Unpacking the shortcomings of Lifestyle Expatriation
Lifestyle Expatriates are often expat spouses in Dual-Career Couples, Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) and Gig Workers (or Digital Nomads as they tend to be called too). This is one driver of Global Mobility.

I have been a strong proponent of Global Mobility for years now and most readers and clients will know my general optimism towards it. This week I will be taking a critical look at the trend towards more Lifestyle expats and various shortcomings that need to be addressed. AIRINC (2019) confirms that 13% more companies now have an international one-way transfer policy (72% vs 59% in 2018). We also have to take into consideration here is that our populations are a lot more diverse than they used to be 10 years ago (Weinberger, 2019).

Let’s dive right in.

In recent years, we have come across a new source of mobility traffic. We can call this driver “lifestyle”. Through technology, economic crisis, and mobile mindsets, younger professionals are more willing to move to other countries to find work. The local-to-local hires from abroad are often “coming for love and staying for the job”. Locations with a high influx of foreigners due to low unemployment, high staff turnover and perceived high quality of living – such as Australia, Canada, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Switzerland – attract professionals from many countries. The jobs require academic backgrounds and professional experience but can be filled by local staff, if the talent is available in the marketplace. There is, however, a downside to this trend. Not many professionals think about the long-term consequences of moving from one place to another. Social security is covered in a later chapter, as well as other potential issues that can arise for global mobility professionals.

Lifestyle expats are often expat spouses in Dual-Career Couples, Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) and Gig Workers (or Digital Nomads as they tend to be called too).

What’s in the packages?
Often the packages of lifestyle expats are limited. They have a local employment contract in the Host Country. Sometimes we support the immigration and relocation process. The company does not always offer international medical insurance or an international pension plan. In many cases, this is not because of bad intentions. Often, local HR staff has not considered the package and support as they have misconceptions about how these systems work globally.

So here are a few examples and tips to consider.

Going to the US? –  Do you face any Work and Residence Permit Restrictions?
In recent years I have heard a lot of complaints about the US immigration process among others. Protectionism has made it a more trying and difficult process in many countries. In Switzerland, too, we have more administration to tackle than before the bilateral agreement with the EU on free movement was accepted. You need to learn and understand the steps of the immigration process – for certain countries such as the US, you will need the help of a lawyer. Check if your spouse is allowed to work in the host country.

Going to Brazil? – Have you thought about your personal security?
In several countries in the world, you might face issues of personal safety. Brazil is one such country which has built a bad reputation over the years. It’s worth taking a look at your government security websites before moving to a new country. Additionally, once you are there, find out right away where your Embassy is in case of an emergency and get yourself registered with them.

Going to Europe? – Do you have social security in this particular European country?
Imagine if you will, that you move overseas with your spouse, you just find out that you are pregnant but you don’t have health insurance coverage yet in the new country, nor any type of social security. You might not have new coverage because insurance companies won’t accept you or they will increase their premiums significantly.

This leaves you stuck in a limbo where you are waiting for the lengthy assessments for private medical, social security and international pension to come through, while your spouse or yourself require the use of those facilities.

Going to the Middle East – Do you have any residence rights if you get fired?
The employment on a local contract poses a risk in many countries in the world as you might have to leave the country in case you lose your job. If you accept a contract in the Middle East, make sure that you understand your rights and obligations but also your residence permit status. Is it bound to your employment or financial security?

Going to China – Are you ready to face the pace and work 24/7?
Some countries have a different work ethic than others. Some countries are highly productive while others still have a lot of inefficient processes. You could move to a country like China and be surprised how many hours you are physically expected to be “at work”, in the office or even socializing with colleagues. The pace in fast-growing markets such as China could drain you or become stressful in the long run.

Going to India – Will you face tax issues and do you understand your package? 
As a local hire, you might have different legal implications to consider than an expat being sent by a company. If you are going to India, it is worth checking the kind of tax exposure you will face there and to really understand the package that you are offered.

Relocation Planning is left up to you
Many companies have not implemented a great process for hires from other countries. HR often works ad-hoc and as mentioned doesn’t understand all implications.
I once met an expat who moved to Switzerland around the New Year and didn’t have a place to stay when she arrived! Normally, the company could have provided temporary accommodation but that did not happen, the expat ended up having to figure things out on her own.

