How do Global Mobility Professionals demonstrate more Value?

Guest Post by Kevin Castro

In a survey commissioned last year by Santa Fe Relocation Services and conducted by Circle Research, a contrasting view on global mobility teams was revealed. Graeme Cade, Client Director, Circle Research explains: “Senior executive leadership recognizes the strategic value of the Global Mobility (GM) function for enabling business growth and developing talent to become tomorrow’s leaders. Strikingly, GM professionals themselves are struggling with a lack of confidence and morale – often feeling under-resourced and undervalued.”

You can request a copy of the report by clicking here

While Senior Leadership recognizes the role that GM professionals play in the organization, does it transcend to having real benefits for those supporting the company’s best talents i.e. not feeling under-resourced or undervalued?

Perhaps only for some. As such  GM professionals, how can we further demonstrate value in order to influence how the organization supports/perceives the team? I have listed  four points, which I hope can help you/your teams to increase your value in the organization:

1. Get a Seat at the Table through Partnering in Business and Talent Goals

  • Do you have Joint-Business Planning with your HR & Business Leaders? If none yet, you should start engaging them in order to better understand their goals, focus, and how you can support Talent Strategy. This may lead to an easier path in demonstrating your value to the business as you will get to know how and where to play towards their goals;
  • Does your company do assignee pre-screening, where you determine the suitable candidates for international assignment? If not, this is something that you can explore and introduce. If done right, you avoid the pitfalls of selecting the wrong people.

2. Your Expertise Matters

  • You are the expert, and you should try to demonstrate this frequently. You can do this through sharing GM insights, trends, and how these contribute to business/talent strategy.
  • If the opportunity is available to increase your global mobility expertise through having certification and further studies. GM organizations and consultancy organizations provide certifications/courses, where you can further deepen your mobility knowledge. For example, Global People Transitions offers the FlyMe! Program, a career coaching geared towards Global Mobility Professionals.
  • An academic course to certify you as a “Global Mobility Advisor” is available with Expatise Academy in collaboration with Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

3. Communicate Your Value, Regularly and Consistently

  • Do you consistently communicate what you have achieved, projects you initiated? Ensure that you communicate the things that you do and how you have supported the business.
  • In a study by Cartus in 2016, a global relocation services provider, it found out that 54% of companies lack focus on tracking and reporting on assignments. As such, this will be a focus for 2017.  
  • Hence, it is high time to gather that data (assignment success, costs, the return on investment, assignees feedback, etc.) and have a regular newsletter/blog or presentation at your next strategy/planning meeting.  
  • As my clients always ask, how will I know if the expat assignment is successful? A report should be in order to communicate such info.

4. Flexible, Agile and Able to Re-Focus.

  • In previous years, the goal was to ensure that you arrange logistics and meet compliance needs, which are more transactional. In today’s world, the role expands and you are now viewed by the business as a strategic partner not merely as administrators. You should always understand what is important to the business. Today, the focus may be costs, but it might be something else in three months time. Keep your eyes and ears open for this and be agile and flexible.
  • In addition, as practitioners (in-house or outsourced) you should also be aware of trends in terms of mobility practices and service delivery.  You can start by looking at how technology affects the delivery. Do all assignees adapting to these changes, or do we provide omnichannel delivery? What do other companies do?  Such questions might lead you to new service delivery models or enhancement.

I hope these four points will prove to be beneficial for you and will help your team to push more value to the organization. So, don’t forget to get a seat, be the expert, market your value, and be agile & flexible.

I remember a conversation with my previous boss, where he shared with me that HR is a cost-generating function, so it might sometimes receive smaller budgets (e.g. hiring additional headcount, higher bonus, etc.). However, HR’s role has transformed itself from a back-office support function into a more strategic business partner. This principle should also apply on Global Mobility regardless of where it is structured in the company (e.g. HR, Finance, Outsourced, etc.).

In today’s world, Global Mobility Teams will be more valuable than ever!

 

Kevin Castro is a Filipino by birth, who lived in Singapore for almost 8 years and is now residing in Zurich. A Global Mobility Professional, with experience in Mobility Operations, HR Services, Project & Supplier Management, and Customer Service. He is currently learning German and at the same time enjoying cooking & curating travel experiences.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-castro-37010a49/

Four Reasons why we don’t measure Global Mobility Return on Investment

According to Brookfield (2016) 95% of companies do not measure their Global Mobility Return on Investment.

