Tag Archives: TheGlobalMobilityWorkbook
Darth Vader

Do you know Darth Vader, the dark force of many of the Star Wars movies? Did you know that we all have a bit of Darth Vader in us? We are driven by our fears. The Star Wars movies are full of allusions to deep psychology and how our attachments and fears form our behaviors and life. With this post, I would like to give you an understanding of how we are influenced by our fears and how you can change to become a Jedi. 

Fritz Riemann, a deep psychologist established a theory based on four basic forms of fear (“Grundformen der Angst”). The four basic forms of angst are formed in our early childhood and determine to a large extent how we behave when we are grown up. In the extreme form these fears turn into psychological illnesses.

For Riemann, the Sith are schizoid, depressed, obsessive and hysterical people. You have to be aware that even though these terms have found their way into our everyday language the clinical spectrum of these illnesses is serious and needs treatment through therapy.

Carl Gustav Jung, another deep psychologist discovered the “shadow”. Jung assumed that all of our relationships with other people are based on unconscious projections of our own wishes and expectations into their behavior.

According to Jung, the shadow is the part of us that we have driven into the unconscious as it was unwanted (for example behavior as a child) as opposed to our “Persona” which was the desired (performing) part of us.

Did you ever notice that you don’t like traits in another person and later someone told you that you have this trait too?

To speak in Star Wars terminology: You might have a bit of Darth Vader within you even though you might be a Jedi most of the time.

Like Darth Vader, we were not always bad. Some of us had negative experiences. Other lost trust in the world because of a traumatic experience. Our education system did not help either. We were ruled by authority and we had to perform. If you did not have your homework back in the 70-ies and 80-ies you were punished.

No one told us that we are great because we are creative, or even because we are who we are. We were taught to perform for making it in life. My parents had a different approach to education, but they also were young and idealistic and sometimes forgot their own children over the ones they took care of.

Today when you watch TV or check an ad statement you will see that what is often shown to us is a world full of existential angst or full of gold-coated “happy families”.

We are torn between a world to be afraid in and a world where everyone is on happy pills all the time. It’s like a world where the dark forces rule and were the Sith have won. Everywhere.

Could you still become a Jedi?

What if you decided that you did not want to be ruled by fear and anxiety?

What if you wanted to be the light and show others to stay “good” or to stay on their mission?

What if you could be Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia Organa?

You see that the Jedis confront their fears all the time. They deal with it. They do what they are afraid to do and they fight evil step-by-step. They don’t stop. They sometimes take a break to train or to collect the force. They retreat to be able to focus on their mission again.

Real change happens only through taking action. You start by confronting what you are afraid of. You go into the dark tunnel and the abyss of your soul. You dive deep into the black sea of concern and unconscious. There, you will find the monsters, the Sith, the evil you need to handle. You need to work through those with a light-saber. You tackle one relationship after the next relationship. You go through them all. All your fears, projections, shadows. I’ll stay by your side like Obi Wan Kenobi.

Cherish the people who criticize you, but don’t let their criticism stop you from what you think is right.

Stay on your path.

One day you will look back and only see Jedis around you.

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I have this tendency to not want to work with Germans who have just arrived in Switzerland. I end up seeing too many of my own mishaps and small failures back when I was a newbie in Switzerland. Instead of reminiscing about my failures however, l would like you to meet Dr. Rainer Schulz.

This German leader from one of the cases from The Global Mobility Workbook (2019) has never done any intercultural training. He manages a global team which is mainly based in Switzerland exactly like he manages everybody in Frankfurt. Tom Jones, the main character in this case study challenges a lot of his assumptions about hierarchy and collaboration.

At the age of 55, Dr. Schulz cannot get over the fact that everyone in Switzerland goes to first name and “Du” in no time. Even his children call him stuck up and old-fashioned. Dr. Schulz is a typical example of someone stuck in their own cultural preferences. He could have made an effort and offered Tom the first name basis. He could have tried to build trust when they began working together. Instead, he just cannot get out of his comfort zone, hides behind his intellectual competence, relationship to the Management Board and his assistant. 

Tom on the other hand, is a little naive and not even aware of intercultural differences. He made an effort to learn German but he is still depressed. He attributes his issues to others. His weakness in this situation is that he does not take responsibility for his learning and progress. Tom also limits himself and could have done more to work better with Rainer. Tom quits the company, an assignment failed, the retention score is down and people are even more convinced that working with people from other cultures is just too hard. No happily ever after.

Having lived here in Zurich for over 10 years now, I also 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 got into a long discussion about left and right and I know that I have a weakness there. At the end I had to find out that I muddled up left and right (again!).