You somehow forgot that the host country has a different native language than English
Internations mentions that there are still many expats moving to another country without managing the host language to a workable level. I’m often surprised when clients complain about German being ‘so hard to learn’. Even if you can survive well in Switzerland without German, not speaking the language hinders you from integrating into a culture and entering the “circle of trust”.


How can Global Mobility help if they are not empowered and don’t have the staffing?

Increase the Scope, Team and have Global Mobility report to the CEO
What can be done to improve on these shortcomings? On an organizational level, I strongly feel that making Global Mobility a  function reporting to the CEO is the most logical path to positive consequences. Global Mobility activities need to include all sorts of cross-border activity including weekly commuters, International Business Travellers, International Hires and “Digital Nomads”.

It would allow for smarter, involved decisions regarding Global Mobility professionals as part of the company’s expert staff. Looking after the wellbeing of your international workforce is now considered essential to an organization’s success, there really is no justification for slacking off on that front.

Having the CEO directly involved with Global Mobility allows them to devise budgets and become the escalation point for critical hires and moves. Often, CEOs only hear about GM when things go pear-shaped and there is, for instance, a real life-and-death situation such as a terrorist attack or a tsunami – at times like these GM might not be able to get through to them because there are too many layers of organization between them.

Address the Package Issues through a Guideline
We should address the package issues and devise at least medical coverage, support with the immigration for expat and spouse, international pension, pay for the move and repatriation in case of redundancy and ensure the personal safety of the expat family.

Despite the tougher aspects of being involved in Lifestyle Expatriation, I still maintain my optimism. The Future of Global Mobility will see us rise to the level of other corporate functions and we will be able to support our diverse global clients even better than today.

Great strides have been made in recent years and I am certain that the coming days will see more positive resolutions to people’s pain points and enhance the expat experience.

Get third edition of The Global Mobility Workbook!

Avoiding Global Talent Acquisition Failure – Six Basics To Add to Your Recruiting Guideline – Part 3
Hiring Talent from the Globe

I’m on a MISSION to bring the HUMAN TOUCH back into Global Mobility. One theme that I see more now is that we Global Mobility Professionals are involved in Global Talent Acquisition. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that we have the knowledge and skills to deal with most of the challenges that hiring people from other countries brings. However, since in most organizations we are not officially responsible we don’t get the resources we need to deal with recruiting professionally. Hence, we can consult but not support. So, dear recruiters, I hope this is helpful.

Lifestyle Expats, or Self-Initiated Expats (SIEs), are an important factor in today’s global force and the actual circumstances suggest the phenomenon is on the rise (Habti & Elo, 2019). In fact, thanks to technological changes, such as online recruiting, the labour market has become more international and more fluid and made the process of filling jobs internationally (internally or externally the organization) much simpler. As a consequence, an increasing number of professionals consider working abroad a realistic career option and there are growing opportunities to identify and eventually find a job abroad.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented global crisis, which is bound to create a stronger recession than the 2008 financial crisis, and the war for talent is as heated as ever. 

Specialized Subject Matter Experts are increasingly hard to find and when you turn to places rich in talent such as Singapore and certain areas of the US like Boston and the Silicon Valley, that’s of course where competition is already extremely high. Moreover, there is no real point in stealing from the competition if you aim at bringing in innovation. 

It’s 2020 and the global workforce is as varied as ever, with five generations working side by side and companies striving to fulfill all their D&I goals (gender/religion/ethnicity/sexual orientation). As cited by Forbes, diversity plays an ever more important role in recruitment and is proving to be directly correlated with an increased revenue for the company (Boston Consulting Group, 2018; KPMG, 2018). 

Yet, relocation policies have historically been a one-size-fits-all model and are often still struggling to include points such as religion, ethnicity, age, disability status, working mothers, non-traditional family units, etc. 

Make sure your Global Mobility policies acknowledge and support your employees’ varying needs to make them feel more encouraged to accept International Assignment. The point is to ensure that deserving and promising talent does not experience barriers to success.

