Tag Archives: globalmobility
Rise of Women

Picture this scenario: a leading multinational company needs to select somebody with the right skills to establish their first overseas division and they have two equally strong candidates. Alice just got married and, in their best intentions but without consulting her, leadership decides that she would not like to go on assignment as she is likely to be starting a family. The opportunity is therefore offered to George. 

What do Alice and George think twelve months later? 

Alice and her husband wanted to get the wedding out of the way so that she could pursue her dream of going on an international assignment. She was shocked about not even being consulted. But it all worked out for her in the end: she is now working overseas for one of their competitors and is very happy in her role.

For George, the company’s decision really came at the worst time. His wife and he were about to tell their families about their first baby. But he still said “yes” to the opportunity and eventually convinced her wife to try that out. However, it was very tough on her and she ended up being sick through the whole pregnancy. When the baby was born, she had no support network. This situation also impacted his performance which was much lower than back home. For this reason, the company decided to bring him back. 

I bet it’s not the first time you are faced with this scenario. Wrong assumptions and stereotypes are in fact one of the reasons for which women continue to be highly under-represented within the expat population

However, there are a few positive sides that make the rise of women in Global Mobility look somewhat brighter than some time ago. Take policy and awareness for example. In 2011, only 12% of CEOs saw poor retention of female talent as a key business challenge, and only 11% were planning policy changes to attract and retain more female workers (PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey). Yet, just a few years later, 64% of CEOs worldwide confirm that they finally have a diversity strategy and 13% of them are planning to adopt one over the next 12 months (PwC, 2016a).

What’s to Celebrate?

When we look at data, it’s important to break it down. If it’s true that the percentage of expat women swings between  just 14%  and 25% (Mercer, 2017; PwC, 2016a; PwC, 2016b), we cannot bypass the significant differences between regions and industry sectors. For example, while expat women in the energy and high tech sectors are only 8-11%, the percentage for the life science sector is 23%. Companies in the service and retail sectors also generally tend to have a higher percentage of women expats. 

Other research (Communicaid, 2017) provides an even more optimistic picture, showing us how the proportion of expat women grew slowly but steadily from 1980s onwards.          

And always on the bright side, among those employees who have already had an international experience, 47% of the female and 53% of the male respondents confirmed they had completed more than one international assignment. In addition, based on their most recent international experience, 84% of women said that they would repeat a similar experience, and 93% state that they would recommend an international assignment to a colleague (PwC, 2016a). 

Last but not least, 73% of women working in Financial Services believe that they have equal opportunities than men to undertake international assignments at their current workplace (PwC, 2016b). This percentage is encouraging in comparison with the 50% of women taking part in the previous year’s millennial survey who believe that promotion is biased towards men (PwC, 2015).

Even with something to celebrate, we shall keep in mind that these variations don’t change the overall conclusions: we are still decades away from seeing this percentage rising to 50%. Predictions show that, in the best case scenario, this will be reached only around 2050 (Mercer, 2017) 

How can you benefit from having a more expat women ? 

1 – You will Facilitate Better Assignment Selection with a Broader Talent Pool 

One of the main mobility cost drivers is related to the limited choice of candidates ready for assignments. By inviting more women to the club, you create more options for your company and indirectly to control costs better. The more good candidates you have, the better will your selection be and the higher the chances that you don’t have to sell an incredibly overpriced assignment package.

2 – You will Record a Higher Assignment Success Rate

The When Women Thrive report highlights that women are perceived to have unique skills that are particularly relevant for expatriation, including flexibility and adaptability (39% vs. 20% who say men have those strengths); inclusive team management (43% vs. 20%); and emotional intelligence (24% vs. 5%.). In short, women tend to build cultural bridges better than men and work in a more sustainable manner.

3 – You will not only Attract, but also Retain Talent

Female demand for international mobility has never been higher than now, with 71% of female millennials wanting to work outside their home country during their careers. Also, 64% of all women interviewed said that international opportunities were critical in attracting them as well as keeping them with an employer (PwC, 2016).

If you want to be successful in attracting and retaining female employees, you need to have a talent brand with international experience as a core element of your employee talent proposition. 