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

This research is from 2016 and I bet if we had an updated version we would come to the same conclusion. When I speak to Global Mobility Professionals about ROI they usually roll their eyes and tell me all the reasons why it is impossible to measure Global Mobility Return on Investment in their company.

Over the last two months, I also read “Managing Expatriates – A Return on Investment Approach” by McNulty and Inkson (2013). It’s a great book, slightly academic but has really good ideas about what we can improve in Global Mobility. The authors suggest a new model and approach for expatriate ROI. I like their approach because they build on five core principles. (If you are short on time focus on Chapter 9 of the book).

As the authors state previous data based on repatriation turnover, assignment failure, assignment success and job performance were not consistently measured. To date, I often have doubts about statistics, traffic light systems, and metrics. Mainly, because I know that the data behind is often incomplete and stats are too often used to manipulate decision makers in HR and the line. This is because these decision makers are usually men in their 50ies, analytical thinkers, who need numbers to justify their gut feeling. If you have worked in an industry for 20 years, you know why you lose your best talent. You know that you have disappointed your female potential. You know that you are not doing enough for minorities. BUT without stats, you don’t see the need to change. Without suffering (as in losing clients, money, baseline) you don’t question the status quo.

Measuring international assignment ROI is easier said than done. The issue is not only about data quality and integrity. The main issue in my view is the lack of collaboration between line managers and Global Mobility Professionals. We can continue to discuss return on investment in Global Mobility for the next 10 years or we can adopt McNulty and Inksons five core principles.

We can continue looking for the magic potion that will make us look like the next CFO. (I’m thinking of Asterix as I write this. There should be an “Asterix with the GM Professionals…”).

Here are four reasons why I think we are not going to achieve a good measurement of return on investment in Global Mobility.

1) No clear assignment targets

If you want to measure ROI you need to have clear and measurable international assignment targets. Usually, assignment targets are blurry, hard to measure or non-existent. In order to determine ROI, a mix of operational indicators would need to be measured regularly. Examples include performance on assignment, repatriate retention, business volume driven by expats. We could measure savings and improvements through knowledge transfer, risk reduction, staffing stability and culture transfer from headquarter to other areas of the organization.

Most of these targets need to be transformed into measurable Key Performance Indicators. They would need to integrate into management information systems. And, we would need to have a clear understanding of what is actually expected of our expats around the world. Often this is not the case and evolves only during the assignment.

2) Flaws in the business case bring down Global Mobility Return on Investment

There should be a business case behind every international assignment and every kind of Global Mobility. Surprise…This is not self-understood.

Many companies have a hard time even differentiating between a developmental assignment and a strategic assignment. Often international assignments are not really thought through. Assignees are sent to “fill a gap”, “to accelerate a process”, “to drive more sales” and “to make them there do everything the way we do it here.” Ever heard this before?

We often do not fully understand the situation on the ground, in the host country until we have been there and done the work ourselves. Many home managers are completely oblivious to intercultural differences, the importance of local business relationships and the importance of the host language. Too often expats need a lot longer than expected to work through the intercultural transition phase, deal with family issues during the move and settling in phase and often expats overestimate their capabilities.

3) Decision makers and Global Mobility Professionals do not collaborate yet

Most managers think of “HR” as troublemakers, cost producers, and list tickers. Instead of asking Global Mobility Professionals for support in defining assignment targets and setting up a business case, they see them as the “admin, who will make it happen when I have decided”. This is a historical drama and Global Mobility Professionals have not managed to show their value to the line managers when they have taken on the role of the “Policy Police” in the past.

Managers do not involve Global Mobility Professionals because they do not think that they will get any good input from them. This process requires relationship and trust building from both ends. Line managers need to learn to trust in the Global Mobility Professional and ask them for support in defining the international assignment business case. If there is no business case or if it is not justifiable, it might be possible to consider a permanent transfer or alternative options.

4) We do not add to Global Mobility Return on Investment by focussing on bean counting

We need to stop bean counting in Global Mobility and start adding real value by supporting the talents and leaders of the company get their job done as quickly and effectively as possible. We should learn to trust expats in their decisions about budget and costs, give them a good shelve of benefits to chose from and have excellent and agile service providers available to us 24/7. We should not turn pennies around while in other parts of the company money is wasted. We should focus on what really matters and that is that we bring back the human touch into Global Mobility.

 

Angie Weinberger

PS: Sign up here to receive updates on the publication date of “The Global Mobility Workbook (Third Edition)”. Launch is scheduled for 7 October 2019 on Amazon globally.

 

 

 

Culture beats structure!