Demographic changes will require highly-skilled migrants to fill positions as turnout of university graduates declines in developed countries. Also at the EU level and among the Member States there is consensus on the need to address labour market shortages, worsened by the deepening demographic crisis and skill mismatch (Platonova & Urso, 2012).

Even rich countries like  Liechtenstein, (Beck et al., 2018; Hauri et al., 2016) may have a hard time attracting talent. Other more traditional expat hubs, like Singapore, London, New York City, the UAE, Hong Kong and Switzerland, continue leading the ranking despite the high costs of living. In this case, according to the 2020 Global Talent Competitiveness Index, what really makes the difference are their socio-economic policies in which talent growth and management are central priorities. 

Perhaps even more important to acknowledge is that the world of work as we knew has already changed. With new technology enabling employees to work almost anywhere and anytime, the classic ‘nine to five’ is outdated. In an article published by Sage People even before the pandemic changed companies’ approach, figures speak for themselves:  not only do 50% of the US interviewees say they’d like to be more mobile at work, but a good 54% would change job if it meant more flexibility.

In Global Mobility, Virtual Assignments are an opportunity to give employees the much longed-for flexibility they seek. Despite Virtual Assignments having always been on the rise since the widespread implementation of the internet, it’s easier to see how they’re going to be even more numerous in the aftermath of the Corona-crisis. In fact, never before have so many employees worked remotely in order to guarantee essential business continuity. 

But there is another side of the medal, and this is the portion of talent who seek international experience as part of their decision to join a company.  In particular, overseas assignments are becoming more appealing among Millennials, who often see the opportunity to live and work abroad as more rewarding than a pay rise. They are called Digital Nomads or Telecommuters. According to Smart Gear, 90% of digital nomads plan on working remotely for the rest of their careers, while 94% of them encourage others to try Digital Nomadism themselves.

Whether or not you’re having troubles attracting talent, here are six basics to add to your recruiting suite that you should consider during and after the recruiting process. 

1 – Make Sure They Have a Realistic Picture of What it’s like to live in your Expat Hub

Try to put yourself in the mind of a candidate who is contacted by a company in a foreign location. What’s the first thing that you would like to know? Salary? Job title? The direction of the company? Probably none of these things, but rather: “Why would I want to move there?”

Moving continents, or even “just” countries, isn’t a decision that can be taken on the potential of a great office view only. Instead, candidates need to know what the place looks like, what language is spoken, where they (and maybe their families) would live and whether they would fit in.

It is useful to include this information on your careers page so as to make it more of a relocation portal and less of a job listing. Workable offers a service to help you in this process. Not only will candidates benefit from this information, but so will your company: showing what candidates want to know during the overseas job hiring process builds your credibility from the beginning.

This type of thinking is beneficial for companies at every level, whether you’re hiring someone 70 or 7,000 miles away.

2 – Help with the Move of Household Goods

Among Expats and Expat Spouses, the phase of moving abroad is often cited as the most stressful one. Moving out doesn’t take one day only: there are farewells, often a party, and especially when small kids are involved, the family needs to stay with friends or in a hotel room. While Expats are still busy handing their work over and finalizing conversations with clients, Expat Spouses are often alone in coordinating all the logistics behind the move. That’s why it is important that they are connected with a moving company. Having someone who takes care of their house goods until they are settled in the new location surely spares the Expat family from a lot of stress. 

If you are looking for a relocation company, consider paying a visit to the Keller Swiss Group. They offer relocation services, household removals, business relocation and household storage services, both in Switzerland and worldwide.

3 – Organize Support with Immigration 

Organizing support with immigration is definitely another helpful and efficient way of helping the expat family during the stressful pre-assignment phase. In recent years, the process of obtaining work permits and visas has become more complex. Letting Expats and Expat Spouses navigate this sea of bureaucracy all alone would put on them an incredible and unnecessary amount of stress. 

When it comes to immigration compliance, each case is different and needs to be examined thoroughly. Some relocation companies, like BecomeLocal in Switzerland, are specialists in this field. They can help you handle the permit process, write applications and submit to the authorities, instruct professionals and executives to obtain visas, sparing your organisation and the expat family a lot of hustle.