Are you not yet convinced that more expat women provide a huge added value to your company?  In our previous post, we give other proofs of how a more diverse expat population makes you a more profitable and valuable company. 

Seven Obstacles to the Rise of Women in Global Mobility

1 – Strategy

Like the majority of international organizations, you too might be currently challenged with a lack of alignment between Diversity & Inclusion and Global Mobility. This is a crucial issue that you should be working to solve as soon as possible. When goals and data are discussed with Senior Management, Global Mobility Managers need to have a seat at the table. 

2 – Policy

Many Global Mobility policies have originally been developed for male assignees with children and a “trailing” spouse. It’s 2020 and this needs to change. Make sure your policy addresses the issues of expat women and new types of families – single parents for example (the vast majority of them being female), or same-sex couples.

3 – Nomination Process

As we mentioned in our previous post as well, too many times there is still a lack of transparency over who is assigned and why. Companies often don’t have a clear view of those employees who would be willing to be internationally mobile. And like in Alice’s and George’s stories, unconscious bias still plays a considerable (yet invisible) role in the selection of the right candidates. Because of the prevalence of stereotypes that associate women with family, female employees are usually not  even asked even if they would be willing to consider. 

I’ve been there personally as well. 

And if you want to take a small journey into the world of the unconsciously biased HR world, have a look at this insightful article on gender decoding. 

4 –  Non-Diverse Host Locations 

This is probably not such a big issue (apart from a few very critical war zones and dangerous locations). The issue, instead, is the assumption that expat women won’t be accepted because of the fixed gender roles men and women have in the host location. As a matter of fact, expat women in India have automatically a higher status than local women. And in some Muslim cultures, as long as you wear a ring implying that you are married, you can be seen as highly respectable and you will be treated accordingly. 

5 – Representation

While Global Mobility Managers are often female, women don’t benefit from the same representation rate at the upper levels. This means that Senior Leaders and Executives in Global Mobility are mainly men. As a consequence, there is an issue of lack of awareness at Senior Management level, and this is especially true in traditionally conservative countries.

6 – Lack of Visible Assignment Opportunities for Women

65% of female employees (PwC, 2016a) are still unhappy with the little transparency of their companies over the availability of opportunities for overseas assignments. 

It’s time that you make opportunities readily accessible to all, including underrepresented talent groups!

7  –  Lack of Human Touch 

The lack of Human Touch and/or previous bad Expat Experiences might stop women from actively seeking opportunities for international exposure.

In fact, teams are often too busy focusing on the many operational aspects of the mobility program and fail to design a human-centric Global Mobility program for their expat population. 

If you haven’t started yet, do it now. Talk openly about diversity in your policies and encourage internal discussion on this topic. Communicate about role models and success stories.

Six Potential Solutions  for a More Inclusive and Diverse Global Mobility Program 

1- Set Clear Diversity and Inclusion Goals  for Global Mobility

Global Mobility and Diversity and Inclusion teams need to set realistic yet challenging goals for increasing the number of female assignees AND female department heads in Global Mobility. According to KPMG (2018), only 41% of the organizations surveyed had clear D&I objectives in place. Without specific targets nothing will change! 

2 –  Allow for More Flexibility by Having Different Assignment Types 

New types of assignments and flexibility are making things easier for women and employees with family responsibilities to go on assignment. As I reiterate in The Global Mobility Workbook, Global Mobility should not systematically be synonymous with traditional Long-Term Assignment. In fact, even if those remain the most preferred assignment type by both genders, women favour 6-to-12 months’ assignments more than men (37% vs 29%). The same can be said for assignments shorter than three months (10% vs 5%) as well as frequent business travels (36% vs 32%) (PwC, 2016a).

3 – Identify and Understand What the Real Barriers are 

Do you actually know what the real barriers to inclusive mobility are for your workforce and organizations? If you’ve never measured in which way your current policies hinder women’s mobility, it’s time you act NOW.  Stop simply assuming the barriers to gender inclusiveness and understand better where the actual issues lay. That’s why I recommend intercultural training for all Global Mobility Managers.