You need to develop your Global Competency

Why it is so difficult to come up with a good curriculum for Global Mobility

As you probably understood already the arena of Global Mobility is vast and no Global Mobility Manager will have all the answers. If you enjoy constant challenges and a day that never looks the same Global Mobility could be right for you. However, you also need to be very structured, focussed and analytical. For Global Mobility Educators, it is a constant challenge to provide a curriculum that is based on the right career level and also deep enough. Most courses you will find about Global Mobility in your home country will assume the home approach and all the special legal areas will mainly be presented based on “home” legislation and in the home language. If you are managing a global population and wish to implement a host approach you will need to go through a lot of learning by doing and you probably have to invent the wheel.

The Expatise Academy in Holland

I recommend the Expatise Academy program in Global Mobility because I am a lecturer at the Academy and have seen how they ensure the high-quality standards in teaching. The program has a modular approach and follows your career development as a Global Mobility Professional. You should consider learning the basics at least for the home country of labor and employment law, immigration, personal and corporate tax and you need to understand your Global Mobility policy and compensation approaches.

Global Competency

A factor that is often underestimated in Global Mobility is the critical importance of developing global competency. As long as we do not see cultural differences, we do not know why men and women from other cultures behave and think differently than we do. We just assume that they are “strange”. Also, we might think we treat the other person with respect but the concept of respect is defined differently in other culture. Even if we consider ourselves open-minded, we might not have developed the skills that we need in order to be more effective in other cultures.

Our brains today still work in a similar way to that of the cavewoman. We often decide only about fight or flight. We hardly ever step back in stressful situations and think “Why is that person behaving like this?”.  We rarely sit down, take a deep breath, smile and then write a polite email to say that our judgment of the situation might have been guided by our own values and assumptions. No. Normally we jump to conclusions first and put other people’s behavior in a box (Like / Not Like). Facebook does not help.

We rely on our mental images and can become prejudiced because this is the way our gut decides if we are safe or in danger. Our mental images are influenced by our inner landscapes but also largely by the pictures we see on the news channels every day.  When some Westerners hear “Pakistan” they think “terrorism”, “Islamists”, “oppression of women” and “Osama bin Laden” instead of  “IT professionals”, “tourism” or even “Benazir Bhutto”.

A holistic Global Competency model

For the development of global competency, I have developed a simplified model with five elements: knowledge,  attitude, skills, experience and body learning. I first explained this model in an article in the German-speaking HR magazine Persorama (Weinberger, 2013). I work with this model in executive coaching and it also helps junior professionals start developing their effectiveness in a global context.

What is Global Competency?

Global Competency is the ability to work effectively in a global, complex environment with a high level of stress while achieving goals sustainably and in accordance with your own resources. It is a combination of knowledge, attitude, skills, reflected experiences and body learning.

Let’s look at the different elements of Global Competency.

Knowledge

You can gain knowledge of a country’s history,  politics, economy, and religion.  It is helpful not to focus only on factual information but to prioritize all the topics you enjoy reading about. As mentioned previously, start with the home country and move on to the knowledge areas of other legislation. Areas of knowledge you need to study are the tax, social security, immigration, local employment law, business terms, compensation and benefits, country-specific history and processes.

Attitude

It is very important that you develop openness for ambiguity, the potential to accept new experiences and the questioning of your own cultural minting. Through making yourself aware of and verifying your own cultural beliefs, you develop a more open attitude. Once you understand and are aware of your own cultural attitude and behaviors you are able to change your behavior to be more effective. You want to develop a global mindset and become more open towards ambiguity and not knowing. You want to practice curiosity and learn to be humble and serving.

Skills

Through developing your foreign language skills, active listening and empathy you can gain better access to people of other cultures. In today’s technology-driven times I believe it is also important for a globally active professional to have media competency. It’s important to be effective in telephone and video-conferences, but also to be able to build connections via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. If you are working in Global Mobility you will have to develop your analytical problem- solving skills, you need a feel for numbers. You want to develop your language skills (especially English). You might need consulting and communication skills. You need to improve the way you build relationships.  You need to work with information and communication technology effectively and have a grasp of Social Media.

Reflected Experience

When dealing with other cultures it is helpful to analyze critical situations and incidents. One option is the „search for the proof of the opposite. You could, for example, have an assumption about a person’s cultural behavior and then assume that it’s the opposite of your assumption and find proof for this theory. You can start to write an intercultural diary and reflect your assignee cases by applying systemic thinking. You need the ability to record cases, decisions, and exceptions. You need to able to note the details while not losing focus of the overall process. You could debrief challenging assignees with an external coach.