4 – Provide Spouse Career Support and A Pre-Hire Assessment for the Spouse

The effects that International Assignments have on the Expat Spouse’s wellbeing and state of mind are often underestimated. For some Expat Spouses, the sudden change from independent career person to stay-at-home parent has a strong psychological impact, even more so if getting a working visa is not possible.

Coaching is a very powerful tool with which companies can support Expat Spouses. With the help of a Career Coach, some Expat Spouses manage to start their own businesses while living abroad, thus finding deeper fulfillment in the experience.. At Global People Transitions we are specialized in this. If you want to know more about what we do to help Expat Spouses find motivation and new perspectives, visit Global People Transitions or send me an email (angela@globalpeopletransitions.com).

It is also very fair to the Expat Spouse to have a realistic idea of whether their profile actually leads to potential employment in the host market or whether their chances of finding work are slim. An Expat Spouse Coach can also help with a pre-hire assessment for the Expat Spouse.

5 – Consult them on Technical Issues such as how to get Health Insurance, what to do about their Taxes 

Once again try to put yourself in the mind of your future employees. They now have a clearer idea of what it means to live in your expat hub and they are positively considering relocating there. Perhaps their spouses and children are coming along. In this preparatory phase, Expats are inevitably very busy with what needs to be handled back at home in their professional and private life. But they also need to be ready for what’s coming next. 

Handling both “back home” and “in host country” can be extremely overwhelming, especially if this means going through important technical issues of a country with a different system and in a language they don’t understand. This is the right time to step in and consult them on important decisions such as which type of health insurance to get and how to do it, but also on how to handle their taxes. If you can’t deliver this in-house we’re happy to help.

6 – Sprinkle Everything With  A Bit More Human Touch

As I said earlier and many times before, HUMAN TOUCH is my MISSION and the key to enhancing the employee experience. Deloitte (2019) proved to be onboard with that when stating that today’s global workforce is attracted and motivated by a more personalised, agile and holistic experience than before. This is why it’s important that you find your way to unlock the HUMAN TOUCH. For example, you can start by welcoming new team members with a hand-written card. You will make their first day a celebration. 

If you wish to review your global hiring policies or your process please contact me for a proposal via angela@globalpeopletransitions.com.

Resources 

Become Local. Swiss Immigration Adviser. https://www.becomelocal.ch 

Harrison, C. (2019, 19 Sep.). „7 Surprising Statistics about Digital Nomads.” Smart Gear Blog. https://smartgear.travel/7-surprising-statistics-about-digital-nomads/

Hayes, A. (2020, 7 Apr.). „What is a Digital Nomad?”Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/digital-nomad.asp

Keller Swiss Group. Worldwide Moving Relocation. https://www.kellerswissgroup.com/

MBO Partners. (2018). „Rising Nomadism: A Rising Trend.” MBO Partners, Inc. https://s29814.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/StateofIndependence-ResearchBrief-DigitalNomads.pdf 

Montilla, E.  (2020, 17 Jan.). „Achieving workplace diversity through recruitment in tech.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/01/17/achieving-workplace-diversity-through-recruitment-in-tech/#2214496a1359

References

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

Boston Consulting Group. (2018). „How diverse leadership teams boost innovation.”, BCG. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation.aspx 

KPMG. (2018). „Inclusion and Diversity: How Global Mobility can help move the Needle”, KPMG. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle-FINAL.pdf

Habti, D and Elo, M. (2019). Global Mobility of Highly Skilled People. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. 

Hauri, D., Eisenhut, P., and Lorenz T. (2016). „Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung: Hintergründe unde Zusammenhange.”Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/application/files/3215/1635/3318/Knacknuss_Wachstum_und_Zuwanderung_Endfassung_22_11_2016.pdf

Platonova A. and Urso, G. (2012). „Labour Shortages and Migration Policy.” International Organization for Migration. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/labour_shortages_and_migration_policy.pdf?language=en

Expats Onboarding in the Host Company – Here’s your First 90 days Survival Pack!
Posted on

Over the last two decades in Human Resources, I have noticed that a lot of international talents were left frustrated by the process of moving to another country for work. I observed that the issues weren’t just financial, but pertained a lot to both the individuals and the company underestimating the challenges involved in moving to a new country.

