Turn Problems into Solutions – Four Approaches to Solving Problems
Entsorgung

“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas and none of my own ideas are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming me.” – Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person, 1954

When I was a teenager, we had set meal times and would actually sit on a table together at least twice a day. Our family brunch on Sundays would often lead to a conversation about a “problem”. My dad was studying to be a Carl Rogers client-centered therapist at the time and I am not sure if he sometimes tried to use a questioning method or if he was just very skilled in giving me and my sister the space and safety in which we could just “let it out”. 

Having this kind of open environment in which you would be able to talk through anything is a family tradition which we still live with when we are together. Even though my dad and sister have left this earth already a long time ago, my mum, my aunt and I often sit down and just talk through anything, we love to analyze why a person shows a certain behaviour and how we can solve relationship issues. For me, this is so normal that I sometimes need to remind myself that it is not at all “normal” but rather extraordinary, especially in the German context. I would assume other families have a stronger discussion around political topics, money issues (how to save it) or even more mundane topics like sports.

I, on the other hand, have realized in a conversation with friends that sharing problems and openly talking about feelings, insecurities or areas of your life where you might not feel like “Wonder Woman” could be misinterpreted or it could come across as if you don’t really know where you are going. 

Which is funny, because right now I feel completely safe and on the right path of my life. I have a strong sense of alignment between my strengths and my life’s work. Insecurities of artistic types are normal because we expose ourselves to critiques a lot more often than the average business professional but most companies also train people to use other words than “problem” or we are not allowed to use words such as “drama”. 

It took me years to weed out the “corporate speak” in my writing and even a word like “alignment” creeps me out a bit as it feels “corporate”. This year during a meditation I chose the word “Roots” for my word of 2021. Solving problems is one of my roots and hence I wanted to share four beliefs behind problems with you.

Problems remind us of Math in High School

When I think of problems I think of my favorite math teacher (who also died rather young) and his gigantic triangle. He had the outer appearance of a garden dwarf but he was a great math and physics teacher. He even made me like physics at some stage. In math we had to solve problems all the time and sometimes this would cause stress. I can’t remember this from school or university but I know that I personally don’t like those psychometric tests which are sometimes still used in banks and consulting firms to weed out candidates. The classical IQ tests focussing on calculations in your head can be stressful if you grew up using a calculator. “Being bad with numbers” is a common stereotype of women and often used against women. I’m concerned that women might often not be “bad with numbers” but with the pressure of solving a mathematical problem without using EXCEL or without a calculator and under time constraints. If you take this into consideration with a bit of practice and a good teacher every math problem usually is solvable. And this is exactly what I mean with a “problem”. It’s a riddle that is complex and will need time, practice and different angles to be solved. Do you like crossword puzzles? Could you imagine an upcoming “issue” or pickle to be approached like a crossword puzzle? Write down all the pieces, paint a picture and see if a solution shows up.

Problems seem to be too complex to solve

Sometimes solving problems alone is not possible. Problems might seem too complex to solve. You might have a machine in front of you and you always follow the same steps and always end up with the same error messages. For this kind of problem you either need Google or you need to ask someone who understands the machine better than you do. You need to potentially try several times and several different approaches. You can write down what you did to solve the problem, you can ask a bot for help or you can ask around in your network. Maybe someone else has encountered the same problem and has a solution or a workaround. My advice is usually to break the problem into smaller tasks or to paint an image to understand the components and how they are interconnected. Are you confronted with a problem you cannot solve? Which steps have you taken and tried already? Would it be time to ask for help? If you aren’t getting help, should you escalate the issue to the next level now? What is at stake? Can you allow yourself a bit of discomfort?

Problems harm our “Wonder-Woman” self-image

Having problems is often associated with shortcomings and hence harms our self-image of being a perfect “Wonder Woman”. However, this self-image also creates a lot of harm, especially when life isn’t perfect. For example, when I was in my thirties and forties not being able to get pregnant, nor holding my marriage together in two locations with two careers was a real problem. Up until then I was living in this illusion that life was planable and that all you had to do was to take action and be a go-getter. I might have exaggerated this a bit too much since I lost half of my family rather early in life. I probably thought “okay, from now on I will just plan this better.” (I really love plans, spreadsheets and to-do lists.)

