Tag Archives: FlyMe!

“We need to take a stance and stand up for minority and female talent now.”  @angieweinberger

Are you a Senior Manager or a Global Mobility Professional, perhaps the Manager of the Global Mobility Program in your company?

How many times have you had the realization that your Global Mobility Program is not diverse enough? Are you concretely working to achieve your company’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) goals and do you foster more inclusion within your team?

Let’s see together how you can actively help to fill the current gap in diversity seen across organizations. 

What is a “diverse and inclusive organization”? 

An organization is diverse when it encompasses all aspects of the employees from age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, family status, and background. However, an organization is also inclusive when minority groups participate in the decision-making process and contribute to breaking the career glass ceiling. Besides being meaningless, diversity without inclusion does not drive team performance either (Czerny and Steinkellner, 2009). To quote the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, “inclusive diversity is a strength.”

Why do we need more minority and female talent in Global Mobility?

A KPMG survey highlighted that the majority of Global Mobility Programs do not have specific Diversity and Inclusion objectives as part of their department’s strategy. But why is that? 

According to 59% of the respondents, the reason is that candidates for international assignments are chosen by the business unit and not Global Mobility. This is true, however, why should you not encourage the business line to include more minority and female talent in their selection. Should your role not be to challenge the business when they always promote and select the same kind of talent?

Another 31% consider the movement of people to new countries and cultures as diverse and inclusive by its very nature and do not think that further D&I goals are needed. We think this is too short-sighted and a biased view of the world. Diversity and Inclusion at this stage need to be more than affirmative action. We need to actively push to integrate more minority and female talent into our expat populations. 

What you consider a minority will depend strongly on your home base country, usually the country where your HQ is based. However, I strongly recommend that you consider more second-generation immigrants, People of Color and refugees.

Only 41% of the respondents say they have D&I objectives as part of their Global Mobility department strategy.

You certainly have acknowledged that meeting these goals is not easy. Here are the common challenges faced by most Global Mobility Programs.

1 – There’s a data gap on most aspects of diversity 

Apart from gender and gender identity, there is a  scarcity of mobility-related data on most demographics (KPMG, 2018a). This makes it difficult for Global Mobility Teams to identify problem areas and solutions related not only to religion, ethnicity, and disability status but also to educational, professional, and socio-economic backgrounds. 

2 – There are still too many biases and stereotypes

As you can easily guess, this issue particularly affects how women are represented within the international mobile population. Currently, women only make up from 20% to 25% of it (PwC, 2016; MacLachlan, 2018), which shows how much more work is needed to fill the gap. 

The good news is that 88% of the women (PwC, 2016) feel that they need international experience to advance in their careers. The bad news is that there is a strong perception that women with children don’t want to work abroad. To make it worse, traditional mindsets still typically associate men with international assignments. 

Interestingly, however, the data doesn’t say the same. 66% of women would be happy to work abroad at any stage of their career (vs 60% for men), and only 17% of women cited the well-being and education of their children as a concern preventing them from embarking on an international assignment (vs 22% of men).

How many times have you consciously or unconsciously assumed that someone would not be able to perform their jobs effectively due to the situation in host locations? Or that they simply would not want to go on assignment due to family constraints, for example? Before assuming, just ask. 

3 – There’s a lack of transparency over who is assigned and why

Let’s look at gender again. Data speaks loud and clear, and it’s worrying. 

According to 42% of women (PwC, 2016), organizations don’t have a clear view of employees who would be willing to be internationally mobile. This means that you may be choosing from a narrower pool than necessary. 

What’s more, only 13% of women who have been on assignment said that their employer has a program that positions Global Mobility as a core part of an employee’s career plan. 

4 – There’s a lack of flexibility in assignment choices 

You might not know that shorter and more flexible short-term assignments are notably more popular among women than men (PwC, 2016). In particular, women tend to give favorable consideration to frequent business travel based in their home country, fly-in/fly-out commuter assignments, short (6-12 months), and very short-term assignments (less than 6 months). If you expand the list of available options, you can match a wide variety of business demands. 

5 – There’s a lack of diversity among the pool of candidates 

In traditionally male-dominated types of work, such as construction and mining, casting a wider demographic net may be impossible. Likewise, some candidates may not go after mobility opportunities because they feel they are out of place. This explains why, for example, women, older workers, and people with disabilities may not raise their hands for relocations to oil rigs or construction sites. At the same time, minority groups may feel discouraged because they lack role models.

6  – There are barriers posed by external factors 

The definition of family has expanded to include same-sex couples for most mobility teams — rising from 17% in 1999 to 70% currently (KPMG, 2018a). However,  attitudes and laws in many countries have not kept pace. A majority of countries don’t allow same-sex marriage, and homosexual acts are illegal in at least 69 countries. According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (2021), there are still 7 countries where there is the death penalty for same-sex sexual conduct. 

How can you benefit from being more inclusive?

Even though it may seem that the global business case for boosting Diversity and Inclusion is clear, the reality is still shockingly stuck in the last century. I even observe that we have gone back three steps in supporting minority and female talent over the last 25 years.