Therefore, today I would like to draw on my experience and discuss some important practices for that critical period, the first 90-odd days, of an expat landing in a new country and beginning their onboarding process in the host company.

Be Thoroughly Prepared Before You Land

Increasingly, in this age of protectionism, many countries now require you, the expat, and your accompanying family to have active medical insurance before you arrive in the country. This is different from the travel insurance you may have used for vacations and needs to be negotiated with a local provider in the host country. Whether your company is processing this for you, or you are required to do so on your own, you also need to make sure you are aware of what is covered – are your children covered? What about planned or unplanned pregnancies?

On that subject matter, there is now a lot more paperwork and prerequisites required before visas and associated work permits are given out, with increasingly thorough information required. If your company is handling this for you, make sure you are kept in the loop so you avoid unnecessary delays. However, if you are required to manage the applications on your own, ensure you are aware of the full process. You may need the help of a specialized lawyer in this scenario, don’t hesitate to contact them.

You may also have to plan your own relocation, a shortcoming of lifestyle expatriation that many organisations have still not overcome. An issue many people have with selecting medium-to-long term accommodation is that they do not want to make such decisions based on photos alone. To get around it, a recent trend involves making short-term living arrangements via Airbnb or similar service, and then inspecting more appropriate housing in person. It makes a certain amount of sense, but you want to keep an eye on your budget, as good rentals may not come cheap.

Finally, make sure you have wrapped up all pending tasks and necessary paperwork before signing off!

The Move

It may seem just like an airplane journey but make no mistake, the move is frequently considered the most stressful time. That’s because of all the farewells and goodbyes, packing up and shipping of belongings. And don’t forget that while you are also spending time at the office on last-minute tasks, your spouse is at home managing the children and the packing. Generally, this means that by the time your plan lifts off, everyone is pretty exhausted and you may end up questioning your decision, worry about the unknown challenges ahead and fear for the future of your family.

In this situation, make sure you open up to your case handler from the Global Mobility team when they reach out to you. Talking about what you are feeling and experiencing with them will help them both meet your unique needs, and to guide you on the best way to manage stress. Often they will arrange an arrival service for you and give you a day or two off before you have to join the new workplace. Use this time to spend time with your family and help each other settle in properly.

Manage Expectations

You’ve landed, navigated immigration, moved into temporary living and started settling in. Now, it’s time to join work! You may find yourself settling in very quickly because the workplace and culture at the office give you a feeling of “being at home” fast.

That may not always be the case, however. There are a wide range of issues that can crop up, so your excitement needs to be tempered with a can-do attitude to learn new things. It really depends on the country you are in and how well you are prepared for the different cultures.

For instance, arriving in Switzerland is considered tougher because of the challenges associated with assimilating into Swiss culture later on. A move to Brazil would, for example, necessitate greater research into personal security. China has a culture revolving around work and you may find yourself working longer and engaging with colleagues far more than you bargained for. And did you forget that the host country’s native language is not English?

This not only means that you need to learn more about the host culture, but that your company needs to shoulder some responsibility for preparing you for such challenges – you may find that your company may sign you up later on for intercultural awareness training, spouse career coaching and host language training, all providing essential support not just for you but your spouse as well.

Don’t Neglect Your Family

It is natural to get swept away in the hubbub of new activities as you settle into a new work life, adjust to a new office culture and make new acquaintances. An unfortunate side effect of that is that you may forget that your spouse will be having an entirely different experience to yours. Their adjustment is tougher than yours and they can often find themselves feeling alone and left behind. Remember, while you are working they are the ones who will be ensuring your children’s schooling commences at earliest!

Providing emotional support to your spouse is critical in helping them adjust, especially if they are not always guaranteed work rights by the host country and have to put their own careers on pause. Language and cultural barriers can make it harder for them to do basic tasks (like choosing schools, setting up gym or sports club memberships) and builds up stress. Time zone differences can make it harder to contact friends and family back home and you both may feel the additional worry of not being in frequent correspondence with your own parents or close relatives and friends.