Life isn’t like that and during my coach training I learned to accept that. I also learned that you cannot change other people, you can only change yourself. And do you know who is really a “Wonder Woman”? It’s a woman who loves herself anyway, despite the failure of her body at producing offspring, despite her failed marriage and despite the stain on her top. Ask yourself if you could accept a little more each day and what it would take to “be yourself”? What does it mean for you? Maybe start with a small change, like wearing a different outfit or letting your hair down.

Problems could show us a dependency we are not happy about.

Often a problem is a conflict of two or three different interests pulling into different directions. It can also stem from opposing beliefs and constructs of reality. If we cannot seem to solve a problem alone we might feel dependent and many of us don’t like to ask for help. It’s a common stereotype that men don’t like to ask for directions. However, I don’t like to ask for directions either. Mainly because I have a hard time differentiating left and right sometimes and again asking for how something is done best could show a weakness of sorts. Are you afraid to ask for help? Are you unhappy to depend on a colleague, a mentor or a friend? If so, ask yourself why that is? What is so shameful about asking for help?

Problems are here to guide us on our past. Obstacles are learning opportunities and pain is useful. Approach your day with a small problem you wish to solve and add a weekly practice to your RockMeApp around solving problems.

If you feel overwhelmed with a bigger problem and you don’t know how to ask for help or who to turn to, maybe it’s time to talk to me about a coaching program or the RockMeRetreat. Please reply “Magic” to this email and we will make an appointment for a free consultation of 30 minutes.

New Year, New Decade – Planning for Rocking Success

Do you approach each new year with renewed vigor and plans for self improvement? Perhaps a better gym routine or healthier lifestyle habits? Maybe you wish to tackle your work in a different manner? Do you then find yourself not able to sustain these plans beyond a few weeks?

New Year’s resolutions often end up lacking consistency, and with 2020 heralding the start of a new decade, the pressure is on a lot of people to start at full sprint. However, as we all know…by Mid January we are back in full swing and forgot that we wanted to go to the gym, eat healthy, drink less alcohol and spend more time with our families. As we grow older we even recognize how some of our patterns of workaholism become worse every year.

I have to admit that I had a hard time to let go of work on 23 December 2019 and a nagging feeling that I did not fully finish a task related to GDPR. (Don’t ask!!).

Now, as the New Year has started I realize a lack of motivation and find it a bit hard to get going again. I know that I will be seeing clients, students and even have a video shoot next week but I’ve been trying to procrastinate work as long as possible. And because I know that you and I often feel the same, I was struggling to tell you to start setting your goals for 2020. I read a few blog posts and then I remembered that I had already thought of different methods to overcome procrastination.

A while ago I wrote about four approaches to managing a project: “Committing to Work – When you say “I do” and then you do”. I explained four different ways you can motivate yourself through any project and a new career or life goal is essentially a project.

I ended my post with committing to doing the Master program in Global Mobility at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. My graduation party is almost a year ago. And while I still enjoy the moment of satisfaction and the additional certificate what I remember mostly about the course are the great people I met there: Lecturers, fellow students and organizers. People supporting me during my research and clients who answered a lot of questions about how they were using our RockMeApp. If you want to read my final thesis it has been published here.

If you really want to break through this decade try this:

1- Join us for a Global Rockstar Session

What is important to me when I work with clients in 1:1 Executive Coaching Programs such as the “RockMe! Program” is that we set three main career goals for you in our initial “Global Rockstar Session”. You can join us as a private client by following our onboarding process. As I only work with a limited number of private coaching clients this year I recommend that you email me your interest now and that we have a quick chat before the January enthusiasm passes.

2- Use the RockMeApp to define your weekly practices and learning goals

In my experience, nothing beats perseverance in guaranteeing whether you will be successful in achieving your three main goals. Professional athletes and billionaires have strict routines and practice regiments to be the very best.
I therefore always encourage clients to develop up to 10 weekly practices that will help them get closer to their main goals by using smaller steps. The RockMeApp therefore gives you a weekly checklist of those repetitive practices.

3- Understand and set your learning targets

Most of the time, if a goal overwhelms us in the professional context it is because we are lacking skills, knowledge or we don’t have the right attitude towards the task at hand. Break your three career and life goals into smaller, attainable sub-goals and define learning targets according to my global competency model. This is not so easy alone. Hence, I recommend you work with me continuously.