In my view, if you want to expand your global competitiveness, you need to be a pioneer of equal opportunities, promote acceptance and understanding, and highlight the value of each of your employees. You need more than unconscious bias training for managers. You need to establish facts. And facts are only established with data.

1 – You tap into a bigger pool of resources

Establish concrete goals for sending minority and female talent and persistently work towards achieving them. You will then automatically broaden the pool of talent from which the mobile population is drawn. This way, you will also help ensure that the executive pipeline reflects your customer base, developing a more diverse group of future leaders. Report the data regularly to your Senior Management. Without data, nothing will change.

2 – You control costs better

One of the main mobility cost drivers is not related to pay packages and policies as such but to the fact that companies often have a limited choice of candidates for assignments. A broader talent pool facilitates assignment success and indirectly helps control costs better. You depend less on only one candidate and can negotiate better packages if you have a broader pool. You probably also have better candidates if you have more than one in the pipeline.

3 – You improve your brand and reputation as an employer of choice

Having international experience is nowadays a precondition to reach top managerial levels within many multinational companies. Employees develop essential skills and build a network that boosts their careers immensely. It’s therefore important that you promote mobility as part of your talent brand. If you do that, you will also be advantaged when competing for minority and female talent. In your reviews and competition for being an “Employer of Choice”, offering international opportunities to minority and female talent will put you ahead of the competition.

Resources 

https://www-srf-ch.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.srf.ch/article/18661443/amp

Murchie, F. (2020). Women on the front line. Relocate Global, Summer Issue 2020, p.13 https://content.yudu.com/web/fiqy/0A3p9yp/Summer-2020/html/index.html?page=12&origin=reader

https://attitude.co.uk/article/meet-the-head-of-the-united-nations-lgbtq-staff-network/23388/?fbclid=IwAR3iICb0qbAqf2lZWoerrUxYTkKIIgBrd7qBs3EWtgReDadvT54I9BoEDi0

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/5/18/21260209/facebook-sheryl-sandberg-interview-lean-in-women-coronavirus

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2020/06/three-degrees-racism-america/613333/

 ​https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200724-why-imposter-syndrome-hits-women-and-women-of-colour-harder 

https://www.fidi.org/blog/expats-with-disabilities?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=socialseeder&utm_campaign=2020+07+%2F+01+-+Expats+with+disabilities%3A+why+the+lack+of+accessibility+is+holding+us+all+back

References 

Czerny, E. J. & Steinkellner, P. S. (2009). Diversität als Basis erfolgreicher Teams. Eine ressourcenorientierte Betrachtung. Unpublished Working Paper, Vienna: PEF Privatuniversität für Management.  

Human Rights Campaign Foundation. (2019, Sep. 23). World Report 2019: Human Rights Watch Country Profiles: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2019/02/28/human-rights-watch-country-profiles-sexual-orientation-and

Human Rights Campaign Foundation. (2021, April. 23). World Report 2021: Human Rights Watch Country Profiles: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved June 04, 2021, from
https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2021/04/23/country-profiles-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity 

KPMG. (2018a). Inclusion and Diversity: How Global Mobility can help move the Needle. KPMG. Retrieved May 13, 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

KPMG. (2018b). Inclusion and Diversity in Global Mobility. KPMG. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle.pdf

Maclachlan, M. (2018; Mar.). Why Female Talent Are the Future of Global Mobility. Learnlight. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://insights.learnlight.com/en/articles/female-talent-future-global-mobility/PwC. (2016). Women of the world: Aligning gender diversity and international mobility in financial services. PwC. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/financial-services/assets/women-of-the-world.pdf

Over the last twenty years in Human Resources, I noticed that a lot of international talents were frustrated in the process of moving to another country for work. It was not only because their companies paid them another package than what they expected. It was also because a lot of international assignees underestimated the challenge of moving to another country.

For example, expats moving to Switzerland often think it will be easier to find affordable childcare, high-quality apartments, and a job for their “trailing” spouse. Most expats believe it will be easy to learn the local language (or they even think we speak English). Most expats believe that they are going to have a great career step after their repatriation. I have seen a lot of anger when assignees went to another country and when they returned home and did not get that promotion or the role they were hoping for.

Regularly, I have clients break out in tears because they feel overwhelmed by the international assignment experience. When I worked in India and when I moved to Switzerland from Germany it was not always just “Cricket & Bollywood” or “Cheese & Chocolate”.

Five Gaps in the Global Mobility Approach

There are five gaps in the Global Mobility approach and I think this is true across industries and countries.

  1. Expats are often selected on an ad-hoc basis and intercultural competence is hardly ever taken into account in the selection process. Female Expats are still greatly underrepresented.
  2. International assignments hardly ever have a- business case showing assignment drivers, measurable targets, expected gains, growth opportunities, assignment costs and a repatriation plan for the expat.
  3. Most companies lack succession plans where repatriates could be included with their future roles and often expats are overlooked when it comes to filling roles in headquarters or when promotions are due.
  4. Global Mobility Professionals are hardly ever considered strategic partners of the business. They are often just seen as administrators of the process while the decisions about who is going where are taken solely by the business.
  5. The Expat Family is hardly considered in the Global Mobility Approach. Only a few forward-thinking companies offer career support for spouses. I have not seen any company who helps with educational considerations and advice for the Expat Children. Relocation companies only give minimal support and hardly understand the concerns of globally mobile parents. Most relocation consultants have never moved to another country in their lives.