During this period of 90 days, you may be in frequent contact with the Global Mobility professional assigned to your case by the company. Their job is not just to get you up to productivity quickly, but to ensure a smooth transition for you and your spouse. They will be your guide and support during the entire assignment, not just the first 90 days so it is beneficial to form a good working relationship with them.

The initial period after your move will not follow a fixed path, some expat families face greater challenges than others, due to a variety of reasons. Whichever path your onboarding follows, remember to be in regular and detailed contact with your Global Mobility Manager, because as with most things in life, communication is key to success here.

Kind Regards,
Angie.

P.S. If you are looking for a more in-depth look at the expatriation cycle (from the pre assignment period to the first 90 days and beyond), The Global Mobility Workbook discusses it in much greater detail in the Expat Experience.

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

Enhancing the Expat Experience – A deep psychology approach
Expat Experience

by @angieweinberger, the Global Mobility Coach

I recently held a talk where I was discussing the Expat Experience in Zurich and how to enhance it. Zurich is a typical inbound hub, so many ideas in this article will also fit to places like Dubai, London, Hong Kong or Singapore.

As the most populated canton in Switzerland, Zurich is becoming home to an ever-growing population of expats

Today’s typical expats look like this expat couple: Heidi and Govind. Heidi is a Director who works in banking and is a credit guru. She met Govind, her husband, at the London School of Economics. From there they moved to New York and later Abu Dhabi.

Govind now works for a pharmaceutical company that has had them stationed in Abu Dhabi for the last 3 years on a local plus contract.

Then, the company asked Govind to move to Zurich to join the company’s  headquarters. With their three children Anush, Anya and Anjali (9, 7 and 2.5 years old respectively), they joined the 55,000 other immigrants into Switzerland last year and exchanged the desert for snowflakes.

What attracts expat couples like Heidi and Govind to Zurich? Obviously, in their case they had the company offer and certain personal considerations, but I’ve found that for a majority of expats, the main reasons to move to Zurich are love, the quality of life, the outdoor lifestyle, job opportunities and good salaries.

I asked expats what they would change about Zurich that would be of benefit to them. Their answers ranged from “we would like to change the people so they would open up more” to “we would reduce cost of renting apartments” and “we would reduce cost of living, especially essentials like food”. 

They also desired better career opportunities for expat spouses, which I’ve found is a recurring theme with most expat stories. Both Heidi and Govind belong to a cohort group that was targeted by project ZRH3039. This group of mainly globally mobile professionals, all living in Zurich, would like to participate politically. They would like Zurich to show and live the diversity that it offers. They want the city to accept and cater to new life and living realities – these are the motivators of today’s expats and worthy of our attention. It’s not all about the package.

Returning to our expat couple, Heidi’s current focus is to look for a job in finance while also finding full-time education for their children Anush and Anya. Since Anush and Anya were always in the international school, Heidi and Govind are looking at schooling options. There is also the additional challenge of deciding whether a Swiss kindergarten is suitable for their youngest, Anjali.

This brings me to my next point: I think providing expat couples with advice on schooling and education options is an important way to enhance their experience. 

“Lifestyle Expats” have different Challenges

Most “lifestyle expats” in Zurich are on local contracts – it is an entirely different experience if you have to pay for international schooling yourself and it might not even be necessary. However, as an international parent you need advice as you don’t understand the Swiss school system.

The next underestimated challenge is the Swiss culture. There is something in the culture here that seems to make it more difficult for people to arrive in Switzerland, more than in other cultures.

Let’s break this down. What does this imply? I think it means that while we emphasize the importance for expats to learn about Swiss culture and to assimilate with the locals, we need to shoulder some of the responsibility as well. Granted, we cannot control what sort of neighbors expats will find, nor can we change all neighbors! However, is there any point of expats learning to integrate and still facing issues despite fitting in or blending perfectly, simply because the locals did not join intercultural training? 