4 – Give More Visibility to Female Role Models

While 68% of men feel that there are enough male role models of successful expats in their organization, only 48% of women feel the same about female role models (PwC, 2016b). This impacts negatively the wider female talent pool of companies and their Global Mobility programs.  If you want to help fill the gap, take active measures to drive awareness of the positive experiences of successful expat women within your organizations. 

At page 24 of this PwC report you can read a short and inspiring testimonial of a Tax Partner and Expat Woman role model. 

5 – Use More Gender-inclusive Language 

Too often Global Mobility policies still refer to their globally mobile workforce with masculine pronouns. At the same time, they would make you assume that Expat or “trailing” Spouses should be female. Well, it’s 2020 and this is not anymore the case. If you want to make your program more inclusive, start from how you address your talent. The UN has recently published new very helpful guidelines that can definitely be useful for your policies too.

6 – Foster a Supportive and Inclusive Culture

It is absolutely critical for your company to move away from the restrictive gender stigmas of the past if you wish to unlock your full global workforce potential. Your ultimate challenge is to create a culture where all your employees are on board with diversity and recognize how valuable this is.

Our message is clear: Global Mobility strategies that do not fully include women will simply not deliver to their full potential.

How we can Help you

If it all makes sense to you but you don’t know where to start from, this is why we’re here. Here are four ideas on how we can help you.

  1. We deconstruct your expat nomination process and review your existing policies for inclusiveness.
  2. We improve the language you use in communication to make them gender-inclusive and we also help you sprinkle them with “Human Touch”.
  3. We conduct an analysis of your Expat Experience and identify unveiled barriers for female expats and their spouses.
  4. We facilitate transition workshops with expat women in the host country, and prepare female candidates for potential expat assignments through our exclusive 1:1 Executive coaching program RockMe!

PS: I want to tell you two more things.

Are you looking for a board member mandate in Switzerland? Have a look at VRMandat and Stitungsratsmandat and check how they can support you.

Look up the above links also if you’re trying to expand your board of directors.

Resources

Read the insights of the 4th edition of the Advance and HSG Gender Intelligence Report.

https://stiftungsratsmandat.com/de/

https://www.vrmandat.com/en/

https://dorothydalton.com/2016/03/11/gender-de-coding-and-job-adverts/

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20160929-where-are-all-the-expat-women 

http://www.internationalhradviser.com/storage/downloads/Gender%20Bias%20in%20Global%20Mobility%20Developing%20Female%20Leaders%20PwC.pdf 

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/global-hr/pages/women-expatriate-workforce.aspx 

References 

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

Meier, O. (2019). The path to diversity. Mercer. https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/the-path-to-diversity-women-on-assignment

PwC. (2015). Female millennials in financial services: Strategies for a new era of talent. PwC. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/financial-services/publications/assets/pwc-female-millennial-report-v2.pdf

PwC. (2016a). Modern Mobility: Moving women with purpose. PwC. 

https://www.pwc.com/gr/en/publications/assets/modern-mobility-moving-women-with-purpose.pdf

PwC. (2016b). 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 

This is a good example of Women in Global Mobility
Riikka Virtanen Schwitter speaking during the EY “Future of Mobility” event (February 2020)

Expat Experience

Why Building Relationships is Harder for You

Turning into a Swiss Person

I sat on a panel, and I just got as far as saying “I think…” when the other panelist gave her opinion on the matter. She probably didn’t notice that I was trying to say something, but for a moment, I was annoyed and thought, “how rude…”. 

Funnily, many years ago in Germany, this would probably have been okay for me. However, I notice now how I have turned into a “Swiss person”. I also tend not to want to work with Germans who have just arrived in Switzerland because I notice in what they do too many of my own mishaps and small failures back when I was a newbie in Switzerland.

Having lived here in Zurich for over ten years now, I prefer to run my life Swiss-style. Despite considering myself open and tolerant, I still mess up intercultural communication. I’m not always understood, and sometimes I’m just wrong. I recently had a long discussion about left and right, and I know I have a weakness there. In the end, I found out that I muddled up left and right (again!).

Sometimes “Global English” also makes it worse: A bunch of non-native speakers trying to communicate in their second language can lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary emotions.

