Category Archives: Global Leaders

Recent legislative and policy changes in many countries around the world seem to be signaling a global shift from open market to a form of protectionism. Today, I would like to discuss what exactly this is and how it impacts everyone in Global Mobility, using the example of an upheaval close to us: the dreaded Brexit.

Before we delve into Brexit, let’s take a look first at how open market policies were and still are beneficial to Global Mobility.

Open Markets and Free Trade

It all boils down to the fact that free trade agreements specifically include concessions for mobility. Combined with reduced taxes and government programs to encourage foreign investments, this literally opened the door for GM professionals to successfully ply their trade in different countries. Another step later down in this pipeline is the streamlining of visas and entry requirements – all things that promote the movement of skilled professionals across borders.

Brexit: An End to Unrestricted Movement

The political machinations that led to the UK deciding to part ways with the EU, that is, Brexit, have been discussed far and wide and I will not be going over them. If you are looking to brush up on it, the NY Times and BBC have good summaries here and here, respectively. Relevant to this discussion is the fact that the British people have been promised that Brexit would mean an end to the EU’s famed free movement, that is, the right of people from mainland Europe to live and work in Britain. This is a form of protectionism, the term mentioned earlier. Protectionism refers to the economic curtailing of foreign imports through tariffs, quotas, and other governmental policies. Cutting down on the import of foreign workers falls under it, in direct opposition to the free movement that made the EU a unique success story in world history.

Common sense identifies this as a detrimental idea, not only to GM professionals but to long-term economic stability and growth, yet so few speak up against it – the very fact that Brexit is happening is evidence of that fact. Why is that so?

Fear-based Politics Is a Tool of Suppression

A major reason for that is the fear-mongering stoked by politicians, particularly about how immigration and immigrants “steal” the jobs of the locals – this belief is particularly strong among the working class who rally behind all attempts to close down free movement. Unfortunately, this spread of fear works on everyone, at various levels, especially in these times of economic hardship, it is easy to buy into the idea that immigrants are responsible for the worsening economy or the lack of jobs. No one likes to step out of their comfort zone, especially to speak up about uncomfortable topics.

The result? While Brexit has been lingering for years, the political uncertainty it has led to is already creating ripples across the GM community. Companies will be faced with increasingly challenging situations when seeking to move the talent they want, into the location where they are needed most.

Many companies are moving out of or planning to move out of the UK, taking with them hundreds of thousands of jobs from locals. Clearly not the best-case scenario.

This unpredictability is not limited merely to the immigration aspects of Global Mobility, as taxation and exchange of information would become increasingly sophisticated, making it more difficult for companies and authorities to work out and resolve issues of governance and tax payment. A potential problem that arises from this unpredictability is not knowing how the UK will treat its laws and legislation dealing with worker rights, taxation and other aspects that were based on relevant sections of EU law. That is something troubling corporations and experts in finances, taxation and mobility alike.

Another factor determining why we haven’t been more outspoken about the ramifications of politics on our field is the overabundance of fake news. When someone’s statement is countered with aggressively presented “facts”, the people believing in those “facts” can end up influencing others and drowning out our voice of reason.

Does anyone remember the infamous “Brexit Bus”? Despite being proven to be a falsehood, that “fact” is considered one of the major reasons the Brexit referendum was won by Leave. Despite people speaking up about the falsehood of that “fact”, the Brexit Bus still swayed millions with its lie. How does one make themselves heard in such a scenario?

Echoes of Brexit Around the World

Brexit and EU are not the only places where this tidal wave of fear-based politics and misinformation have had an impact on Global Mobility. In March 2018, Australia ended one of its most popular work visas for global professionals with claims that the visa was taking jobs away from Australians, replacing it with one that was a lot more stricter on professionals and companies alike. The USA’s stance towards the mobility of foreigners is also of note, targeting millions of Muslims from around the world, and about the same number from south of their border through the implementation of various “travel bans”. These policies have been crucial in disrupting nearly all companies that source their talent globally.