There are also five global trends that have made Global Mobility more difficult in the last 10 years.

Budget cuts due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

The financial impact of the global coronavirus pandemic has yet to be fully calculated, though McKinsey and the BBC have presented analysis based on the available datasets and the outlook is bleak. Combine that with the fact that the world was still recovering from the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 and you realize how deep the effects are. With both crises, it has been observed that travel and expat budgets get reduced to a minimum. With the current pandemic, especially, that has left Expats stranded, with their support system from the employer vanishing. The Expat Experience coming out of this COVID-19 driven financial crisis – will get worse.

Many Expats and Repatriates are finding themselves unemployed in their respective home countries. We also see that companies are struggling to sustain, with even large organizations filing for bankruptcy (like Virgin Australia). More are merging or getting acquired. Even those that have managed to transition to a work from home structure have had to downsize, with the working employees not guaranteed fixed working hours, which means that job security for all staff is non-existent. Especially in the EU, many countries are new to this kind of unstable job market and do not yet have the tools and systems in place to allow their workforce to work fluidly and flexibly from anywhere. Cherished and spoilt expats dwell on the verge of desperation because they have been made redundant, even if they may not be at the end of their contract.

Local Plus is the New Black

Other expats receive a local contract without really understanding what that means for their social security, long-term pension and often they do not know that their work and residence permit depends on their employer too. Employers find “Local Plus” convenient but they do not really consider all the risks these moves entail because many business decisions in the last ten years are driven by controllers.

The Talent Gap

We now lack the critically needed talent in important growth areas. Programmers and engineers are examples of professionals that are in high demand.- There is certainly a mismatch and gap between demand and supply. There are a number of reasons related to the sourcing process as well. Recruiting has become a science and needs to go through a transformation. Recruiters need to learn to cope with the demand and supply in a globalized market of talents. Check out Avoiding Global Talent Acquisition Failure – Six Basics To Add to Your Recruiting Guideline. Language is still one of the main barriers to an influx of highly skilled migrants in Europe. Even though we launched the green card and blue card initiative we have not managed to attract the potential and talent needed within the EU for example in IT.

Health and Security Concerns Hinder Free Movement

Security concerns are growing in Global Mobility. Expats frequently face acts of terrorism, natural disasters, mugging and burglary as well as health issues. Check out Global TV Talk to gain perspective on this. While often the issues are normal in the local environment they can also be inflated disproportionately in our media. The images we have of countries such as Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan to name a few make it hard to convince families to work in these countries. Each terrorist act — in Istanbul, Jakarta, Tunis, Paris or Beirut will reduce the willingness of expat families to move into these cities even though expats probably have the best security support you can have in these locations.

Global Migration Challenges

Look back to 2015, the year global migration became pop culture. The term “refugee crisis” was coined in Europe. Even though we have had proportionately more refugees coming to Europe since the Arab spring started in 2011 in Tunisia, we all had more interaction with refugees since 2015. While I am personally concerned about the right-wing propaganda, I do understand that the intercultural and societal challenges of integrating refugees at least temporarily are considerable. – I am concerned about discriminatory practices in Recruiting and Global Mobility. In 2020, global migration faces another challenge in the form of the travel restrictions that have been imposed on the entire world by the highly infectious COVID-19. Many countries are not letting in any people, especially those on temporary visas (such as temporary work visas). Delays in paperwork processing due to shutdowns, mandatory quarantine periods and more means that a highly qualified international workforce has been robbed of all mobility.

All of this has led to Global Mobility being flawed, expats not able to go on international assignments anymore and overwhelmed GM Professionals who feel the pressure from all ends as they are in the firing line of assignees, business line, talent, HR and Finance managers. In addition to having been undervalued, overworked and squeezed by their interest groups, classical Global Mobilitytasks have been outsourced to Third-Party Service Providers and Shared Service Centers, or put on indefinite hold for those organizations that have stood down their employees and halted operations.

Working in Global Mobility used to be a career dead-end and a Sisyphian task. We roll up the stone assignee by assignee only to see it roll down again. We run KPI report after KPI report only to be told that no one knows what we are doing or who we are. We are often managed by HR Directors who don’t get us. We are online 24/7, involved in GM improvement projects, listen to depressed spouses in our evenings and do not get the promotion or salary we deserve.

But there is hope. I am not willing to give up. Yet.

We see the change in Global Mobility.

The more complex our global markets become, the more we need to reevaluate our assumptions of how we run Global Mobility

We need global leadership competency in our international talents and if they do not have it yet we need to send them out on long-term assignments earlier in their career. We should force expats to learn the local language and coach them through the Expat  Experience. Intercultural briefings are not enough anymore.

We need to ensure that there is a- Global Mobility Business Case showing assignment drivers and targets, expected gains or opportunities, assignment costs, and a repatriation plan. I explain this at length in “The Global Mobility Workbook (2019)” and my lectures.

