining work certificates in Switzerland with the legal expertise delivered by an external lawyer. She finds good people for the job. Angela presents beautifully, our staff training day in April 2015 was improved by her input. Her coaching skills were put to good use in-house when discussing personal and career development with more junior members of the team.

M. S. Z. – Head of Children First & School Choice Relocation Consultant

I participated in the HireMe! Program in 2016. I chose the program because it is action-driven. To invest in myself and my career in a new country was definitely worth it. The sessions and tasks made me aware of my strengths and chances. When I mapped and activated my network for example, it was much bigger than I expected. The input and feedback I received from the Global People Transitions team was personal and focussed. The team gave me the tools and self-esteem to land my first job in Switzerland!

Supply Chain Specialist at DSM

My first time meeting with Angela Weinberger was in December 2012 and she conducted a 4-month one on one career counseling. She is a career guidance counselor. She helped me regaining professional confidence, expanding networks, developing professional knowledge and information, and cultural diversity. I am writing to recommend Angela Weinberger as a career coach. She is highly experienced and qualified.

L. J. – Marketing Representative at PT Caterpillar Indonesia Branch

Thanks to my following the HireMe! program in 2014 I landed myself a job offer in the field I wanted. Angie’s coaching together with the opportunities of exchanging freely on both personal and career issues gave me the tools to reassess my capabilities and proudly communicate them. Her listening and analytical exceptional skills made the difference!

Valerie Priestley – HR Generalist at Seattle Genetics

I have known Angie from my discussion with her on various international job opportunities and speed coaching sessions, she has always been supportive and guided me to choose the best possible option.one of her striking quality is her ability to listen patiently to the issues put forth and then give her advice on it. As a person she has been very kind and sincere. I wholeheartedly recommend her and I look forward to our professional paths crossing in future.

R. R. – Sociopreneur

Angela is a true professional when working with Partner Support clients with us. She goes the extra mile and always tries to bring out the best in each person she works with. She is dedicated to helping them to achieve their chosen goals, therefore I look forward to working with her again.

J. L., Regional Advisor (APAC), Global Skills at Crown World Mobility

I had the opportunity to do my internship at Angie Weinberger’s company, Global People Transitions GmbH, and could benefit a lot from this time on both the personal and professional level. Angie is highly competent, has always been very passionate about her work and also likes to think outside the box sometimes. I recommend her to everyone who is looking for expertise in the field of Global Mobility.

M. P. – Mobility Consultant at EY