Body Learning

By learning dances or practicing martial arts, and relaxation methods you learn to focus and you will feel better in your body. Thereby you will be able to handle the stress and global complexity a lot better. A good physical constitution is helpful to remain globally competent and effective.  Other creative tasks such as painting, playing the piano and photography are also helpful. You want to develop a good routine for processing information. You can increase your presence in meetings and with your clients by following our advice on learning a dance, martial art or relaxation method.

Test your Intercultural Sensitivity

A lot of scientific work has been written on intercultural sensitivity. My favorite model is Milton Bennett’s developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (DMIS). This model is the basis for the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) by  Hammer and Bennett (2001).
Would you like to test your intercultural sensitivity with the IDI and see if you estimated your competence correctly?
If you would like to go through the test you can email me. The cost is CHF 97 including a debriefing.

Global Mobility Managers: Shaping the Future

I feel that the era of treating people as numbers on a spreadsheet needs to change, don’t you?

Steps in the right direction are already being taken and I believe that Global Mobility professionals and their increasing value in businesses is the example to rally behind. For the uninitiated, let’s talk today about how you as Human Resources or Global Mobility Professionals can demonstrate and amplify the value they bring to organizations. We had our guest blogger Kevin Castro tackle this very topic last year and it remains highly relevant today, so we are re-sharing the main ideas.

Agile is Fragile

First and foremost, Global Mobility professionals need to be agile. The goal posts are shifting all the time – organizations are reevaluating what is critical to business needs rapidly and adjusting the focus of their teams accordingly. Not only do you need to be aware of these changes as they happen, but you also need to be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice. Agility is the name of the game the most successful professionals in the industry right now are those on top of these trends.

That said, we have yet to test the boundaries of agility and how quickly we can adapt in the face of great change, for instance, how we can use integrated vendor platforms such as TOPIA with all the data protection regulations within Europe. There’s also the issue of adoption of agile technologies. For instance, I find that sometimes, even using a shared document on Google Drive or OneDrive already seems to be considered innovative for many companies I work with. (Some often still have paper files!)

Business Acumen and Language

Second, and this one is for those who interact with business leaders, start engaging with them on matters that concern the business directly. By conversing with the various team leaders, you will gain a better understanding of business goals and targets – this understanding will help you make the right suggestions that help the business get closer to those goals! In addition, this sort of engagement will put you in a better position to demonstrate your value – more on that in the next section. A great example would be to understand the growth markets of the company you work for and gaining deeper insights into their legislation. For example, if your growth potential is in India, try to at least understand an Indian payroll slip. (I know that this is almost impossible, but hey we love challenges.)

Communication

An important but often ignored part of demonstrating one’s value is the simplest: communication. Communication is key to a successful personal life but it’s equally important to the well-being of your professional one! It’s a well-known secret that many organizations slip up when it keeps to assignment tracking, so why not remind them, regularly? It’s for your good, after all. A presentation, an email, a newsletter, highlighting key successes and listing all that you’ve accomplished will go a long way in ensuring that senior leadership is aware of the value you bring the company. When was the last time you mentioned a successful expatriation of key talent to the C-Suite? When did you create a report that showed the company the cost-saving you achieved by creating a more effective compensation and operating model?

Expertise

Finally, it is critical for any GM professional to know how to flaunt their expertise. This sounds like common sense but in my experience, I’ve found it surprising just how many people express hesitation or reluctance when it comes to the subject of selling one’s skills. It’s important for all professionals, doubly so for GM professionals! You are the expert of your field, that’s why you were hired after all – you should demonstrate this expertise more often.

Our domain is a rapidly evolving playing field of ever-shifting requirements, technologies, and expectations. This is in addition to the language, cultural and geographical integration requirements. You –  are expected to have a multitude of knowledge, attitude, skills and you need to learn to constantly reflect your experiences and integrate body learning into your attributes.

Develop and Grow Global Competency

I tackled this topic in detail on last week’s “Club Sandwich”, you can catch up with the post here.

One way to build your knowledge base is to join the Global Mobility courses at the Expatise Academy in Rotterdam, Holland.  I’m currently teaching several courses, which are all now available to YOU, online. My courses deal with Global Mobility Competencies, while also focusing on intercultural competency, building solid international assignment business cases and most importantly, bringing the human touch back into our processes. There are all sorts of other technical courses available as well, by experts in the fields of immigration, taxation, social security, and employment law.