We need to implement succession plans and add our current assignees as potential successors. We need to ensure that the knowledge, skills, and network they gain while on assignment is appropriately reflected in their following role and repatriation plan. We also need to ensure better handovers to their successors in the host location.

We need to upgrade the GM Profession- and the GM function needs to sit closer to business development and potentially move out of HR. We need to up-skill the case managers and train GM Professionals for a consultative approach where they can work as trusted partners with the business line managers.

We need to consider the Expat Family in the process more by providing spouse career support, elderly care and educational advisory. We also should offer 24/7 support to our expat families in crisis situations such as marital issues. A helpline to professional counsellors is needed.

What I believe in and what makes me get up in the morning:

  • I believe that Western managers of my generation and the baby boomer generation have to develop their relationship-building skills before becoming effective leaders of global teams. The performance of most global teams can only improve through higher global leadership competency following a holistic global competency model.
  • I believe that a great Expat Experience is linked to assignment targets, an international assignment business case and a repatriation plan and also to the Human Touch.
  • I believe that companies will focus more on creating succession plans and ensure that roles are filled in a more structured manner, handovers improved and teams will function more self-managed going forward. Leadership itself will change significantly.
  • I believe that GM Professionals have the potential to become critical players in the international growth of businesses post-crisis and are valued more as the subject matter experts that they are. They will move out of HR and be closer to business development.
  • I believe that assignees and spouses need to have a valuable intercultural experience and both can further their career and life vision together. Expat children need support in moving from one culture to another and even though they might be multilingual at the end of their school life, they have to cope with identity loss and loss of their roots.

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FlyMe! – Boost Your Global Mobility Career in 180 Days 

Globe and Covid19
The Smell of the Big, Wide World awaits you.

The Smell of The Big Wide World Where Adventure Awaits You

It’s Monday morning at 8 AM and instead of starting your laptop to go through another uninspired day of filling forms online and playing appointment bullshit bingo with your colleagues you look at the map of the world that is hanging in your home office. You have been home too long and you wish to smell the spices in a market in Amritsar, walk through the East village of New York City, sit in a rickshaw in Lahore or go on a hike in Northern Italy.

The big wide world, it’s never been so hard to get access to it. You are thinking about moving into the field of Global Mobility because this might at least give you the option to feel connected to the wider world than your home village.

You have experience in the relocation industry and you sometimes feel that you are not entirely clear on basic knowledge of Global Mobility which would help you to serve your clients better. Recently, you have considered that being a Subject Matter Expert in one area of Global Mobility might be a good career path for you but you are not yet sure which area you would enjoy most.

You have lived in your home village for most of your life and you would like to get a job that you can take to other countries. You would like to deepen your knowledge of other cultures and work in a global context where you speak English most of the time.

You Could Join us and Become a Global Mobility Specialist

If you would like to become a Global Mobility Specialist or deepen your knowledge, improve your skill set and build your professional network at the same time, this program is for you. FlyMe! helps you to understand the world of Global Mobility and even gives you insights into intercultural collaboration. Being part of the global network of the Expatise Academy™ we will not only help you technically, you can also book individual coaching sessions with Angie Weinberger in case you feel stuck or need advice from an industry Yoda. You will also have access to other industry experts and meet colleagues based in other countries than your home market.

FlyMe! Boost Your Career in Global Mobility in the next 180 days.

Angie Weinberger wrote the FlyMe! content which is essentially a digital version of the Global Mobility Workbook (2019). From us you will receive a weekly chapter with homework. In addition we give you 12 months access to our #RockMeApp. The #RockMeApp is an online platform for our clients where you define your career goals, learning targets and weekly practices. You are also invited to a weekly reflection exercise. Angie Weinberger reviews your input and will give you pointers on how to work on your Global Mobility career.

You can also buy coaching sessions with Angie Weinberger as per our Terms and Conditions.

FlyMe! is included in the Expatise Academys New Program for Relocation Professionals and GM Newbies. You will receive a EUR 200 discount if you sign up before 30 June 2020. You just have to mention “GPT” when you sign up.

https://www.expatise.academy/comprehensive-courses/hr-gm-for-relocation-professionals/

The regular tuition fee amounts to EUR 1’950 + VAT per participant.

The Full Program includes:

  • A 12-months license to the use of the online Global Mobility certification course © by Expatise Publishers with video and audio lessons, Q&A tests, topical libraries and peer communities.
  • A 12-months license to the use of the MemoTrainerApp © ANewSpring;
  • A digital copy of the Expatise Handbook for Global Mobility Professionals © by Expatise Publishers;
  • A 12-months license to the use of the FlyMe! program © by Angie Weinberger;
  • A 12-months license to the use of the RockMeApp © by Angie Weinberger;
  • A Certification and EC-registration,
  • The membership of the Expatise Alumni Network.

Additionally, the participant can opt for extension of this program with six one-hour live webinars with our lecturers for EUR 210 + VAT. VAT will be applied where appropriate. Expatise Academy will set up live webinars depending on demand.

Click here to sign up and for queries.


Do you want to start a career in Global Mobility? Do you want to become an even sharper and wittier consultant on top of GM Trends and well networked? 

Globalization, Digitalization, Urbanization, Outsourcing, and generational preferences are disrupting Global Mobility.