4- Define your three main priorities every week

From sub-goals you need to learn to set yourself three weekly priorities. This is what I do for years now with the RockMeApp. At the end of the week, I already write down my three main priorities for the week ahead. My productivity has been on an amazingly high level since I started doing this.

 

This is also known as Micro-productivity and helps your brain to see the final goal as more achievable and reduce procrastination. Furthermore, completing those smaller goals acts as positive feedback that helps motivate you towards that end goal!

5- Learn to reflect every week for at least 10 minutes

Lastly, I encourage my clients to answer four reflection questions at the end of every work week. You will know what they are if you are signed up to our RockMeApp.

 

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2020.

Kind regards,

Angie

Committing to Work – When you say “I do” and then you do

Do you remember the last time you actually closed down your computer only to realize how many open documents and unfinished business you have? Or do you remember the five new business books you ordered from Amazon and when you wanted to dive into them after the first few pages you got a call and then, did you follow up on that?

I laugh at myself when I look through old diaries or notes that I have taken 10 years ago or even longer. I see that my essential challenges are still the same. They boil down to finances, back pain and imposture syndrome. On a bad day, I will probably fall into the trap of telling myself the same story all over again. I also notice that nowadays when I maintain my weekly “sanity rituals” I get out of that self-talk with my inner monster Gollum a lot faster. (I decided to call my inner critic “Gollum” because deep down inside I believe that I am Bilbo Baggins’ granddaughter.)

Do you still believe that it is the agenda and influence of your manager, the loud colleague from the other end of the open plan office or your wife that stop you from completing projects?

On the surface, it is easy to blame others for what we don’t do or don’t achieve. I find it wonderful to use the “I cannot afford it” excuse in order not to invest in my education or in new clothes for example.

When you say “I do”, how can you keep yourself on track?

Here are four approaches to improve your commitment to projects that are important to you.

1) The Engineering Approach

  • Prioritize your projects with an easy classifier such as ABC.
  • Set a deadline for the overall completion.
  • Break down the projects into milestones.
  • Write a project plan that breaks down every milestone into a task and plan time for completion.
  • Do it and tick off every achievement on a daily basis.

 

2) The People Approach

  • Visualize the end result and paint a detailed picture of it.
  • Add post-it notes of people you see connected to this end vision.
  • Consider which role they will play in your end vision.
  • Reach out to them and let them know that you need their help.
  • Find two commitment buddies who will check in with you on your success and report to them on a weekly basis.

 

3) The Agile Approach

  • Focus on one project at the time
  • Pick the one that has the highest lever for you.
  • Work from the bottom up by defining what you would like to achieve in the next three weeks (“sprint”).
  • Spend 80% of your work time on this sprint.
  • Then take a week of reflection, check what worked and what didn’t and take a long weekend off.

 

4) The No-Pain, No-Gain Approach

  • Pick a skill that you would like to have and that you always avoid.
  • Invest an incredible amount of money in order to force yourself to commit (an example could be a personal trainer to follow your fitness routine, or an MBA or a course in Excel).
  • Tell your mother about it and see what happens.

 

I would suggest that you try to work with the approach that speaks to you most. Whichever approach you take you will probably notice that you are committing yourself to DOING rather than just THINKING ABOUT DOING.

What I’ve thought about before writing this was that I would like to share a secret with you. I took an important decision for next year. I’ve applied to a Masters programme in “International Human Resource Management and Global Mobility”. While the thought of spending two intensive weeks with GM Professionals from around Europe totally excites me, I also feel anxiety creeping in as I have graduated back in 97 and universities have changed a fair bit since then. It’s one thing to teach in a program and another to actually go through it yourself. I’m also considering an additional coaching education that will require funding and time. Imagine me running my business and doing a double degree in one year. I’m taking a mix of a no-pain, no-gain approach and a people approach here. Step 1 completed.

Have an inspired week!

Angie

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
Our Eight Commandments (Global Mobility Trends 2021)
The Global Mobility Workbook

We have been living in a world dominated by political, economic, and environmental uncertainty for many years now. However, the past two years have been particularly exceptional and tough for most of us. The global health crisis caused by Covid-19 has brought the entire planet to its knees. The pandemic impacted all aspects of life and radically changed the way we work. The world of Global Mobility has not been spared. Considering the extent of the impact caused by the pandemic, it doesn’t take a fortune teller to foresee that Global Mobility teams will have to deal with the blow of the crisis in the years to come.

