Category Archives: Expat Spouse
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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.

Christmas

The holiday season is upon us, I am sure most of us are ready for a well-deserved break from work. We all feel a bit more exhausted this year from working from home and being digital all day.

Do you also need a break from being online all the time?

We face unseen travel restrictions this year. This could lead to you being alone or with your partner and kids only this year on Christmas. While you might want to be with your extended family in (insert home country) you are holidaying in Zurich, Switzerland.

(Not the worst of places to be but it can get a bit lonely if you don’t know what to do.)

While the holidays may be a time of joy and happiness for most people, they can be quite bittersweet for expats.

Maybe you have lost loved ones around the holidays. Maybe you are no longer close with your extended family and your friends are all married with kids.

In Zurich, there is a high likelihood that you haven’t made any close friends yet. It could also be that like one of my friends you are in the middle of your next move and taking time off isn’t an option. You can check our relocation guide for ideas.

So, if you are worried a little about how to handle the holidays here are our ideas for the holidays on your own.

“The 12 Days of Christmas” – Alone in Zurich

Although technically the 12 days of Christmas don’t start until 25 December, we will approach this topic creatively. I also understand that the 12 nights are more important in tradition and mythology and it depends on which sources you read.

Here the first magic night is on 20 December “Thomasnacht”.

This year you have a good chance to have two weeks off with a small amount of vacation days or overtime compensation. Also, many Swiss companies close over this 2-week period now.

Before starting on this topic I would like to invite every reader and client who is not Christian to enjoy the fun around our holiday traditions with us. Full self-disclosure: I come from a catholic background and I live in a relationship with a non-practicing Muslim. I usually only go to mass on Christmas Eve with my grandmother, because I know it makes her happy, but this year I am not even sure I can see my family. I might just stay here with you.

Being a Christian means to me to be a good human and about giving to others and yourself. In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter what your faith is as long as you aspire to do good in the world. And if you only believe in science or the force I like you as well.

Christmas is also a time where we connect with our inner child and give this child all the love it deserves. By honoring special traditions and rituals around the 12 days of Christmas we collect the energy that we need to be supportive of each other.

21 December: Collaboration Day
No office parties this year and no secret Santas. If you are still at work, try to appreciate one of your work colleagues and give them an hour of your time in a virtual coffee session. In our culture we tend to forget to celebrate the success and value collaboration. So try to appreciate this one colleague you worked with this year and send them a hand-written thank you card after your call.

Order your Christmas menu. For example, order meat and bread in advance, so you just have to pick it up on Christmas eve.

22 December: Decoration Day
Buy a Christmas tree at Bahnhof Stadelhofen or in your neighbourhood. Put on a youtube mix or your favorite music and decorate your Christmas tree. Make a special ornament by yourself. Go offline for crafting If you have been in a work frenzy in the build up to the holidays you probably want nothing more than switching off. Tag us when you share photos on Instagram.

Also, this is your chance for last minute shopping. The big shops will probably still be full. Wear masks and support your neighbourhood shops instead of going to Jelmoli.

23 December: Catch up Day
Catch up with old friends via video chat. Being stuck in a foreign country during the holidays is never ideal, more so if you don’t have family or friends there. A luxury not afforded to pre-internet expats, but still in no way a replacement for family and friends, is video chat. While not the ideal replacement for the people you are missing, it can allow you to keep in near-constant touch and keep the holiday spirit fresh in you. In fact, this can also be a perfect time to reconnect with old friends and catch up.

Do all your laundry because you cannot wash between Christmas and New Year. We call this time “zwischen den Jahren” (between the years). I like this expression and did a bit of research.

***
24 December: Giving Day

Read a novel to an elderly citizen on Christmas Eve. I’ve never spent Christmas Eve alone as far as I can remember. You probably know that I come from a big family and I hardly find time to see all my relatives.

If I am in Zurich on Christmas Eve, I will do my grocery shopping for three days and then use the chance to read to someone. In my neighbourhood I often see lonely elderly people.

There is also a shelter for homeless people and you could volunteer there. Or check with your religious community if you can help a child with a present. I’m sure you will find a way to help someone less fortunate.

25 December: Christmas Day

After you opened all your presents you could organize yourself a walking tour of Zurich with a lovely Christmas dinner at a cozy place like Rosaly’s or Wilder Mann. Probably you could meet a few lonely hearts in Bohemia. I would probably check if I could get a ticket for the opera or the Schauspielhaus. Despite the limited numbers they seem to be open.