Automation, business transformation, and the gig economy challenge our approaches to global talent management, leadership development, and life planning.

What we assumed about pensions, family structures, migration, health and security in mobility policies is deconstructed by our realities.

These fundamental changes do not only have an impact on our policies and expats. They also shape our role, our profession and how we define our work.

I used to believe that someday Global Mobility Leaders will have a seat at the table. The time is now.

The Global Mobility Profession is ready for take-off. Are you ready to join our Cabin Crew?

Are you a Global Mobility Specialist or Manager? Do you feel it’s time for you to move on?

Do you feel you have all the capabilities, knowledge, skills to be successful in Mobility and international Human Resources for the next 20 years?

Do you have the necessary professional network and reputation to thrive?

  • Improve your knowledge and skills in Global Mobility and international HR.
  • Become a better listener and consultant.
  • Raise your professional standing.
  • Develop and maintain a professional network and support group in our community.
  • Become more effective in (intercultural) communication.

Are you confronted with these challenges?

  • Moving from being a transactional busy bee to being a recognized consultant,
  • Suffering from imposter syndrome, fear of failure, perfectionism and other symptoms of fear (especially common among female professionals),
  • Building effective professional relationships,
  • Balancing work and personal life and staying healthy in a 24/7 environment,
  • Negotiating across cultures and for promotions, talent programs, and other incentives,
  • Knowing when to move on and finding a new role in this niche market,
  • Deciding on a role in another country,
  • Losing a job due to outsourcing and general industry trends.
@angieweinberger

Email angela@globalpeopletransitions.com to discuss your career development in Global Mobility.

 

“It is Rocket Science!”

Inge Nitsche (referring to Global Mobility)

This is for all our readers who have not yet enjoyed the Global Mobility Workbook or any of our courses on intercultural transition. 

 

The Global Mobility Workbook by @angieweinberger (2016 Print Edition)

by Angela Weinberger

Tom Jones, 32 is an expatriate in in-house consulting. He came to Zurich, Switzerland from New York in August 2011. Tom sits on the balcony of his overpriced apartment, overlooking the Grossmuenster on a Sunday night, while he types a letter into his laptop. He is writing his resignation letter to Star Bank AG. The Human Resources Business Partner Urs Schwarzkopf has reminded him that he had to resign in writing. Otherwise, the bank would not accept his resignation.  The final date to hand in his resignation is tomorrow, and he must take his resignation to HR personally to make sure that he is not making any formal mistakes this time. As Tom reads through the letter once more, he recalls some of the incidents that took place since his first encounter with Star Bank.

 

Part 1 – The first project

 

Tom was hired as a Senior Consultant at the bank’s in-house Consulting Group. He was working for McKinsey in New York when a headhunter contacted him. As he was looking for a new challenge and was promised some interesting projects within the bank, he was excited about joining. One of these projects was to build up a strategic consulting group that would target consulting senior managers on strategy implementation because the Executive Board seemed worried that some of the future strategies required this type of support.

 

Tom’s Swiss boss, Dr. Peter Schmidt (an original “Zurcher”) had been hired from Boston Consulting Group to build up the new strategy group. Peter hired consulting talents from major multinationals and Tom was the one who received the best package. Once his offer was finalized Tom agreed to move to Switzerland on June 1, 2012. When he arrived Peter explained that he was resigning as he had been offered a challenging position at another major consulting firm.

 

Tom was surprized to hear this in his very first meeting in Switzerland. The Managing Director responsible for in-house Consulting, Dr. Rainer Schultz, told Tom right away that the offer still stood and there were no other changes, even though there would probably not be a replacement for Dr. Schmidt for the next few months.

 

On his first day at Star Bank, he had a meeting with Urs Schwarzkopf, his HR contact who was very nice and gave him some important documents and the B-permit that they had requested for him. He also mentioned that the Swiss social security card (“AHV-Ausweis”) would be sent to his home address and was needed for payroll. Tom would also have to open an employee account immediately. He also sent him to the “Ausweisstelle” where he had to have his picture taken in order to receive a security card.

 

At the end of the meeting, Urs Schwarzkopf said: “Mr. Jones, if you have any questions, please call me”. Tom was wondering why Urs? had called him Mr. Jones, although Tom had requested he was called by his first name. He soon realized that many people called each other by their last names when they spoke German even when seemed appropriate to use their first name.

However, sometimes he got stuck when people shook his hands and said “Schwarzenbach” as a way of introduction, or even fairly complicated names like “Kreisweiler-Glass” because he was not sure whether they were giving him his full name or first and last name. Most of the time he would ask for a business card so that he could see the written name.

 

When Tom went to a central branch of the bank to open his employee account, no one was able to explain the system to him in English. He had to fill out a German form and was asked for identification. He assumed that there was only one type of account that he could apply for and that this was because you remained loyal to your employer. He had heard that people in Switzerland would stay with one employer for more than 10 years and that they still had lifelong employment he had also heard that most people received their salary without problems and that performance was not compensated with a bonus.