Communication across Cultures is a Challenge

My team members sometimes don’t do what I thought I had asked them to do. Then there is the occasional issue where I thought I had sent an email with a spreadsheet attachment but the person at the other end never received it. We hop on a conference call to discuss a topic with the assumption that the other person has the spreadsheet in front of them but IT Security blocked it. The whole conversation goes in circles. (Remind me to explain the “Asian Loop” to you sometime.) 

And yes, there could be plenty of reasons behind these issues. Maybe it’s “not my fault” or “not my responsibility”.

[tweetthis]If we don’t achieve our goals as leaders, then we are not good enough as leaders. [/tweetthis]

Do you also in such situations then tend to take control and do everything yourself?

And does that then lead you to burnout, depression or anger?

Does your partnership or family life suffer?

I have had to learn to accept the fact that people are as diverse as sand corns or snow flakes. You can learn to improve your leadership style but it is a never ending story of continued failures. Eventually you’ll get the swing and then you are asked to retire from the working world…

(Isn’t it crazy that our society doesn’t value the experience of our elders? Personally I intend to work until the day I die… hopefully with a nicely branded fountain pen in my hand.)

With this post I would like to give you an intercultural explanation to these phenomena and help you get out of your cultural comfort zone.

What is Global Competency in Global Mobility?

Global Competency is the ability to work effectively in a global, complex environment with a high level of stress, while achieving goals sustainably and in accordance with your own resources”. (Weinberger, 2019)

One of the major themes in my work with clients is on how they can improve their relationships at work. In order to find a new role in the Swiss market a number of trusted relationships are required. Relationships are usually built through a third-party introduction, at events and through long-lasting cooperation. And while this is similar in Germany, the German approach to building relationships always has a hierarchical component. Usually, the younger or newer members of the crew are treated with a little less respect. Globally competent leaders know how to gauge the hierarchy level and address the person according to status and seniority. However, in Switzerland where 70% of your interactions are with other expats it is trickier than in Germany.

You can almost assume that everyone is on your experience and intellectual level. And most locals are modest, so they could easily be underestimated.

Five Reasons why You might find it hard

  1. You are shy, introverted or not convinced that they 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” in a society where most of your self-worth is driven by your career and how busy you are.
  3. You come from a culture where achievement is overly emphasized and ascription is considered an unfair privilege while at the same time they are blindsided by the fact that they had an ascribed status in their home turf.  Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner used to associate the achievement dimension with mainly protestant work ethic and belief. However, even if Switzerland is the home of Zwingli and Calvin, we have catholic cantons as well and status is often equal with family name, wealth and also 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”.
  4. You are not aware of how they come across in person and assume that your style and behavior is “normal”. You have not yet learned to read the cultural cues that would indicate to them that they might be too pushy or even rude. A common example in Switzerland is that expats tend to overstretch a time commitment. For 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, this is often creating a lot of stress for the other person.
  5. You are sending messages with which in your home turf you would mark  your status such as the “Dr.” title in Germany or a certain seniority by name-dropping the influential VIP’s you used to hang out with but in Switzerland for example this is either not understood or considered boasting, egocentric and merely annoying. 

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. The meaning of the informal way of addressing a person with “Du” has a different meaning in Switzerland than in Germany.

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.

My approach after 10 years in Zurich

Some of my colleagues in the #GlobalMobility world have become friends over the years and some of my best friends from the university days or early career are colleagues or clients now. Some of my team members have almost 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 and everybody you network with. However, it’s another atmosphere for collaboration and innovation when you can fully trust the other person without a doubt.

When you know in your head and in your heart, that this person would never talk badly about you behind your back and would not spill your secrets with your competitors. I thrive in safe and collaborative environments but these require “relationship work”.

[tweetthis]We can’t stay on the task-level (the “Sachebene”, one of my favorite German words) if we want to be great leaders in a globalized world.[/tweetthis]

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

The Expat Experience (XX): Walking alone at the shores of lake Zurich on a rainy Sunday morning.

Expat Experience

by @angieweinberger, the Global Mobility Coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lifestyle Expats” have different Challenges

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

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

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

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

What does this mean for Global Mobility?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Service at certain Touch Points

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

The Cultural Adjustment Process

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

The Communication Hole

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

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

The Learning Journey

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

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

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

The Deeper Expat Experience

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

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

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

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

What does that mean for you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind regards 

Angie Weinberger

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

Angie Weinberger

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

 

Related Links / References

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

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

Airinc (2019)

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

Internations

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

Project ZRH3039 – Final Report (2019)

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

Population with Migration Background

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

Revision Foreigner Law in Switzerland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) No clear assignment targets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Angie Weinberger

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

 

 

 

Culture beats structure!

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

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

The Expatise Academy in Holland

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

Global Competency

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

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

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

A holistic Global Competency model

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

What is Global Competency?

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

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

Knowledge

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

Attitude

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

Skills

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

Reflected Experience

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

Body Learning

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

Test your Intercultural Sensitivity

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