26 December: Boxing Day

I don’t know why it’s called Boxing Day in English. Maybe it’s time to put a few things in boxes? Or box away the calories? My grandmother calls this day “Stephanstag”. This is a holiday in Zurich and shops are closed so you could plan a spa day or go outside. For example, take the S-Train to Greifensee and walk around the lake for a while.

Later, you should go to one of the nicest hotels in Zurich for afternoon tea and sip a glass of champagne.

27 December: Skiing Day

Why don’t you go to the mountains and check out if there is a chance for a skiing day. One of the lesser known places would be Hoch-Ybrig.

***

28 December: Clean up the (Home) Office Day

If your office is open use the chance to clean up. Update your LinkedIn profile with Nabeha’s tips. It’s time to review your work year. Write down one big accomplishment for every month or check the reporting facility in our RockMeApp. Send me a summary of what you are most proud of this year.

Have lunch with a poor colleague from HR, Accounting or IT who has to work in the office and wants to get home. With a cup of hot cocoa (or Gluehwein, if that’s allowed) start to clean up your desk.

  • Throw out old files,
  • Clean up your computer,
  • Update your task lists,
  • Prepare your performance reviews,
  • Order that new work phone and
  • Pay all your outstanding invoices.

Maybe you still have personal administrative tasks to do. My advice is to use the “Pomodoro” technique to start working on the task for 25 minutes.

29 December: Wish Day

For me this will be the day where I write down everything I’m grateful for in my life and what my wishes are for 2020. Join us for “Star Wars” or pick a movie and go to KOSMOS zurich or another movie theatre you usually don’t go to. Enjoy an “apéro” at YAMAS Zurich, the little Greek restaurant with a flair of the meatpacking district and Greek hospitality.

Don’t forget to stock up on groceries. If you’re like me, you probably have an empty fridge by now.

30 December: Pamper Day

No matter what gender you identify with, we all have a need for a pamper day at least once a year. Book an appointment at your favourite spa and enjoy the treatment. PURE zurich is great for that. If you still feel stressed you might want to get a massage from Pascale at CHINADOC.

These days the Bahnhofstrasse isn’t as crowded as usual, so you could also go to the city and buy a new outfit. Maybe with style advice from Rowena Downing.

31 December: Let Go Day

Take a leisurely stroll on Lake Zurich to Zurichhorn, a boat trip or if it’s raining take the tram 8 to Hardturm and check out the furniture and design stores near Prime Tower. Go up to the bar prime tower and enjoy the view.

It’s time to let go.  With your diary write down everything you wish to leave in the old year and join me for writing and a glass of champagne at the Savoy Bar around 3 PM. If you are into it please text me so I know you will be there.

Even if you can’t party order yourself a special dinner for tonight.

1 January 21: Welcome the New Year Day

Start the New Year with sleeping in as long as you can, watch your favorite movies or bing-watch a series. Be lazy for once.

I hope you enjoyed my tips and I look forward to meeting you in 2021.

Happy Holidays!

Angie and Team

PS: Check out those great blogs for more ideas: newinzurich and girlfriend guide to zurich.

Digital Control

Presence has become increasingly important as we are always pulled in so many directions and “energy flows where our attention goes”.

We can hardly survive a day without our smartphones anymore and when we are offline or have low batteries it creates feelings of anxiety. I have an ongoing experiment where I am trying to increase my productivity and get more done by using less and less resources (money, paper, time, people). 

I would like to summarize the learning for you and you might want to follow me in this experiment.

I want to simplify my life. I am always looking for topics that are complex in our shared, multifaceted lives today and I think about how to deconstruct them and make them simple again. (In my work as a Global Mobility Expert, this is essential.)

In a MasterMind Group we are all considering getting a paper planner again because we feel that our digital tools are just not doing all the tricks. I also feel that often paper gives me a higher sense of security than an app. Obviously, I am trying to reduce paper where it is not needed but there are areas where paper just beats digital tools.

Here is our Four-Step Approach to Digital Control:

1 – Start with an App List

To write this I started an app list I am regularly working with. The app list became very long. I am not even sure I finished it yet. It’s more a toolbox now than a list.

  • Email Accounts – 4 live accounts, 2 or 3 email ID’s that I never check
  • LinkedIn –  Inbox
  • Facebook – Inbox
  • Twitter – Inbox
  • Instagram – Inbox
  • Slack – Inbox (Member of 4 channels at the moment)
  • WhatsApp, Signal, FB Chat and other chat apps 
  • Seminar Apps such as Whova, Geneva

Once you have completed your app list review my simplification principles and check which ones apply to you. Do you have other principles for simplification you wish to share?