I think we need to start with ourselves and raise our global competency. We need to understand the little nuances, for instance how the word “service” has a different expectation for people from China, India or Brazil than for Swiss people or anyone from a European background. The demographics of Global Mobility are changing. We can expect from diversity of culture and backgrounds from expats – more dual career couples, more female expats, more same sex couples, more patchwork families. Only by learning things like this, we can understand how to serve clients from other backgrounds in a better way.

What does this mean for Global Mobility?

Basically, we are moving away from policies and focus on individual offers and value propositions. The objective here is to provide better service while keeping the cost at the same levels. For example, we could say we have a budget we need to adhere to so we could provide spousal support but maybe the expat does not get support with the move. Or, we provide expat children with schooling but they have to tackle housing on their own. We could also allow the expat more control over what type of service they would like instead of either/or scenarios. Essentially, GM policies need to be geared more towards the individual. We are expecting that the scope of Global Mobility will be changing as more international hires and more international permanent transfers come in. In the past, the classical departments that took are of international assignments only took care of that “thing”. When we talk GM today, we mean departments that take care of all sorts of international movements, from business travelers to commuters, even digital nomads. In fact, digital nomads bring up interesting challenges. These are people who work through the internet and therefore theoretically could be working from anywhere. What would their home base be? And what implications would this have on their pensions?

I feel that we also need to re-evaluate our definition of the word expat. In the Global Mobility Workbook, I talk about the Lifestyle Expat. These are families or dual career expat couples like Heidi and Govind, where the roles are fluid. For instance, Heidi was the breadwinner in New York and then they moved to Abu Dhabi, where Govind was in the career driving seat. Now, they are in Zurich where Heidi needs to develop her career again after the 3 years she spent out of the workforce in Abu Dhabi. Their children have parents who belong to different cultural backgrounds, they’ve lived in multiple countries and don’t mind this lifestyle as they are used to it.

Contrast this to what we think of when we use the word migrants. I would say migrants move to another country because they want to find work there. Their expectations are of a better lifestyle and better living conditions in the new country, and they often move on a permanent basis while they still care for family members in their home country. Migrant should be a more general term but has a different connotation than expat

However, in some countries, the term migrant and expat are used interchangeably. We should be open to this too, an expat is not someone who is just being moved by a company with a fat package. They could also be migrants or lifestyle expats who move on local contracts. 

What we can do as service providers in this situation is to support global recruiting and talent acquisition. We could improve the experience for lifestyle expats by addressing some of the issues they face, such as issues with the immigration process, medical insurance, employment retention and language barriers. A recent survey by AIRINC found 63% of companies currently working on enhancing the employee experience, indicating that this is indeed a very prominent topic in Global Mobility.

Is Expat Experience (XX) the same as User Experience (UX)?

I think “Expat Experience” is more than just a case of user experience. There are several sub-categories to it. As we start to develop the idea of the Expat Experience I think we should discuss all of these aspects:

  • the service expats receive at touch points, 
  • the cultural adjustment process, 
  • the learning journey
  • the “deeper expat experience”
  • the transition to another location, 
  • the expat’s performance during the assignment, 

I will pick out a few topics and hope we can start a longer discussion on this concept.

The Service at certain Touch Points

While observing the interactions at touch points can help measure service quality, this is only one side of the coin. I think we fail to understand here that global couples aren’t robots. We cannot just send them through a move, open a bank account, help them sign a lease and expect them to be happy.

The Cultural Adjustment Process

Academics usually focus on the cultural adjustment process. They try to understand how expats adjust to their new surroundings and how it relates to their performance. It is commonly known that in the first six months expats generally don’t perform as well as in their home country due to the adjustment period and cultural transition. In the normal adjustment period curve, there is a phase where the adjustment almost always leads to psychological mood swings and symptoms close to depression – this is commonly referred to as “culture shock”

The Communication Hole

In contrast, what we do in Global Mobility is that we focus on communicating with expats during the initial phases of the assignment (decision, move and arrival). When they have moved to the country, we sometimes provide intercultural training, help with settling in and then we expect them to handle the next steps on their own. Here expats often discover the true value of their packages. The spendable income in Zurich might be eaten up by daily necessities, medical expenses and lunch money. The commute to work might take longer than expected and the next person in the grocery line already shouted at them as they did not follow the protocol correctly.