However, it’s not all bad news! We need to think positively and see the good in all situations. For example, the crisis showed that Global Mobility teams continue to be incredibly resilient and are constantly coming up with immediate and particularly creative solutions to face issues that arise overnight. Imagine the difficulty of having to suddenly repatriate an expat (or an expat family) who was temporarily on holiday in a third country and remains stuck there without any other assistance. Or the complexity of finding a quick solution for someone who was about to go on assignment but suddenly had to postpone their departure, despite all their household goods having already been shipped to the host location. The following section will briefly outline the top eight Global Mobility (GM) trends to watch in 2021.

1 – Diversify the Assignment Types in Your Guidelines

A constantly changing and diverse population like today’s requires closer alignment between mobility types and support levels and more flexibility and agility. Since the 1990s, the mobility types have evolved enormously from only having long-term or short-term assignments. In the 2000s, new types of assignments emerged, such as the rotator, the international transfer, the globalist, and the commuter. Then, the 2010s saw the rise of business travelers, international new hires and domestic relocations. In the present decade, we will see the assignment type evolve and diversify further with new possibilities like the “flexpat”, the virtual roles, the contingent workers, remote working, and other future mobility options we haven’t thought about. Predictably, there will be more variety in the range of mobility locations as well. The “global approach,” which Global Mobility has seen increasing over time, will become the leading type of move. 

Even though Long-Term Assignments (LTAs) remain an important and widely used relocation model, it is also true that the deployment of shorter and more flexible approaches, such as Short-Term Assignments (STAs), business trips, immersive experiences, and commuter models, are constantly gaining traction (Deloitte, 2019). The Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey from KPMG (2020) confirm the same trend, with survey participants expecting to rely the upcoming five years more on STAs (46%), Commuter (52%), and Permanent Transfers (52%). On the other hand, 44% of respondents expect a reduction in the use of traditional LTAs, and 42% believe that it will remain the same. The diversification of assignment types directly brings us to the next trend; the need for flexibility. 

2 – Become More Flexible in Dealing With the Needs of a Diverse Workforce

Flexibility has dominated HR headlines for several years. It continues to be a trending topic, driven by several factors such as a constantly changing expat population and assignment types, employee expectations, modern technologies, and tools. This trend has also been driven lately by the unexpected global halt caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has been a severe stress test of flexible policies and has raised essential questions in the flexibility debate (Mercer, 2021a). 

For a GM program to be successful, it needs to work well both for the organization and the expats. But having a policy both flexible and defined enough to be used as the foundation for any mobility scenario is a big challenge even for the most evolved GM programs, as data from Mercer’s 2019 Flexible Mobility Policies Survey report.

The expat population is changing. Nowadays, a more diverse population than ever is embarking on International Assignments. Employees are more diverse in cultural backgrounds, family situation, age, gender, etc. It is impossible to address all the needs of these various groups in a one-size-fits-all policy.

A more diverse workforce equals a larger variety of individual assignees’ expectations, with the result that a proposition might be very attractive for one employee while not being appealing at all for another. This is clearly pinpointed by the 2018 How Global Mobility is Responding to New Dilemmas Survey: expectations from millennial generation employees are impacting mobility programs for 43% of surveyed companies, while the aging workforce has 36% of companies re-evaluating their program policies.

The need for flexibility is clear, and organizations have come to understand its importance as 65% of respondents of the AIRINC Mobility Outlook Survey 2021 (MOS) believe that demand for flexibility from the business will increase. Furthermore, 33% of respondents state that increasing flexibility within policies is their top priority to focus on in the next couple of years. The survey also shows that the number of policies that companies support increased each year, with an average amount of 4.5 policies in 2017 to 6.2 in 2021. 

Flexibility is needed to cater to individual needs. According to the Mercer 2019 Flexible Mobility Policies Survey, the most popular policy elements for which the participants introduced flexibility are family-related: housing, spousal support, child education, and home leave tickets are all items that can help improve the Expat Experience while on assignment.

However, with the crisis, the importance of duty of care over excessive flexibility was acknowledged: policies should not be made flexible if they are essential for the wellbeing of employees. Flexible policies have prepared some companies to deal more efficiently with urgent repatriations and unforeseen mobility scenarios. Other companies adopting flexible policies have found them inapplicable and inappropriate in the context of urgency. 