 

The people in the branch seemed quite rude to him. He was slightly shocked to wait in a line while one of the clerks was working at her desk and did not attend to waiting customers until she had finished what she was doing. As she could not speak English he had to wait for another 10 minutes for an “apprentice”. Her English was acceptable but he was worried that she had no idea what she was talking about, as an apprentice in a bank seemed a very bizarre thing. In the USA apprentices are generally used in manufacturing but not in banks. He finally got an account and his account number and called Klaus Schwarzkopf to let him know the account number.

 

Tom raised his concerns, “Klaus, Are you sure the girls down there know what they are doing? I just had to wait 30 minutes and then was served by an apprentice because no one could speak English. I hope I did the right thing and filled in the forms correctly. I think I might have a slight problem in the future when I try to call them to get things done for me. What if th e apprentice is not there?” Klaus replied by telling him to be patient and that he should start to learn German as soon as possible because this would be the best way to integrate.

 

At the office the first week went very well. Tom got a laptop and a mobile although he had to ask his boss how to get one. He would have expected these technical details to be sorted out before his arrival. He did not have access to any systems immediately but was promised by the group’s secretary that he would have access by the end of the second week. His group consisted of four consultants who had all lived and studied abroad. One of them was Turkish, two Swiss and one came from the Singapore office. As they had all started on the same day, Tom would have expected that they go out on Friday to have a few drinks together and get to know each other a little bit better.

 

When he brought up the idea they all said that they had plans for the night but that they would definitely go out one night soon. Tom went for dinner alone. By the end of the next week, he still had no access to the systems and he was waiting for a project. By the following Wednesday, Peter asked him to work on a concept for an offshoring strategy for the compliance division. Tom asked a few preliminary questions and wanted to know who the client was. Peter said “We have to show a concept to the Management Board (MB) next month. Please integrate the others especially your colleague John Woo as he is an expert“. Tom was pleased to be involved in such a high-level project immediately so he did his best and looked for input from the group.

 

When the presentation was ready he sent the first draft to Dr. Rainer Schultz (also Swiss). Tom learned quickly that he was supposed to address Rainer as “Dr. Schultz”. He did not get any feedback on the presentation and so assumed everything was going well. He gave Dr. Schultz a call finally and left a message with his secretary. The next morning Dr. Schultz called him into his office. “Tom, I have looked at your presentation. Could you please change the things I marked in red and give it back to me by tonight. I have to prepare myself”.

 

Tom was a little taken aback. There was no word of praise and it seemed very obvious to him that Dr. Schultz was not very happy about the presentation. He also got the feeling that he was no longer involved in the project. Tom was disappointed. In his opinion, he had done a lot of research and given a very professional presentation. He was appalled when he saw that Dr. Schultz had added comments with a red pen. Somehow he thought that Dr. Schultz did not take him seriously and that he had used his input to give the presentation himself. He was also not happy about the lack of feedback generally.

 

After the presentation, Dr. Schultz came into Tom’s office to let him know that everything went well and that the Vorstand had approved the budget for the project. Tom was still angry that he had not even been invited to join Dr. Schultz to the presentation and said “Honestly, I do not understand what my role in this project is going to be so I do not really know whether I should be happy about the approval or concentrate on some minor project where I am fully responsible.” Once again Dr. Schultz did not react but replied: “You have the budget and the project plan is approved. I would like you to go ahead. I have marked some milestones in the project plan and if you report to me on time I will not bother you in between. I expect you to discuss all HR-related decisions on the team with me and if you would like to have any amendments to the budget please schedule a meeting with my secretary.”

 

Questions:

  • Which cultural dimensions do you recognize here?
  • Describe briefly the differences between US and (German) Swiss cultural dimensions here.

 

Part 2 – The culture clash

As of then, the project went ahead pretty well. Tom had to change direction several times but the group was following and delivering high-quality results. Tom had to get used to the fact that it took a longer time to get things done compared to the States. When he changed the project plan after week 3, some people on the team seemed to be confused but they got used to the new direction quickly.

 

The Turkish colleague gave Tom a hint “Look, you have to involve us before you decide any major changes in direction. We would like to participate in what is happening”. By week 6 Tom got a call from Dr. Schultz saying, “I actually expected your report yesterday. I assume you have been too busy. Can you come to my office at 3 p.m. and give me an update on milestone 1.” “Sure I will,”, Tom said wondering what milestone 1 actually was.

 

Then he remembered the original project plan. He had totally forgotten that Dr. Schultz had taken his first project plan very seriously and even marked out some milestones. From previous projects, Tom knew that his best plan would never match reality. However, he usually did a weekly status check on Friday so decided to email his status check off from the last week to Dr. Schultz with a brief explanation. “Rainer, FYI – Let’s discuss later, Tom”.

When Tom came to Dr. Schultz’s office his door was closed. Tom had learned by now that a closed door was a sign of privacy. He had to pass the secretary. He didn’t want to wait because the older lady stated something in German (“Dr. Schultz ist am Telefon. Sie dürfen nicht stören.”).

 

Tom did not understand enough German but could read the expression on her face. When Dr. Schultz finally asked him to come in he even apologized for Frau Meier’s behavior.