Here are eight reasons that might make it harder for you to build professional relationships right now. And I don’t think that the pandemic is the main reason.

Eight Reasons

  1. You are shy, introverted, or not convinced that you are good enough to deserve success. Many partners suffer from the “impostor syndrome,” a psychological state of mind where people doubt their own accomplishments or consider themselves frauds just about to be exposed, especially if their career-driving partner just got another promotion in another country.
  2. You are embarrassed and ashamed of being “unemployed”. This is especially hard in a society where most of your self-worth is driven by your career and how busy you are.
  3. You come from a home culture where achievement is overly emphasized. In this cultures ascription is considered an unfair privilege while at the same time you are blindsided by the fact that you had an ascribed status in your home turf.  Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner associated the achievement dimension with protestant work ethic and belief. 
  4. You underestimate the cultural and value diversity in Switzerland. Even if Switzerland is the home of Zwingli and Calvin, there are catholic cantons where status, just like in the protestant cantons, is often equated with a family name, wealth, and how many generations you have already been a member of this society. So, there is still a strong ascription component that is not so obvious to outsiders. You don’t recognize that you have been in the out-group until you join the “Circle of Trust.”
  5. You are unaware of how you come across in person and assume that your style and behavior are “normal.” For example, you have not yet learned to read the cultural cues that hint that you might be too pushy or rude. A typical example in Switzerland is that newbies tend to overstretch a time commitment. In a society that runs on the clock and is a role model of the sequential time approach according to E.T. Hall’s time dimensions, not respecting this often creates a lot of stress for the other person.
  6. You are sending messages to mark your status in your home turf, such as the “Dr.” title in Germany. Or hint at your seniority by name-dropping the influential VIPs you used to hang out with. Still, this is either not understood or considered boasting, narcissistic, and merely annoying in Switzerland. (You could even exaggerate your qualifications and background, for all we know!)
  7. You interrupt your counterpart because you feel that they are slow. The Swiss tend to speak slower than many other Europeans, but they don’t like to be interrupted in their thought process as they are used to having a voice and being asked for their opinion on everything.
  8. You come from a high-context culture and you feel like you don’t know how to address a “stranger”  adequately.  You don’t know how to phrase your requests (your “ask”) to them, and they don’t understand you at all.

Relationship Segmentation Can Be a Barrier

Over the years of running my own business and projects, I often noticed that all the tools I tested to maintain a strategic approach to networking failed miserably with the extensive network that I’ve built over my professional life. 

So, I decided to let go of “strategy” and follow my gut and memory. I realized that the best idea is not to worry too much about “contact segmentation.” We Germans love the word “Begriffsabgrenzung”, so we also do this to our social life (“Bekannter, Kollege, Freund, Verwandter, Familie, Partner, Ehepartner…”). It’s a step-by-step approach, showing how much you trust the other person.

The same segmentation exists in Switzerland, but there are “false friends”( e.g., the word “Kollege” means “Work Colleague” in High German and “Friend” in Swiss German). In Switzerland and Germany, the informal ways of addressing a person with “Du” have different meanings.

Without intercultural training, a German manager will behave like a bull in a china shop in Switzerland – completely unintentionally. Hence, working with German managers in the “honeymoon phase” is a lot of work for the trainer or coach. I prefer to work with you when you are beyond the honeymoon phase, and you understand that you might not function in Switzerland like you are used to.

A Fluid Approach

My colleagues have become friends over the years, and some of my best friends from my university days or early career are colleagues or clients now. Some of my team members have become family, and some of my family members work in the same field or closely related ones. And some friends will never pay you while others will insist on giving back. The world is colorful, and so are people.

While saying this, I don’t want to imply that you have to like everybody you work with or network with. However, it’s another atmosphere for collaboration and innovation when you can fully trust the other person, and know in your head and heart that this person would never talk badly about you behind your back and would not spill your secrets with your competitors. 

Safe and collaborative environments require “relationship work.” 

Let me know what you are doing today to work on your business relationships.


The Digital Nomad – Part 3 – Improve Your Productivity Kanban-Style

Last week, when you could not fall asleep because you felt overwhelmed by the increasing number of items on your to-do list, you had the brilliant idea to buy post-its and start to plan your next four weeks. Then, you also thought about writing down your 25 priorities. 