2 – Develop Your Simplification Principles

  1. People over Robots! Any personal message is better than an automated response.
  2. Move from DIGITAL to ANALOGUE on purpose. Use paper strategically.
  3. Delete unused apps from your smartphone.
  4. Turn your phone off from 9 PM to 6 AM. Give it a space for the night outside of the bedroom. (You will still hear the alarm!)
  5. Use Post-it for visualising what is important to you. The idea is: One thought, one post-it.
  6. Say “No, thank you…” or “yes, if…” to any proposal for meetings, work and tasks right away. Commit fast and decline fast. Don’t ponder on decision forever.
  7. When asked for meetings give two options only.
  8. Always set a deadline by when another person should come back to you.
  9. Wear black most of the time. On Wednesdays add a colour. Stop ironing during a pandemic.
  10. If you don’t know what to wear because you don’t know if the occasion is formal or not, wear a black suit.
  11. Choose your social media channels wisely. You are probably on too many.
     

3 – Write your 2020 Accomplishment List

Go through the RockMeApp archive and review all that you have accomplished in 2020. Check if there are open items that you wish to close within the next two work weeks.

 

4 – Participate in our online Workshops

 

Gluehwein
Gluehwein
Christmas
Christmas

Are you one of those settled professionals who suddenly had to get out of the last job? Did you love to write as a high school senior but figured a career in journalism would take too many years of crafting the art?

Maybe this is the time in your life when you want to get back into the habit. Perhaps this is really the time when you want to consider starting a writing career in Switzerland. 

Seven Reasons to Start a Writing Career in Switzerland

1)   You cannot handle frustrating meetings any longer

2)  You don’t want to conform to the typical 8 AM to 5 PM working day

3)  You’ve decided that you finally want to feed your passion and earn an income out of it

4) You’ve always been good at telling stories and want to do it more consistently

5)   Your values constantly clash with your company’s values

6)   Parenthood completely overwhelmed you

7)   Your partner got a wonderful –it-was-always-my-dream-to-move-to Switzerland-Singapore-Santa Barbara-kind of job offer and you are in a new country without a professional network.

How many of these points can you tick? If you can relate to at least one of them, I encourage you to keep reading what comes next. 

Four Signs You Feel the Urge to Develop Your Creative Side

1)   You neglected writing in order to earn a living but you always journal during your holidays.

2)  You did not know you were more creative than others until a psychologist told you.

3)   You are bored and need to do more than painting your nails, cooking and washing clothes to satisfy your creativity.

4)   You are going through a transition and that triggers the urge to WRITE, PAINT, SING, PLAY AN INSTRUMENT…

Your writing could become a new source of income for you. You will probably not land a bestseller overnight but even publishing a book has become rather easy in the age of kindle desktop publishing.

It is important that you have the skill of language composition and you know your grammar well.  Unless you wish to become a literary fiction writer,I don’t think you need a diploma in writing though.

Three Tips to Start a Writing Career in Switzerland

#1 Guest Blog

You could guest blog for “Hello Switzerland” for starters or submit your articles to www.ezinearticles.com. They also have good writing tips there.

http://blog.ezinearticles.com/

http://www.helloswitzerland.ch/

https://www.contently.com/

https://serp.co/content/what-is-content-marketing/

You can also check the categories on our website to see if you would be a good fit as guest blogger for Global People Transitions. We’d be happy to read your content! Write to angela@globalpeopletransitions.com if you’re interested. 

#2 Join a Community of Writers

As a large and international expat hub, Zurich has a great community of writers and independent authors and there is a lot to learn.

http://www.nuancewords.org/

https://rowinggirl.com/

https://zurichwritersworkshop.com/

http://www.dicconbewes.com/category/writing/

http://triskelebooks.blogspot.ch/2013/11/tis-season.html

#3 Educate Yourself with a Good Mentor

If you need a kick in the b… I recommend you read Jeff Goins’ blog. He is a motivator for aspiring writers and authors.

What’s your experience with blogging and writing?

Please share with your best friend. You can also leave us a comment below if you feel like sharing with our Club Sandwich readers. 


We have been living in a world dominated by political and economic uncertainty for many years now. However, 2020 is proving to be a particularly exceptional and tough year and, in its first few months, it had already brought the entire planet down to its knees. The global health crisis caused by Covid-19 has basically impacted all aspects of life and radically changed the way we work. Obviously, the world of Global Mobility was also greatly disrupted.  Considered the extent of the impact caused by the crisis, it doesn’t take a fortune teller to foresee that Global Mobility teams will suffer the blow of the crisis in the years to come.