Essentially, right when they need our support to keep them delivering high performance, we leave them alone. 

The Learning Journey

That, I believe is actually an issue we could address quite easily. Why? Assume that an expat has already gone through a tough phase – the family isn’t happy, they are all experiencing culture shock, the expat’s performance is low. They’re all out of their comfort zone and are in fact in a panic zone. Simultaneously, they are also experiencing what it means to be alone because of the loss of their support network from back home. 

I also noticed that in this phase, difficult situations seem to pop up more frequently and often together. Expats could get robbed for instance, and they could also find out that someone from their family in the home country had passed away. In Heidi and Govind’s case, Rashmi (Govind’s mother) falls ill and needs help at home in India. As Govind is the only son, this is his responsibility.

Here we could help by providing support in small, incremental steps and by listening to the expat couple and their needs.

The Deeper Expat Experience

The deeper expat experience that I alluded to earlier, it is something many of us don’t know about. Perhaps you have heard of the famous swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung? 

He talked about how we often reflect our “shadows” in another person. Being in a different culture could also make you reflect yourself in the people of the host culture. 

After the “honeymoon phase” for a while your reflection is negative – you will see things in other people you do not like about yourself. And you might not overcome this phase easily if you don’t discuss it with a professional coach. I think we still underestimate the consequences of the expat experience on our psyche:

“Expatriation is a deep experience. You meet your core, the essence of who you are and who you could be, a true journey of self discovery.” @angieweinberger

What does that mean for you?

 I believe that you should define your ideal client going forward and review your business model. Think about who your future clients will be and ask yourself the following questions: Are they still corporate and institutional clients only? Or could your clients now be private individuals? What does that mean for your prices? Consider adjusting your services and prices for private clients, market your services more on the Internet, build your reputation and followers and develop your own intercultural competence. 

If you would like to do this exercise, I recommend you start to work with the golden circle, a term coined by Simon Sinek. 

Basically, if you would like to move to the expat-as-a-client model of business, think about why they would contact you? How would they find you? What can you do for them? 

Please contact me if you would like to discuss how you can enhance the expat experience or how you can adjust your business models to lifestyle expats.

In my view this our higher purpose is to bring the human touch back into Global Mobility.

The higher purpose of Global Mobility professionals is to help expat couples discover themselves, guide them through the challenges and be there for them when they go through the valley of tears.” @angieweinberger

Kind regards 

Angie Weinberger

PS: We have launched the third edition of “The Global Mobility Workbook” (2019). Find out more here.

Angie Weinberger

Angie is the Global Mobility Coach. Angie always worked in International Human Resources specializing in Global Mobility. She owns a coaching and training company for expats and their spouses. Angie is the author of ‘The Global Career Workbook’, a self-help career guide for internationally mobile professionals and ‘The Global Mobility Workbook’. She is a recognized lecturer in the Global Mobility field and supports us as a consultant.

 

Related Links / References

2018 Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey, KPMG International (2018)

https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2016/10/global-assignment-policies-and-practices-survey-2016.html

Airinc (2019)

https://www.air-inc.com/wp-content/uploads/AIRINC-MOS-Report-2019-_Web.pdf

Internations

https://www.internations.org/magazine/three-moments-that-can-make-or-break-your-expat-experience-39418?utm_source=Club+Sandwich+Readers&utm_campaign=27872efc48-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_02_11_11_13_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a8947942dc-27872efc48-154828633

Project ZRH3039 – Final Report (2019)

https://www.stadt-zuerich.ch/content/dam/stzh/prd/Deutsch/Stadtentwicklung/Publikationen_und_Broschueren/Stadt%20der%20Zukunft/ZHAW_Schlussbericht_2018_12_13_WEBVERSION.pdf

Population with Migration Background

https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/en/home/statistics/population/migration-integration/by-migration-status.html

Revision Foreigner Law in Switzerland

https://ma.zh.ch/internet/sicherheitsdirektion/migrationsamt/de/aktuell/mitteilungen/information_aig.html.