You already felt a little relieved and fell asleep. However, the question remains “did you actually do what you planned the day after?”

I bet you didn’t do it even if you thought it was a great idea.

The good news is that what happened to you last week happens to most of us too. The bad news is that when you do this in your personal life, you are more inclined to do the same in your professional life as well. We accept a mediocre solution or we try to put a plaster on a process instead of analyzing the root cause of the issue.

According to Schwarzt et al (2014), the great majority of companies see this phenomenon as a challenge to productivity and overall performance, but struggles to handle it. According to Deloitte, over half of the respondents to her survey  say that “their organizations are not doing a good job helping workers address information overload and today’s demanding work environment.” 57 percent believe their organizations are “weak” when it comes to helping leaders manage difficult schedules and supporting employees manage information flow.

Have we lost all of our ideals of Total Quality Management (This is a management approach to long-term process through customer satisfaction. In a Total Quality Management effort, all members of an organization participates in improving processes, products, services and the culture in which they work)  from the good old nineties? Do you know about Kanban and visualizing process flows?

We need to learn how to become more productive and we need to learn it now. If, like me, you are always eager to receive tips on how to increase productivity, check this podcast out.

Kanban 

Kanban is a lean method which originated in lean manufacturing, which was inspired by the Toyota Production System. It aims at managing work by balancing demands with available capacity, and by improving the handling of system-level bottlenecks. 

In knowledge work and in software development, the aim is to provide a visual process management system which facilitates decision-making about what, when, and how much to produce. 

Among the most important characteristics is that work items are visualized to provide a view of progress and process, from start to finish, usually through a Kanban board. Indeed, in Japanese, kanban means “signboard” or “billboard.”

Kanban Boards 

A colorful, tidy and good-looking kanban board is one of the most effective tools in project management. It can be used to plan and work through any project, both in your personal and professional life. 

Kanban boards visually display a certain process in its various stages using cards to represent work items and columns to represent each phase of the process. Cards are moved from left to right to show progress and to help coordinate teams performing the work. 

Simple boards have vertical columns for the “to-do”, “doing”, and “done” work.  Alternatively, they may be labelled “waiting”, “in progress” and “completed”. Complex Kanban boards can also be divided into horizontal “swim lanes” representing different types of work or different teams performing the work. Additionally, it can subdivide the “in progress” work into multiple columns to visualise the flow of work across a whole value stream map.

Example of a Kanban board:

Seven core practices for Kanban

 

Here I suggest six core practices that will make you optimize the efficiency of the tool and become a master of kanban boards.

  1. Visualize the flow of work. You cannot work on a Kanban board, either physical or electronic, if you cannot visualize the process steps needed to deliver your work. Depending on the complexity of your process and your work-mix, your Kanban board can be very simple or very elaborate. Once you visualize your process, then you can visualize the current work that you and your team are doing. 
  2. Use Colors. Use post-its in different colors for different types of projects. Or, if you decide to use this tool for personal life projects, consider using different colors for different kinds of activities (orange for the projects you wish to complete at home, yellow for your children’s requests, and so on).
  3. Limit WIP (Work in Progress). It’s important to reduce WIP to a minimum to encourage yourself and your team to complete work at hand first before taking up new work. Work currently in progress must be completed and marked done. This creates capacity in the system, so that you can focus on new tasks. Limiting WIP helps you finish what they are doing already before taking up new stuff. This practice is also useful because it communicates to the customer and other stakeholders that there is limited capacity to do work, and they need to plan carefully what work they ask you or your team to do.
  4. Manage Flow.. A Kanban system helps you manage flow by highlighting the various phases of the workflow and the status of work in every single phase. Based on how well you defined the workflow and set the limits to WIP, you will observe either a smooth flow of processes or work piling up as a bottleneck forms and starts to hold up capacity. Kanban helps you analyze the system and adjust their work accordingly to improve flow. In this way, you will manage to reduce the time it takes to complete each task. By improving flow, your delivery of work becomes smoother and more predictable, making it easier to communicate to your customer when you will manage to get any work done. You will also automatically increase your reliability to your customers’ eyes.
  5. Make Process Policies Explicit. Visualize explicitly your policies, process rules or guidelines for how you do your work. In this way, you create common ground for all those involved in the process to understand how to work in the system. The various policies can be at the board level or at a “swim lane” level or for each column. Examples of explicit policies are: what defines a task complete, what describes individual “swim lanes” or columns, who pulls when, etc. 
  6. Implement Feedback Loops. This practice is an essential part of any good system. Kanban encourages and helps you implement different types of feedback loops. If you want to deliver the right work in the shortest possible time, it’s crucial to get feedback early, especially if you ended up on the wrong track.
  7. Improve Collaboratively, Evolve Experimentally (using the scientific method). The Kanban Method helps you implement small changes and improve gradually in a way that is sustainable for you and your team. It encourages you to form a hypothesis, test it and make changes according to the results you obtain. In a few words, it aims at tackling issues through a scientific method. As an individual or team who aims at being agile, it’s fundamental that you evaluate your process continuously and improve as much as needed.