However, it’s not all bad news. Global Mobility teams continue to prove to be incredibly resilient and are constantly coming  up with immediate and particularly creative solutions to face issues that arise overnight. Imagine the difficulty of having to suddenly repatriate an expat (or an expat family) who was temporarily on holiday in a third country and remains stuck there without any other assistance. Or the complexity of finding a quick solution for someone who was about to go on assignment but suddenly had to postpone the departure, despite all their household goods having already been shipped to the host location. 

In the next few lines, we will briefly outline the top eight Global Mobility trends to watch in 2020.

1 – GM will continue to diversify Assignment Types in guidelines

A constantly changing and diverse population like today’s requires closer alignment between mobility types and support levels, but also more flexibility and agility. The graph below represents the evolution of GM through the latest decades and particularly highlights the need for more flexible mobility types in 2020s, as envisioned by Deloitte (2019) and FIDI (2019).

Predictably, there will be more variety in the range of mobility locations as well. The “global approach”, which Global Mobility has seen increase over time, will become the leading type of move. 

If LTAs remain an important and widely used relocation model, it is also true that the deployment of shorter and more flexible approaches, such as STAs, business trips, immersive experiences and commuter models are constantly gaining traction (Deloitte, 2019). A GAPP Survey from KPMG (2019) confirms the same trend, with survey participants expecting to rely more on shorter duration assignments such as extended business trips (56%), STAs (75%) and developmental/training assignments (46%) over the next five years. On the other hand, a reduction in the use of traditional LTAs (51% is expected).

Companies increasingly make use of technology tools to avoid physically moving people across borders. This trend has become increasingly popular especially during the current 2020 pandemic and is bound to grow steadily thanks to the broad availability of improved real-time communication tools, video conferencing and even Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. These technologies are already being used to transform the employee on-boarding experience into the company and can be used to virtually meet colleagues in other countries, constituting new collaboration tools. Lastly, employees can virtually immerse themselves into new cities before deciding whether to move to another city.

 

The GM function has already increased its involvement in activities such as international recruitment,  global talent acquisition and location strategy, which includes attracting talent to remote locations as mentioned in this report from Stiftung Zukunft.li. According to Deloitte (2019), it will continue diversifying its scope in 2020 and beyond, and those additional responsibilities will keep strengthening the role that GM plays as talent enabler, strategic business partner and employee coach. 

2 – GM will need to be more flexible in dealing with the needs of a diverse workforce

For a GM program to be successful, it needs to work well both for the organisation and the expats. But having a policy both flexible and defined enough to be used as the foundation for any mobility scenario is a big challenge even for the most evolved GM programs, as recent data from Mercer’s Flexible Mobility Policies Survey report.

Flexibility has dominated HR headlines for several years. In fact, it continues to be a trending topic, driven by a number of factors such as a constantly changing expat population and assignment types, employee expectations, modern technologies and tools, but also the new unexpected global halt caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is acting as a stress test of flexible policies and raising important questions in flexibility debate (Mercer). Let us look at all those aspects in more detail.

Expat population and assignment types

Although a traditional LTA is also women’s favoured choice (53% of , shorter and more flexible STA are notably more popular among women than men. Did you know that? The proportion of men and women who prefer these short-term options are as follows. Frequent business travel, but based in home country: men 30% and women 37%; fly-in/fly-out commuter assignment: men 20% and women 21%;  very short-term assignment (less than six months): men 16% and women 27%;  short-term (6–12 months): men 33% and women 39% (PwC, 2016).

Nowadays, a more diverse population than ever is embarking on International Assignments. Employees are more diverse in cultural backgrounds, family situation, age, etc. and it is basically impossible to address all the needs of these diverse groups into a one-size-fits all policy.

Employee expectations

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 said she was really shocked about not being even consulted on the decision that leadership took. Her husband and she wanted to get the wedding out of the way so that she could pursue her dream of going on an international assignment. 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.

George knew that he was going to have to embark on an international assignment at some point. However, 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, but 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. 

A more diverse workforce equals a larger variety of individual assignees’ expectations, with the result that if a proposition is very attractive for one employee it might be not appealing at all for another. This is clearly pinpointed by the 2018 How Global Mobility is Responding to New Dilemmas Survey: expectations from millennial generation employees are impacting mobility programs for 43% of surveyed companies, while the aging workforce has 36% of companies re-evaluating their program policies.