3 – Expect more Balance in Dual-Career Expat Couples 

Dual-Career Expat couples have been a topic in GM for the past years. The 2017 Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies & Practices (WIAPP) survey report pinpointed dual-career/family-related issues and cost as the main barriers to mobility. Similarly, the expected advantages of a flexible mobility program were also closely related to these issues. Also, the report published by Crown (2019) highlights the same problem. But if this is not a new phenomenon, why is it considered a trend to watch in 2021?

Because nowadays many more households, globally, rely on two salaries. This means that when an employee is asked to take on an international assignment, the economic impact on the family is more significant than it used to be. Consequently, an increasing number of companies are struggling with the challenges posed by the dual-career demographic and are in search of creative solutions. According to the report published by Crown in 2020, dual-career couples are more the norm, and often the accompanying partner has left a career for the move. Interestingly, research also shows that often, the expat partner has the most challenging time adjusting. Lack of spousal/partner career support is, according to the latest AIRINC MOS (2021), even among the top five reasons why assignments fail. 

To deal with the dual-career factor, companies have put in place several strategies. Many have put in place policies to support split families, offering more frequent home leave. However, this is generally limited to 12-24 months, after which the employee runs a higher risk of suffering from burnout with a negative impact on work productivity as well. Another solution is the increase of commuter assignments, especially across the EU, where distances are limited. The downside of this could be that the commuter status will impact the employee and their family and the team’s morale in the home and host location after some time. Another strategy, the one for which we advocate, is putting Expat Spouse support at the core of GM policies. The most standard support comes in the form of reimbursements for job search assistance, professional affiliations, and credential maintenance.

4 – Facilitate and Organize “Virtual Assignments”

The first trend highlighting the continuous diversification of GM also encompasses a higher number of Virtual Assignments. Differently than managers who oversee a region or frequent Business Travelers who might occasionally be involved in operations abroad from remote, a virtual assignee does remotely the same job as an assignee who has relocated to the host country. Virtual Assignments have been the breakout topic since the pandemic (Crown, 2021). The COVID-19 crisis is changing all the debate around the possibilities of working from home and Virtual Assignments. Never in history have so many employees worked remotely to guarantee essential business continuity. Virtual Assignments also raise a lot of new questions. 

Virtual mobility does not necessarily imply that employees remain in the home country while being responsible for operations in other locations. It allows expats to ‘’work from anywhere’’, meaning that employees can also work in a third country of choice (not the home country or the location benefiting from the task performed). This possibility enables expats to become digital nomads as they are no longer bound to a specific location. Implementing a more significant number of Virtual Assignments also means acknowledging and accepting that working arrangements are changing fast in response to technology, generational changes, and sudden business disruptions. 

Of course, there are limits to this as well. The most obvious of which is that not all jobs can be performed remotely, which is also one of the reasons why virtual mobility will not replace traditional mobility. Tax and compliance issues can pose a risk too. The company having no existing operations and not wishing to have a permanent establishment in the location where the employee would like to be based is another possible barrier to Virtual Assignments. Some organizations are also concerned that Virtual Assignments could hinder company culture and teamwork, with the risk for the employee to feel like a perpetual outsider. The final point worth considering is that cost saving is not necessarily automatic. In some cases, the assignee wants to live in a high-cost country where sending them will cost the company much more (Mercer, 2021b). 

It is now easier to see how the popularity of virtual mobility is closely related to the increase of a more dispersed international workforce. As companies upgrade their technology and become more agile, they could decide to assign projects and tasks to mobile people rather than moving defined jobs as such. In other words, instead of trying to fit assignees into predefined boxes, the aim is to manage a diverse workforce in a more fluid and coordinated way (Mercer, 2021d). 

Moving jobs to people instead of moving people to jobs will not substitute the traditional way of thinking GM, but it is one more tool companies can use in their global operations. We live in an era where recruitment is not limited by geography, and hiring can occur in any global location to fill open positions. As organizations gradually embrace best practices to manage a distributed international workforce, it will be essential for Global Mobility teams to adapt to a new way of thinking and learn to implement Virtual Assignments successfully. 

5 – Expand Your Skills and Become More Agile 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, multi-skilling is “the practice of training employees to do several different things, or of using employees who can do several different things,” or, in other words, the ability to master a wide range of skills relevant for different types of functions and jobs. Research from Hershbein and Khan (2018) provides broad-based evidence of how firms demand even more upskilling from workers when the local economy suffers a recession. Thus, this practice will likely be even more helpful in the aftermath of the crisis, when more agility is required in all business areas. 