Notable tools

This is a list of tools that implement the Kanban method. You can test some of them for free.

  • Asana, with boards.
  • Azure DevOps Server, an integrated ALM-platform for managing work in and across multiple teams.
  • CA Technologies Rally, provides teams with the option of managing pull-based, lean software development projects.
  • Unicom Focal Point, a portfolio management and product management tool.
  • Jira (software), provides kanban boards.
  • Microsoft Planner, a planning application available on the Microsoft Office 365 platform.
  • Pivotal Tracker provides kanban boards.
  • Projektron BCS, project management tool, provides kanban boards for tickets and tasks.
  • Trello, cards-based project management.
  • Tuleap, an agile open source tool for development teams: customize board columns, set WIP (Work In Progress), connect board with Issue Trackers, Git, Documents.
  • Twproject (formerly Teamwork), project and groupware management tool.
  • Wrike, an Agile Collaborative Work Management Platform.

Reflection

Think of three ways a Kanban board could facilitate your own professional and/or private life. When you come up with ideas, try to be very specific. They have to reflect what you do and how you operate on your daily routine. 

If you haven’t tried Trello yet, try navigating it and setting up your own account.

 

Resources

If you want to learn more about Kanban: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_(development)

If you want to learn more about Kanban implementations and Kanban boards:

https://www.digite.com/kanban/what-is-kanban/ 

If you want to know why you should use Kanban in marketing https://business901.com/blog1/why-you-should-use-kanban-in-marketing/

If you think your lack of digital competencies is affecting your productivity: https://globalpeopletransitions.com/lack-of-digital-competence-affecting-your-productivity-heres-how-you-escape-that-rut/

If you’re curious to know more about the benefits of handwriting: https://www.fastcompany.com/90389979/5-times-when-using-paper-and-a-pen-is-better-than-using-an-app

References

Piper, J. (2018). Focus in the age of distraction: 35 tips to focus more and work less. Panoma Press, St. Albans.

Schwartz J. et al. (2018, Aug. 4), ‘The overwhelmed employee: Simplify the work environment.’ Deloitte University Press. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2014/hc-trends-2014-overwhelmed-employee.html#:~:text=The%20overwhelmed%20employee%20Simplify%20the%20work%20environment&text=Too%20much%20access%20to%20information,us%20into%20%E2%80%9Coverwhelmed%E2%80%9D%20employees.&text=Sixty%2Dfive%20percent%20of%20executives,ready%E2%80%9D%20to%20deal%20with%20it

Productivity Makeover with Graham Allcott (Podcast): https://www.sundaebean.com/2019/12/02/152-productivity-makeoverwith-graham-allcott/

If you’re curious to know more about the benefits of handwriting: https://www.fastcompany.com/90389979/5-times-when-using-paper-and-a-pen-is-better-than-using-an-app

References

Piper, J. (2018). Focus in the age of distraction: 35 tips to focus more and work less. Panoma Press, St. Albans.

Schwartz J. et al. (2018, Aug. 4), ‘The overwhelmed employee: Simplify the work environment.’ Deloitte University Press. 