Then he got very serious, “Mr. Jones, we have to talk. First of all, I would like you not to send these important documents via email. I do not want it to get into the wrong hands. Secondly, I would prefer it if you could address me properly next time. I do not remember the two of us going out for a beer and becoming close friends. I am afraid I have not explained clearly that the project plan is already approved by the Management Board. You cannot change it after approval.”

Tom was puzzled. Dr. Schultz sighed and shrugged, “I have the feeling that you are doing whatever you want to do and you do not have any respect for me. If you continue to work like this I will have to send you back to America. You are very expensive and you are overstretching my budget. I had very high expectations of you and after the first presentation I thought that the project would be a great success but now you have changed everything without consulting me and I am inclined to cut off your budget. Why did you not follow the plan as we had discussed it?”

Tom was very confused and angry as well, “I do not know what your problem is Dr. Schultz. The initial project plan was not meant to be final. It was a starting point for the first two weeks. I did not even know whether we had a budget when I drafted the plan. Also, I had no idea about the resources that are available. So I had to factor those into my initial plan. Some people here have a very low work attitude. It takes ages until things get done and no one even apologizes. We spent far too much time in meetings, at lunches and coffees without doing any real work and I assume this is because you pay those socialist wages to people and do not reward good performance. How could I have known all these things at the beginning? You did not give me any explanation nor did you put me in touch with the right people. Why are you so keen on sticking to an old plan?”

At the same time, Tom was thinking to himself: “I do not understand you. Maybe it is because I am not a doctor. I only have an MBA from Princeton but I assume that this is not good enough in this country.”

Dr. Schultz was very quiet. Tom could tell he was thinking about the conversation and took a sip of water to calm down. Then Dr. Schultz finally said: “OK, I understand we have a different approach to planning and budgeting. Next time you change something I would like to be informed about it. Otherwise, I look bad in front of the MB members as if I have no control over my team.“

He knew that Tom would manage to get the outcome the MB wanted but he found him very arrogant and very American. Tom started to send Dr. Schultz a weekly update, a crisis was averted and the project seemed to be progressing steadily.

Questions

  • How could Tom have improved his situation?
  • What could Dr. Schultz, Urs Schwarzkopf, and others have done to support Tom’s transition?
  • Why do you think this is a typical Global Mobility case?

 

 

Part 3 – Getting organized

 

After four weeks, Tom finally started to organize his private life in Switzerland. He was looking for an apartment with the bank’s relocation service, Ms. Ulrike Apfel. Ms. Apfel found the nice and expensive apartment in the Niederdorf with its bars and pubs. Tom liked the place immediately. Ms. Apfel called him and explained him the details of his lease contract in English. The contract was in German and his German was enough to order a beer but he certainly did not understand any of the legal languages. He asked for a translation but Ms. Apfel said that the translation could not be paid for by the company. He would have to pay the translation out of his own pocket. So he signed the contract trusting that Ulrike Apfel was authorized because she was a reliable and service oriented.

Personally, life seemed to improve after a few months. Tom met a few other expats but gave up on the idea of meeting Swiss friends. They had a good time and spend a lot of weekends watching the Swiss ice hockey team and the soccer championship. They enjoyed the highlights of Swiss culture (skiing, hiking, carnivals, street parades, opera). The only Swiss person he spent time with was a man who had lived in the US as a student, who was very open and showed Tom some nice hikes in the Swiss national park. However, Tom got fed up with being a tourist and he could not see any added value in being in Switzerland. In-house Consulting might as well hire a Swiss in his opinion, to get on with the project. Tom had left his girlfriend in the US to come to Zurich and now he started regretting that career decision.

For Christmas, he flew back to the US and met her but she still could not understand him. She wanted to have a serious relationship and she had no intention of giving up her career for a man living in a foreign country. His mood worsened after he flew back to Zurich in January. The weather was miserable and he was not really enjoying his job and felt useless. Then he found out that the payroll department had made some adjustments in his personal account. Again he was very angry about the fact that things had been changed and that he had not been informed. Urs Schwarzkopf said. “You were on vacation I could not reach you in the office”. Tom could not understand why he did not send an email but he was too angry to reply in a nice manner so he hung up the phone.

Tom’s anger exploded the next morning when he found out he could not draw any money from the cash machine because his account was overdrawn now. He called Klaus again “Klaus, what the hell is going on with that payroll? Now I cannot even get any cash. Can you explain this to me?” Klaus replied: “Well, they have asked you several times to hand in your AHV-Ausweis and you did not hand it in. There was a correction necessary for all the social security you had not paid yet basically August to December 2011. If they had waited, the correction would not work in our system any longer.”

Tom thought that this was a joke. He had totally forgotten about the AHV-Ausweis. He found it in a pile of letters from his early days. Ashe had never understood the letters and as nobody had given him a clear explanation, he had assumed that the AHV-Ausweis would be sent to his employer directly. He was getting very frustrated and complained to the other expats about HR. Others had similar experiences and they decided that coming to Switzerland was a very difficult move.  

In April 2012 the project was at a stage where the MB found that they had expected more savings from offshoring of the compliance processes. Tom had been wondering why nobody had questioned the business case earlier. When his assignment was complete, he handed it over to Dr. Schultz in June and waited for his project bonus. The project bonus was paid in July in addition to the regular bonus payment in February. For Tom, the amount of 15’000 CHF seemed ridiculously low. At this point, Tom decided that there was no point in staying. Dr. Schultz was fine with the decision, as he had to get rid of the highly paid consultants. The budget was reduced and there was a crisis in sight.