The “future of work” (#FoW) is skill-driven, and the expansion of the gig economy brings proof to the statement. Since organizations are becoming flattered and more digital, corporate positions or job titles will not matter as much as skills and the capacity to update and renew these skills. Mercer listed a series of skills that GM professionals should acquire to thrive under these conditions. Below is a summary. 

Now more than ever, global mobility teams are asked to be advisers to the business and help anticipate risks and compliance issues. Mobility professionals should function as bridges between departments and geographies and serve as facilitators to coordinate arising matters. One possibility is that the mobility functions will be gradually more oriented towards consultancy. In one sentence, Global Mobility teams need to master compliance issues.

Ensuring that the basics are in place in terms of metrics and cost tracking will be essential, but what will make a difference for HR professionals is turning the results of newly developed metrics into concrete suggestions to improve people management.

It is also fundamental that mobility professionals speak the same language as general management and finance departments, linking mobility with compelling business cases.

Another crucial point Global Mobility teams need to bring to the top of their agendas is developing the ability to be good storytellers. Explaining the bigger story behind talent mobility and to what extent employees’ tasks relate (even distantly) to the overall economy and the society’s well-being is a differentiator. Storytelling is also about clearly summarizing the mobility program policy’s main principles or what the very mobility program entails. 

Today we live in an unprecedented abundance of information. The crucial issue is determining which data are true and relevant and interpreting them to draw appropriate conclusions for the business. GM professionals also have a role to play in the digitalization of companies. They need to familiarize themselves with the concepts and technologies revolving around AI and develop statistical and technology literacy.

Now that companies diversify more and more their compensation approaches, GM professionals need to dig deeper into Expat base pay, benefits, short-term and long-term incentives to have a more comprehensive financial understanding of the implications of an international move. It’s time to broaden reward skills. 

6 – Consider Adding “Human Touch” 

The days when careers were only about moving up the ladder are forgone. Nowadays, it’s about moving across the structure and the expat experience (KPMG, 2021). For employees, this results in a heightened focus on wellbeing, development, and recognition. At the same time, expats have started perceiving the mobility experience differently: They once used to see compensation as the primary incentive for global relocations but now tend to value providing validation on both a personal and professional level. Nowadays, the global workforce is attracted and motivated by a more personalized, agile, and holistic experience. Therefore, adding the human touch is needed which predictably results in a better relationship between employees and employers.

Employers picked up this trend and refer to it as improving “employee experience.” 47% of respondents of the AIRINC MOS 2021 mentioned this as a top priority to focus on in the upcoming years. However, it would be unfair to deny that it is too often difficult to prioritize employee experience if teams are too busy focusing on the many operational aspects of the mobility program. A well-designed human-centric global mobility program does not simply consider individual employee needs but also considers all the people involved. 

If you wish to embrace the human touch in your global mobility program, you successfully should focus on the following four core aspects:

  • Operational Support. Structure of operations and satisfaction with external vendors.
  • Financial Welfare. Rewards, benefits, and other types of support provided to the employee. 
  • Professional Engagement. Successful integration into the host location and career progression.
  • Expat well-being. Employee resilience and focus outside of work life.

The COVID-19 crisis has particularly highlighted the very last aspect of the above list, expat well-being. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends, 80% of the respondents identified well-being as an important priority for their organization’s success over the next 12-18 months, making it this year’s top trend. Yet, only 12% feel “very ready” to address this issue, showing a clear “readiness gap.” Expat well-being does not stop at healthcare considerations and should not only be prioritized during emergencies. Expat well-being should also entail social, emotional, and financial aspects. Those are natural aspects in which highly mobile employees are automatically more at risk. Factors such as stress, mental health, family and financial issues, and demotivation or failed assignments should put the mobility team on full alert. We need to get back to providing a service that is essentially a human experience. Especially, to improve the expat’s well-being it is extremely important that they have contact with people from inside and outside the company to which they can talk to. 

Undoubtedly, the current crisis pushes companies to accelerate their strategies to ameliorate expat well-being, potentially enabling a better work-life balance. There are plenty of good reasons to make investments to improve well-being: Burnout impacts employee retention, employees with higher well-being are more likely to feel engaged at work and recommend their organizations, and to some extent, well-being drives organizational performance (Deloitte, 2020).