Hotel Des Finances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much income is enough?

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

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

Paul Jarvis asks three questions:

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

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

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

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

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

How can you digitize even further?

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

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

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

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

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

Resources 

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

https://ofone.co/

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

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

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

https://www.mbopartners.com/state-of-independence/research-trends-digital-nomads/

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

References

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

Angie Weinberger

“Just reinvent yourself!” 

This phrase is advice Expat Spouses (partners of expats) often hear when they cannot find a job in Switzerland. You are a typical Gen X professional in New York, London, Frankfurt, or Mumbai. You have a career image stamped on yourself. Telling you to reinvent yourself is like saying “Why don’t you just run a marathon after you just recovered from COVID-19.”

At parties, you say “I’m a Senior Consultant / Director / Lawyer / Doctor / Scientist” and with that, you talk about the pleasure of long-distance travel in times of terrorism or you mention that your partner is away too often and that the kids know the nanny better than their parents, or you explain that you never get to the city because you feel that childcare is too expensive and you rather stay at home than trusting your kids to another person.

Your professional reputation has fueled your ego and you did everything to improve it. You attended courses, webinars, conferences, networking events and you read everything you could about the topic on your commute to work. Not to mention that you had a routine of ensuring that your social media profiles reflected your success only and you ensured your name was published at least once a year.

Then out of the blue (or even because you were following a long-term idea), your spouse gets a job offer in Basel, Switzerland or your job is outsourced to Pune, India. After the initial excitement or shock, you start to consider what a career change means for you right now. You might even consult blogs and books on the matter. From one day to the next, you worry about your branding as a professional. And you might even notice that you don’t really know what you want.

It is not so easy to find out what you want so I recommend you work with a career coach to develop a vision of your next role and probably a long-term career vision too. What I personally found even harder though is to let go of my old career image. I had acquired a status in HR and in my new roles, I felt like a beginner again.

In our cultural context here in Switzerland we say “Schuster bleib bei Deinen Leisten!”. We are discouraged from changing our chosen career path.

Break in Your new Career Image

We know well that a shoe we have worn for a while is comfortable. A new shoe often feels too tight or too big for us to fill. If you imagine now you have to get out of your patent leather shoe and into a hiking boot that is comparable to the change you are going through.

You need to break your career boot in. You might know already consciously that the hiking boot is more practical, fits better to your personality, and has more value on icy mountain grounds but you still feel the burden of a heavier shoe.

Seven Steps to Let Go (of Anything)

You need to throw your old patent leather shoe into the mental “Altkleidercontainer” (the recycling bank for old clothes and shoes). 

  1. Write down all the advantages of the new hiking boot: Think of every aspect of your new career and how it will look and feel. Run a meticulous research. Interview experts and speak to friends who work in this area. Collect as many details as you can and either collate them in a diary or add them to a vision board.
  2. Work in your new career part-time: Work in your hiking boot, at least, one to two days a week by volunteering or finding a cause in this profession worth supporting. Get a consulting project before you commit full-time. Build experience and skill in your new career.
  3. Pretend you are the CEO of your own company: Pretend you are already experienced in walking with the hiking boot, attend seminars and networking events wearing a batch with your new role on it and have business cards printed.
  4. Market yourself with your new personal brand: Update all your biographies, social media profiles, and websites and show that you are wearing the boot already. Mention your new role and functional title. Be the career you want to be.
  5. Support yourself with visuals: Leave post-its in your office, in the bathroom and at home with a visual anchor. For example, if you want to become a scientist working in the pharma industry you could jot down a logo of a company that you find attractive or a picture of you with security glasses.
  6. Create your productive workspace for your new career only: Develop a space that signifies “productive work” in your new career for you. It could be an office or an area on your kitchen table. Make sure that this area is reserved for work in your new career only.
  7. Learn more about your ideal client: Write down the story of your ideal client, someone who will depend on the results or fruits of your new labor. Who is that person, what is important to that person and how does this person live?

These are seven ideas on how can let go of your old career image and start with a new business idea or career.

If you are looking for further insights you can book a consultation with our team or join one of our programs.