Technology

Today more than ever, technology is a great aid tool for managing assignee package creating and makes it possible for expat management teams to stay in close communicative touch with their expats abroad. The impact of technological and digital innovation on Global Mobility will be discussed more in detail later on.

 

Meaningful analyses and reports that evaluate the efficacy of mobility programs are now easier to obtain.

According to the Mercer 2019 Flexible Mobility Policies Survey, 37% of the companies already consider their current mobility policies flexible, and 43% hope to introduce some flexibility to their mobility policies and practices. On the other hand, around 20% do not include and do not intend to introduce flexibility in their mobility policies.

The primary benefits listed by the participants of the Flexible Mobility Policies Survey (Mercer, 2019) who intend to introduce more flexible policies are making packages more valuable for assignees and reducing exception requests. Driving cost efficiency was only 3rd in the list of most expected benefits companies think they will see. Interestingly, among the 56% of the companies who acknowledged the (perceived) benefits of the flexible packages they entail, more than two thirds indicated that their flexible policies also resulted in cost efficiency. 

The most popular policy elements for which participants introduced flexibility are family-related: housing, spousal support, child education, and home leave tickets are all items that can help improve the Expat Experience while on assignment.

With the crisis, the importance of duty of care over excessive flexibility was acknowledged: policies should not be made flexible if they are essential for the wellbeing of employees. Flexible policies have prepared some companies to deal more efficiently with urgent repatriations and unforeseen mobility scenarios. Other companies adopting flexible policies have found them inapplicable and inappropriate in the context of urgency. Once the emergency is over, it is imperative to evaluate which flexible policies have proved effective and which ones were incompatible with duty of care.

Not packages, but rather work arrangements was what benefited the most in terms of flexibility during the crisis. In fact, organisations were compelled to find enough flexibility to allow their mobile employees to do home office, sometimes even in a different country than the assignment country. A remarkable stress was put on business continuity and resilience at the forefront, leaving employee lifestyle and preferences in the background.

3 – Dual-Career Expat Couples 

The 2017 Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies & Practices (WIAPP) survey report pinpointed dual-career/family-related issues and cost as the main barriers to mobility. Similarly, the expected advantages of a flexible mobility program were also closely related to these issues. Also the report published by Crown (2019) highlights the same issue. But if this is not a new phenomenon, why is it considered a megatrend to watch in 2020?

Because many more households, globally, rely on two salaries. This means that when an employee is asked to take on an international assignment, the economic impact on the family is greater than in the past. As a consequence, an increasing number of companies are struggling with the challenges posed by the dual-career demographic and they are in search of creative solutions. 

To deal with the dual-career factor, companies have put in place several strategies. Many have put in place policies to support split-families, offering more frequent home leave. However, this is generally limited to 12-24 months, after which the employee runs a higher risk of suffering from burnout with a negative impact on work productivity as well. Another solution is the increase of commuter assignments especially across the EU where distances are limited. The downside of this could be that after some time, the commuter status will impact the employee and their family, as well as the morale of the team in the home and host location. Another strategy, the one for which we advocate, is putting Expat Spouse support at the core of GM policies. According to Crown’s 2019 Policy and Practices report, today, only 56% of companies address spouse/partner assistance. The most standard support comes in the form of reimbursements for job search assistance, professional affiliations and credential maintenance.

4 – GM will learn to facilitate and organize “Virtual Assignments”

The first trend highlighting the continuous diversification of GM also encompasses a higher number of Virtual Assignments. Differently than managers who oversee a region or frequent Business Travelers who might occasionally be involved in operations abroad from remote, a virtual assignee does remotely the same job as an assignee who has relocated to the host country. 

The COVID-19 crisis is changing all the debate around the possibilities of home office and Virtual Assignments since never in history have so many employees worked remotely in order to guarantee essential business continuity. Obviously, Virtual Assignments also raise a lot of new questions. However, Mercer suggests that if they are implemented at a great extent, they could present opportunities beyond the end of the crisis and will lead to companies having to reassess what is meant by GM.

Virtual mobility does not necessarily imply that employees remain in the home country while being responsible for operations in other locations. It can also mean allowing employees to work in a third country of choice (not the home country or the location benefiting from the task performed). Implementing a larger number of Virtual Assignments also means acknowledging and accepting that working arrangements are changing fast in response to technology, generational changes, and sudden business disruptions. 