7 – Deal with Harder Immigration Compliance 

Even before this global pandemic, the waiting time organizations had to face before holding all the authorizations required for an employee to travel abroad for business was becoming increasingly longer. The quicker visa to obtain, that for short-term business travels, are not intended for productive work or long-term assignments. Many countries are enforcing measures more actively against illegal employment. A growing number of employees have to pay pricey fines, and some even undergo criminal punishments. 

Problems only increase when the employee is accompanied by their spouse who travels on a holiday visa and then tries to find a job in the new host country or get a local driver’s license. 

Undoubtedly, the unexpected crisis caused by the widespread presence of COVID-19 has made immigration compliance and timelines for assignments even more complicated for organizations wanting to send their employees abroad, repatriate or transfer them to a third country. Also, companies might be losing key talent now that the job market is picking up if they had to wait for their assignments, sitting on packed suitcases for more than a year.

In a world where business travel, secondments, and overseas relocations are routine, the resulting level of disruption caused by the restrictions on movement that governments set in place to combat the spread of the pandemic is unprecedented. With companies working hard to prioritize their staff’s well-being, another whole set of legal challenges arise. In such a rapidly changing scenario, some mobile employees might remain stranded in their host country or a transit country or even risk overstaying their visas. Some of the measures that governments around the world are enacting are temporary, but others could have a more negative effect on business in the near future. 

  1. Entry restrictions and an increased number of admission criteria for citizens of certain countries, including bans on some high-risk locations.
  2. Heightened eligibility criteria and application requirements where visas are issued, including suspension of visa waiver agreements and more detailed document requirements for new applications.
  3. Longer lead times for applications and discrimination in the selection leading to class systems of vaccinated versus non-vaccinated applicants.

8 – Embrace Digital Innovation

In the past 24 months, many organizations have focused on digitization (moving to more digital formats) and digitalization (strategically shifting to digital processes and activities) of the mobility function. Many consider technological breakouts to be a megatrend. One of the biggest challenges is to incorporate technology into the business in a way that adds value to the company and its employees. One positive example of digitalization is reporting assignees through an intuitive HR system and tracking assignees through security apps such as the International SOS assistance app.

Companies’ level of ‘digital engagement’ depends on how “digitally mature” their global mobility programs already are. Some might be just ‘exploring digital,’ using robotics to carry out simple and repetitive tasks, while others might be already ‘becoming digital’ with a formal digital strategy set in place. 

Mobility functions are already experiencing success where automation is implemented to perform tasks that humans would generally be assigned, such as ending routine emails or copying and pasting information from public or private sources. In turn, workers are given higher-value tasks for the benefit of the mobility function. By adopting and introducing those techniques into existing processes, GM teams will focus on diminishing costs, increasing productivity by improving operational efficiency, and retaining talent. Some of the latest HR systems like Success Factors or Workday offer basic workflow functions for international assignments but cannot yet run the full process with all the external vendors involved. Data needs to be shifted from the HR System to the vendor platform but an integrated solution has to be found to do this efficiently while still respecting GDPR and Data Security.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology is another interesting use of AI in the field. It is already being used to speed up administrative/transactional processes in mobility functions. Equally important is that automation can also reveal itself as crucial in reducing hierarchical thinking. If you want to read more about this topic then this article on our blog might be of interest to you. 

Core office technologies such as telephone, word processing platforms, and email have already evolved to expand connected and collaborative working possibilities. Expats can now access the latest information, join video conferences, share and work on the same documents or workspace at their convenience, from a device and location of their choice. It is a great aid tool for managing assignee package creation. It makes it possible for Global Mobility teams to stay in close communication with their assignees abroad. 

As for Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR, respectively), they can transform the employee’s onboarding experience into the organization or allow them to meet and collaborate with colleagues in other countries. Additionally, it can be used to virtually recreate cities to immerse oneself in the new environment before deciding to move there.

According to Deloitte (2020), AI is projected to add US$13 trillion to the global economy over the next decade. It is no wonder that in their 2020 Global Human Capital Trends Survey, 70% of the respondents stated that their organizations were exploring or using AI to some extent. At this point, the question is not whether AI will affect jobs but rather how. Reducing costs by replacing the workforce with AI technology is not the only viable path: 60% of the surveyed organizations use AI to assist rather than replace workers. 