Check out the new and shiny “Educate Yourself Platform” by Expatise Academy now.  

Please mention me when you sign up to qualify for a discount via this link or email learning@expatise.academy.

Let’s keep our momentum going and aim to be even better at what we do. I believe in the “Future of Global Mobility” (#FoGM) and that we will grow in scope and influence.

Kind regards,
Angie Weinberger

PS: If you mention anything relevant on social media, don’t forget to brand it with #GlobalMobility.

The Global Mobility Workbook (Third Edition)

 

Why buy us?

“Global Mobility” is currently undergoing a global transformation. New technologies, the constant evolution of companies, generational diversity and political situations have evolved the roles and lives of mobile professionals faster than existing policies can keep up, calling for a clear focus on the processes to be updated to cater better for the people driving Global Mobility.

Are you as a Global Mobility Professional feeling overwhelmed by the speed and scope of this ‘boom’? Perhaps you need to introduce yourself to the field and get a better, broader overview of Global Mobility. 

Maybe you are in HR or a line manager and want to ensure that you are becoming an employer of choice for younger generations demanding “Global Mobility” as a prerequisite for working with you. 

Or, you are just on the brink of deciding for or against an international assignment as an expat or expat family and want to understand the language we use better.

How we will help you

Working with “The Global Mobility Workbook” and Angie Weinberger will enable you to:

  • run your Global Mobility in a more strategic way by deeper understanding trends and drivers of Global Mobility
  • develop and sort out your legal framework, policies, guidelines, exception management,
  • give you models for improving how you explain what we do to the outside world,
  • support expats and their spouses and enhance their “Expat Experience” through training, coaching and deeper understanding of the psychological effects of cultural adjustment,
  • develop your professional profile and “Global Competency”.

In order to make the expat experience worthwhile for their careers and support for their families even better, it takes people who want more than ticking off a checklist.

It takes dedicated professionals and it needs personal communication with the entire expat family. We want to bring the human touch back into our process-driven work.

That is just the tip of what Global Mobility truly is, and the Global Mobility Workbook provides not only a baseline starting point to understanding the field but is a hands-on manual for people in HR, line managers, expats and their spouses.

What you can expect from us

  • Establishing the Global Mobility Brand. Strategic classification of international assignments for the “business case”, integration of the assignment in succession planning and more. 
  • Optimizing the Global Mobility Process. Optimizing the operational handling of Global Mobility in all corporate processes from recruiting, via talent development to localisation. We explain basic principles without the technical details that overwhelm beginners in the field.
  • Defining the Global Mobility Clients. Focusing on the experience of expatriates and their spouses, as well as on the process of monitoring those who are affected, including their safety and health. We also give an overview of emergency situations.
  • Building the Global Mobility Team. Presenting Global Competency as a key component in the career development of Global Mobility Professionals. It’s a mix of knowledge, attitude, skills, reflected experience and body learning. We also coach you along the way and develop an online learning plan together.

It’s a workbook so it engages you with:

    • Goal Setting: In the beginning of our journey together you set goals for yourself.
    • Homework: Most chapters come with a suggestion of a homework.
    • 12 Case Studies: In addition we provide downloadable cases studies from daily business scenarios. These present you with various international mobility challenges to engage with and analyze. 
    • 7 Templates: We share templates upon request.
    • 5 Tools: We send you examples how you can run your operations and projects
    • 3 Checklists: Global Recruitment, Relocation, Social security considerations
    • 12 months RockMeApp: Free access to the RockMeApp, our career planner and online coaching platform (value 250 CHF/USD).

Sign up here for updates on this publication. 

About the Author

Angie Weinberger is the Global Mobility Coach. She combines executive coaching, her long-standing Global Mobility expertise and workshop facilitation skills into programs for Global Mobility Professionals, Expats and Expat Spouses. She’s a recognized guest lecturer in “Global Mobility” and “Intercultural Management” and has worked in HR with an international focus for over 20 years.

Previously she wrote “The Global Career Workbook” (2016). She also wrote a German textbook on managing international assignment into and out of Germany published in 2009, 2010 and 2011. This publication triggered her interest in writing again.

Angie’s current projects include building the Global Mobility Function for a private bank, the development of a web application for online coaching called RockMeApp and RockMeRetreat

Angie also defines herself as an author, social media junkie and Bollywood lover. She has lived and worked in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, India and Australia.

When Angie is not working she enjoys hiking in the Swiss countryside, watches movies and overindulges on the cooking of her Pakistani partner.