Of course, as Mercer points out, there are limits, the most obvious of which is the fact that not all jobs can be performed from remote, and that is also one of the reasons why virtual mobility will not replace traditional mobility. Another barrier, and potential risk, can be presented by tax and compliance issues. A further obstacle can also simply be that the company has no existing operations and no wish to have a Permanent Establishment in the location where the employee would like to be based. Last but not least, some organizations are concerned that Virtual Assignments could hinder company culture and teamwork, with the risk for the employee to feel a perpetual outsider. The final point worth considering is that cost saving is not necessarily automatic: in case the assignee wants to live in a high-cost country, there could be additional costs. 

It is now easier to see how the popularity of virtual mobility is closely related to the increase of a more dispersed international workforce. As companies upgrade their technology and become more agile, they could decide to assign projects and tasks to mobile people rather than moving defined jobs as such. In other words, instead of trying to fit assignees into predefined boxes, the aim is to manage a diverse workforce in a more fluid and coordinated way (Mercer). 

Moving jobs to people instead of moving people to jobs is not going to substitute the traditional way of thinking GM, but it is one more tool that companies can use in their global operations. In fact, we live in an era in which recruitment is not limited by geography, and hiring can occur in any global location to fill open positions. As organizations gradually embrace best practices to manage a distributed international workforce, it will be essential for Global Mobility teams to adapt to a new way of thinkinking and to learn to implement virtual assignments successfully. 

The COVID-19 crisis has perhaps exposed even more the weaknesses and inconsistencies in current mobility management practices in relation to talent mobility. And if, on the one hand, it shows the limit of rigid organization policies, on the other, it also forces HR teams to be more creative and agile in addressing the business’s needs and assisting assignees. The hope is that talent mobility professionals will indeed retain some of this reactivity born out of the crisis as to be in a good position to help organizations recover in the post-crisis times. 

5 – GM Managers will expand their skills and become more agile 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, multi-skilling is “the practice of training employees to do several different things, or of using employees who can do several different things”, or, in other words, the ability to master a wide range of skills relevant for different types of functions and jobs. Research from Hershbein and Khan (2018) provide broad-based evidence of how firms demand even more upskilling from workers when the local economy suffers a recession. Thus, this practice is likely to be even more useful in the aftermath of the crisis, when more agility will be required in all areas of business. 

The future of work is skill-driven and the expansion of the gig economy brings proof to the statement. Since organizations are becoming more flatter and more digital, corporate positions or job titles will not matter as much as skills and the capacity to update and renew these skills. 

Mercer listed a series of skills that will matter for talent mobility professionals and that will contribute to more relevant and strategic for the organizations. Below is a summary.

Now more than ever global mobility teams are asked to be advisers to the business and to help anticipate risks and compliance issues. Mobility professionals should basically function as bridges between departments and geographies and serve as facilitators to coordinate arising issues. One possibility is that the mobility functions will be gradually more oriented towards consultancy. In one sentence, Global Mobility teams need to master compliance issues.

Another necessary step will be making sure that the basics are in place in terms of metrics and cost tracking, but what really makes the difference for HR professionals will be the ability to turn the results of newly developed metrics into concrete suggestions to improve people management.

It is also fundamental that mobility professionals are able to speak the same language as general management and finance and that they have the capacity to link mobility with compelling business cases.

Another crucial point Global Mobility teams need to  bring to the top of their agendas is developing the ability to be good storytellers. Explaining the bigger story behind talent mobility and to what extent employees’ tasks relate (even distantly) to the overall economy and the society’s well being is a differentiator. Storytelling is also about being able to summarize clearly what the main principles underlying the mobility program policy are or what the very mobility program entails. 

Today we live in an unprecedented abundance of information. Making sense of the information or where to find the information is not the problem anymore. The crucial issue is determining which data are true and relevant and how they should be interpreted in order to draw relevant conclusions for the business. Another objective for GM professionals is to have a role to play in the digitalization of companies and to become more familiar with the concepts and technologies revolving around AI.In other words, develop statistical and technology literacy.

Last but not least, now that companies diversify more and more their compensation approaches, Global Mobility professionals need to dig deeper into Expat base pay, benefits, short-term and long-term incentives as to have a wider financial understanding of the implications of an international move. It’s time to broaden reward skills. 

6 – The Human Touch will be the key to successful Global Mobility programs

According to Deloitte (2019), mobility professionals rank Expat Experience as top strategic priority. For employees, this results in a heightened focus on wellbeing, development and recognition. At the same time, Expats have started perceiving global mobility differently and if they once used to see compensation as the primary incentive for global relocations, they now tend to value a human‑centric global mobility experience providing validation on both a personal and professional level. Nowadays the global workforce is attracted and motivated by a more personalised, agile and holistic experience which predictably results in a better relationship between employees and employer.