However having missed his close friends and his girlfriend, Tom tried to find a new job in New York. When he discussed his plans with the relocation service, Ms. Apfel alerted him to the fact he had a rental lease for three years. This was obviously a problem. Tom called Urs Schwarzkopf because he was sure that the bank would pay for any double rent but was told,“ Sorry Tom, this is your problem. You have signed the contract and the bank cannot be held liable for your personal matters.”

Tom could not believe what he heard.

—-

The Global Mobility Workbook

Exercise

3)   Put yourself into the shoes of Tom and write a letter to a good friend about your situation. Observe your emotional reactions and reflect on them.

 

Wanna buy the Global Mobility Workbook?

We have published updated and enhanced the print edition: ISBN 978-39524284-1-2.

You find it at your favorite bookseller or here: Amazon.com.

by Angie Weinberger

We work with a lot of highly motivated Global Mobility Consultants but sometimes we feel they should get their act together and feel more passionate about their work.global-606828_1280

Most GMCs I know are well educated at least to Bachelor degree, speak several languages and have good business acumen or psychological understanding. Some are tax advisors or immigration lawyers. What unites us is that we breathe Global Mobility and we are approachable people with a big heart. But what I don’t get is why I still meet people in this profession who complain about the job.

It’s hard to work in GM if you are not passionate about global people

Once in a while though you might feel a bit frustrated. It could be because you just worked so hard to fight through a contract and did overtime to have the assignee on host payroll on time…when the business line manager calls to tell you that the assignment is off.

Or you spent hours in conference calls to work out a good compensation package for an assignee…when you are told by your manager that the assignee stays back in home because she or he just negotiated too hard.

And these are only the slightly annoying days

Remember when you fought for keeping policy and then the boss of your manager overruled your decision with a simple “Don’t overcomplicate everything…”.

Or when you were told by an assignee that they had the best moving experience and then your key account manager tells you that the assignee was adding moving goods after the quote which will make it impossible for them to work at the price they had quoted you. Or that day when an assignee called you to tell you that she had just moved into a hotel but her visa and work permit process did not seem to have been approved yet and you help her find a hotel as you feel bad even though the delay had been caused by the authority.

As GM Professionals we deal with a lot of issues every day but often we don’t get the recognition we deserve.

When I was at the start of my career I had a folder where I placed “positive feedback”. I got really lovely emails and printed them. This folder I collected for the rainy days…but nothing prepared me for the days of real frost.

Winter is coming

The “winter” (as GoT-fans might say) in my career came fast. One of my assignees died in a car accident, another one had a heart attack and one of our US assignees died on September 11th. All within about two years. You are so close to your assignee population that losing an assignee is the worst that can ever happen in your professional life. I became an expert on death in service. Then I moved into another role (with other challenges…).

Fast forward to about 10 years later I was sitting at the hairdresser on a Saturday morning. I read everything on Twitter related to #Fukushima. We had a crisis in Japan.

With the support of SOS International and three hours later my assignee with spouse and two small children were on the way to Tokyo airport. Our assignee was back on his desk at “home” on Monday. Many other assignees did not find the time to leave Japan on time during the Tsunami as their companies were not prepared to deal with emergencies. Even though I was criticized by our CEO for what he thought was an “emotional” and hastened decision in the end I knew I did right. I will never forget the moment when I met our assignee afterwards.

Maybe this event is one of those reasons why I will never leave Global Mobility. Once you get sucked in into this world it is hard to leave. Another reason is that the colleagues you meet they are also big-hearted people.
For me GM is one of the most interesting areas of HR. Our work can be critical to the business and we are subject matter experts. No one will say “Oh that balance sheet…I could have calculated this with a bit of common sense…” (which is a typical reaction you get as an HR person when you want to implement a new idea).

Advice to my less experienced colleagues in Global Mobility

Dear junior colleagues I advise you to pick your battles wisely. Use your energy to support your assignees and your business line managers but remember that most of your discussions are not life and death situations. Learn to focus on solutions not problems.

Invest in personal relationships to your assignee population. You are more effective when assignees trust you blindly.

Prepare yourself for emergencies of your expat population so you know how to react to such a situation like a robot. Ask for security training from your corporate security. Go through the same training as your expats. Learn everything about high-risk countries and how to deal with natural disasters, political turmoil and health issues of assignees.

Attend intercultural trainings as often as possible to understand the host cultures and your HR colleagues in those countries better.
Manage at least 200 cases in your early career so you understand the breadth of the work. Then find a focus topic that you are interested in and deepen your expertise there. Examples include tax, social security, immigration and employment law.

Build up a strong professional network of GM colleagues as they will be able to have advice when you deal with a new country or when you deal with a special topic that you did not encounter yet. Your network will also encourage you and help you gain perspective in case you ever feel frustrated with the work.

And if all else fails you can always call me. We offer a new program for GM Professionals called “FlyMe!”. Reach out to me if you would like to discuss anything.