By using smart devices to predict, detect and prevent risks in moving people around the globe, AI is already helping organizations go beyond traditional ways of managing the global workforce. With the massive increase of the data volume available to organizations, the emergence of advanced AI-based algorithms, and the growing availability of data scientists, systems become increasingly self-managing and potentially self-defending against risks.  

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References 

Websites

Dictionary.cambridge.org. (2021). multi-skilling. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/multi-skilling

Mercer. (2021a). Global mobility policy flexibility in practice. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Global-mobility-policy-flexibility-in-practice 

Mercer. (2021b).The rise of virtual assignments. (2021). Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/the-rise-of-virtual-assignments 

Mercer. (2021c). Upskilling the Mobility Function. (2021). Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Upskilling-the-Mobility-Function 

Mercer. (2021d). Talent mobility: looking ahead. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Talent-mobility-looking-ahead

Books and Reports

AIRINC. (2021). Mobility Outlook Survey 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.air-inc.com/mobility-outlook-survey-2021/ 

Crown. (2019). Big Global Mobility Trends to Watch in 2019. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.crownworldmobility.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Big-global-mobility-trends-to-watch-in-2019-CWM.pdf 

Crown. (2020). Big Global Mobility Trends to Watch in 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.crownworldmobility.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Big-global-mobility-trends-to-watch-in-2020-CWM.pdf 

Crown. (2021). Five Standout Talent Mobility Trends for 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from  https://www.crownworldmobility.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/5-standout-talent-mobility-trends-for-2021_digital-CWM.pdf

Deloitte. (2019). ’Global Workforce Insight 2019.’ Deloitte. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ch/Documents/tax/deloitte-ch-Back-to-the-future-global-workforce.pdf

Deloitte. (2020). ‘2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey. Deloitte.’ Deloitte. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/us43244_human-capital-trends-2020/us43244_human-capital-trends-2020/di_hc-trends-2020.pdf 

FIDI. (2019). ‘2020 Vision: A Focus on Next Year’s Trends.’ FIDI Global Alliance. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.fidi.org/blog/2020-vision-focus-next-years-trends 

Hershbein, B. and Khan, L. B. (2018). ‘Do Recessions Accelerate Routine-Biased Technological Change? Evidence from Vacancy Postings.’ American Economic Review. Vol. 108, no. 7, pp. 1737-72. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20161570

KPMG. (2020). Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2020/10/gapp-2020-survey-web.pdf

KPMG. (2021). Global Mobility Forecast: Trends in Risk, Talent and Digital. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2021/02/global-mobility-forecast-trends-in-risk-talent-and-digital.pdf 

Mercer. (2017). Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies and Practices. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.imercer.com/products/WorldwideIAPP

Mercer, (2019). ‘Flexible Mobility Policies Survey.’ Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/solutions/data-solutions/policies-and-practices-surveys/flexible-mobility-policies-survey

PWC. (2016). Women of the World: Aligning Gender Diversity and International Mobility in Financial Services. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/financial-services/assets/women-of-the-world.pdf 

More Sources

Baker McKenzie. (2019). ‘The Global Employer: Focus on Global Immigration and Mobility.’ Baker McKenzie. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.bakermckenzie.com/en-/media/files/insight/publications/2019/12/the-global-employer-focus-on-immigration-and-mobility_041219.pdf

Beck, P., Eisenhut, P. and Thomas, L. (2018). „Fokus Arbeitsmarkt: Fit für die Zukunft?”. Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/publikationen/fokus-arbeitsmart-fit-fuer-die-zukunft 

Bertolino, M. (2020). ‘How Covid-19 Is Disrupting Immigration Policies and Worker Mobility: A Tracker’. Ernst and Young. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://www.ey.com/en_gl/tax/how-covid-19-is-disrupting-immigration-policies-and-worker-mobility-a-tracker

Hauri, D., Eisenhut, P., and Lorenz T. (2016). „Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung: Hintergründe und Zusammenhänge.” Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung

Robb, A., Frewin, K. and Jagger, P. (2017a). ‘Global Workforce Trends: The Impact of the Digital Age on Global Mobility.’ Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/tax/deloitte-uk-global-mobility-trends-latest.PDF 

Robb, A., Frewin, K. and Jagger, P. (2017b). ‘Global Workforce : Digital Innovation in Mobility.’ Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/fi/Documents/tax/deloitte-uk-digital-innovation-in-mobility.pd