Deloitte has come up with three actions to ‘humanise’ global mobility, namely setting people at the center of the mobility experience; making mobility more personal than other aspects of the talent lifecycle; and building the experience around the specific person going on assignment.

Enhancing the Expat Experience has been on top of the priority list of many employers for quite some time. However, it would be unfair to deny that too often, it is difficult to prioritize it if teams are too busy focusing on the many operational aspects of the mobility program. 

As a matter of fact, a well designed human‑centric global mobility program does not simply consider employee needs, but also takes into account the rest of the stakeholders involved. Deloitte predicts that enhancing Expat Experience will keep being a key priority focus area for many leaders in the years to come. Organisations who wish to embrace a human-centred global mobility program successfully should focus on the following four core aspects:

  • Operational Support. Structure of operations, and satisfaction with external vendors.
  • Financial Welfare.  Rewards, benefits and other support provided to the employee. 
  • Professional Engagement.  Successful integration into the host location, and career progression.
  • Expat Well Being. Employee resilience, and focus outside of work life.

The COVID-19 crisis has particularly highlighted the very last aspect of the above list, Expat Well Being. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends, 80% of the respondents identified well being as an important priority for their organization’s success over the next 12-18 months, making it this year’s top trend for importance. Yet, only 12% feel “very ready” to address this issue, meaning that there is clearly a “readiness gap”.  Expat Well Being definitely does not stop to healthcare considerations and should not be a priority only during emergencies.  It also entails social, emotional and financial aspects, in other words, areas in which highly mobile employees are automatically more at risk. Factors such as stress, mental health, family and financial issues, but also demotivation and failed assignments should put the mobility team on full alert. There is no doubt that the current crisis is pushing companies to accelerate their strategies to ameliorate Expat Well Being, potentially enabling a better work-life balance. In fact, the investments made towards an improved well being come with valid reasons: burnout impacts employee retention, employees with higher well-being are more likely to feel engaged at work and recommend their organizations, and, to some extent, well being drives organizational performance (Deloitte, 2020).

7 – Harder immigration compliance 

Even before this global pandemic, the waiting time organizations had to face before holding all the authorizations required for an employee to travel abroad for business were becoming increasingly longer. The quicker visa to obtain, that for short-term business travels, are not intended for productive work or long-term assignments, and many countries are more actively enforcing measures against illegal employment, with a larger number of employees having not only to pay pricey fines but to undergo criminal punishments. 

Problems only increase when the employee is accompanied by dependents who travel on a holiday visa and then try to find a job in the new host country or get a local driver’s license. 

Undoubtedly, the unexpected crisis caused by the widespread presence of COVID-19 will make immigration compliance an even more complicated matter for organisations wanting to send their employees abroad, repatriate or transfer them to a third country. 

In a world where business travel, secondments and overseas relocations are routine, the resulting level of disruption caused by the restrictions on movement that governments set in place to combat the spread of the pandemic is unprecedented. With companies working hard to prioritise their staff well being, another whole set of legal challenges arise. In such a rapidly changing scenario, it is not uncommon for mobile employees to remain stranded in their host country or a transit country or to risk overstaying their visa. Some of the measures that governments around the world are enacting are temporary but others could have a more negative effect on business in the near future. Two measures in particular could have a more long lasting impact on Global Mobility: 

  1. Entry restrictions and an increased number of admission criteria for certain countries, including bans on some high-risk locations.
  2. Heightened eligibility criteria and application requirements where visas are being issued, including suspension of visa waiver agreements and more detailed document requirements for new applications.

8 – Digital Innovation

In the past 24 months, many organizations have put a major focus both on digitisation (moving to more digital formats) and digitalisation (strategically shifting to digital processes and activities) of the mobility function. According to Deloitte and Fidi, this will continue being a global trend in 2020 as well. One of the biggest challenges of Global Mobility will be to bring digital innovation at the core of companies’ business models, evaluating how the technology available today can augment their human workforce. 

Companies’ level of ‘digital engagement’ obviously depends on how “digitally mature” their global mobility programs already are. Some might be just  ‘exploring digital’, using robotics to carry out simple and repetitive tasks,while others might be already ‘becoming digital’ with a formal digital strategy set in place. 

Automation

Mobility functions are already experiencing success where this technology is implemented to perform tasks that humans would normally be assigned, such as ending routine emails or copying and pasting information from public or private sources. In turn, workers can be repurposed to high value tasks for the benefit for the mobility function. By adopting and introducing those techniques  into existing processes, Global Mobility teams will be able to focus on diminishing costs, increase productivity by improving operational efficiency, and retain talent. In fact, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology is already being used to speed up administrative/transactional processes in mobility functions. Equally important is that automation can also reveal itself crucial in reducing hierarchical thinking.

Workplace tools

Core office technologies such as telephone, word processing platforms and email have already evolved as to expand the possibilities of connected and collaborative working. Employees can now access the latest information, join video conferences, share and work on the same documents or workspace at their convenience, from a device and location of their choice. The next generation of workplace tools will create even more opportunities in areas such as collaboration, training and learning, and it will as well provide business leaders the opportunity to deliver a better experience to their teams and assignees. Even more importantly, new ‘digital learning’ means that organizations will be able to make fun what is hard stuff in life. For instance, Augmented and Virtual  Reality (AR and VR respectively), can be used to transform the employee’s onboarding experience into the organisation, or it can provide the possibility to meet and collaborate with colleagues in other countries. Additionally, it can be used as well to virtually recreate cities so that one can immerse oneself in the new environment before deciding to move there.

Artificial Intelligence

According to Deloitte (2020), AI is projected to add US$13 trillion to the global economy over the next decade. Thus, it is no wonder that in their 2020 Global Human Capital Trends Survey, 70% of the respondents stated that their organizations were exploring or using AI to some extent. At this point, the question is not anymore whether AI will affect jobs, but rather how. As a matter of fact, reducing costs by replacing workforce with AI technology is not the only viable path: 60% of the surveyed (Deloitte, 2020) organizations are using AI to assist rather than replace workers. 

By using smart devices to predict, detect and prevent risks in moving people around the globe, AI is already helping organisations to go beyond traditional ways of managing the global workforce. With the huge increase of the data volume available to organisations, the emergence of advanced AI-based algorithms and the growing availability of data scientists, systems become increasingly self-managing and potentially self-defending against risks.  

 

Resources (Websites)

https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/2020-buzzwords-and-what-they-tell-us-about-mobility

https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/virtual-assignments-cultural-and-inclusion-issues

https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/the-rise-of-virtual-assignments https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/assessing-the-feasibility-of-virtual-assignments-a-checklist

https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/delivering-flexibility 

https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Global-mobility-policy-flexibility-in-practice

https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/solutions/data-solutions/policies-and-practices-surveys/flexible-mobility-policies-survey

https://www.imercer.com/products/WorldwideIAPP

https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Upskilling-the-Mobility-Function

Books and Reports

Baker McKenzie. (2019). ‘The Global Employer: Focus on Global Immigration and Mobility.’ Baker McKenzie. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.bakermckenzie.com/en-/media/files/insight/publications/2019/12/the-global-employer-focus-on-immigration-and-mobility_041219.pdf

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

Bertolino, M. (2020). ‘How Covid-19 is disrupting immigration policies and worker mobility: a tracker’. Ernst and Young. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://www.ey.com/en_gl/tax/how-covid-19-is-disrupting-immigration-policies-and-worker-mobility-a-tracker

Hauri, D., Eisenhut, P., and Lorenz T. (2016). „Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung: Hintergründe unde Zusammenhange.” Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung

Robb, A., Frewin, K. and Jagger, P. (2017a). ‘Global Workforce Trends: The Impact of the Digital Age on Global Mobility.’ Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/tax/deloitte-uk-global-mobility-trends-latest.PDF 

Robb, A., Frewin, K. and Jagger, P. (2017b). ‘Global Workforce : Digital Innovation in Mobility.’ Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/fi/Documents/tax/deloitte-uk-digital-innovation-in-mobility.pd 

References

Deloitte. (2020). ‘2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey. Deloitte.’ Deloitte. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/us43244_human-capital-trends-2020/us43244_human-capital-trends-2020/di_hc-trends-2020.pdf 

Deloitte. (2019). ’Global Workforce Insight 2019.’ Deloitte. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ch/Documents/tax/deloitte-ch-Back-to-the-future-global-workforce.pdf

FIDI. (2019). ‘2020 Vision: A Focus on Next Year’s Trends.’ FIDI Global Alliance. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://www.fidi.org/blog/2020-vision-focus-next-years-trends 

Hershbein B and Khan, L. B. (2018). ‘Do Recessions Accelerate Routine-Biased Technological Change? Evidence from Vacancy Postings.’ American Economic Review. Vol. 108, no. 7, pp. 1737-72. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20161570

KPMG. (2019). ‘Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey.’ KPMG International. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2019/10/2019-gapp-survey-report-web.pdf

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