As these roadblocks mount, we are faced with a unique, ever-growing challenge of navigating political opposition to its core tenant and unpredictable laws that can spring up at any moment. Given this uncertainty, what we can do at this turbulent time is developing a series of rapid response protocols/procedures that allow us to stay on top of these shifts while carving out a longer-term plan for navigating these changing political waters.

We need to stay relevant

As mentioned by Tracy Figliola and Gina Vecchio in their excellent article “Global Mobility Coming of Age” (The International HR Adviser, Winter 2019/2020) we are currently at the crossroads of extinction or expansion of our profession. As I’ve been working on expanding our skillset and mindset over the last few years, I would certainly hope that we step up our game this year.

If we want to continue adding value as a function we need to show through our actions that we are finding solutions to all those ever more complex issues. I usually hold back my political opinion here and on social media for fear of attracting trolls and haters but I committed yesterday to support “outsiders” more, and to work with an even more diverse team in 2020.

We need to think big and start with baby steps at our own front yard. For example, I will work with an intern from Africa this year. My clients come from around the world but we can still do more to encourage global competency development and break down the barriers to Global Mobility. We can set examples and work on positive changes in our realm of influence whether we are expats, expat entrepreneurs, scientists or Global Mobility Professionals.

PS: As a lecturer and Expatise Academy Advisory Board member I recommend the Master Course in Global Mobility at Erasmus University. As the Registration deadline is approaching you should decide fast and read more here.

 

I used to once tell my colleagues that I sometimes feel that I am like an orchid. I would only blossom in the right environment and when I get a lot of love from the people working with me. As a creative person, I also need to feel safe and accepted and this is the hardest part because we often make connections between items that others will not connect. Also, connect people with each other who would not necessarily see why they should be connected. 

On the weekend I attended a short workshop in a monastery of a Dominican sisterhood in Ilanz. There in the loving eyes of those sisters, I immediately understood why I would like my clients to come to our RockMeRetreat: It’s because my heart is my compass. I only trust my heart and sometimes I also listen to my brain. However, we are taught in our society to not trust our heart anymore and that is why many of us are unwell and feel stuck. At the RockMeRetreat I will give you all the love that you need to blossom like an orchid again. You will learn to trust your heart again. Feel invited and welcome. You can still join us in 2020. I’m accepting applications now.

Our project and event manager, Monika Fischer, a veteran of cross-disciplinary fields including global mobility, cleverly alternates between allegory and candid self-reflection of her own extensive career to outline some forms of biases that can be observed in professional spaces and how to handle them. You can read her full essay below:

I have never had a green thumb, that is until I lived in Singapore for ten years and got used to being surrounded by blossoming orchids. They look very pretty and colorful, come in many shapes, shades and sizes. Through the sophisticated ability to have so many faces, some people think that all orchids are extremely demanding. Are they though?

People use shortcuts, also called biases, unconsciously. Research shows that this filtering ability of our brain basically saves it from exploding due to too many impressions and data shooting into it any second. Over the evolution of humanity, our brain learned to generalize myriads of known circumstances, create patterns and suggest immediate solutions. We are not even aware of this process, hence unconscious.

Roche research showed (as addressed by Kristen Pressner at a TED talk in Basel in 2016) that people award different attributes to male and female personalities. Whereas men are connected with characteristics like leadership, providing, assertiveness, strength, and drive, female counterparts usually get attributes like supportive, emotional, helpful, sensitive and fragile.

For our everyday life, it might be too strong a requirement to change how we speak. In a business setting, however, I argue that one should step back from time to time, reflect and think again: when I say a manager or a CEO, do I use a “he” in the next sentence? What if I used a “she”, how would it change my perspective? What if I think of my male colleague as being supportive, emotional, helpful, sensitive and fragile? A female leader behaving assertively, driven and strong, is she a great leader or a “bitch”? There is no one-size-fits-all, even though our brain suggests easy readings.

My personal experience in the past several years in Switzerland when looking for new professional challenges for the age of 50+ (I turned 60 this year) uncovered several biases. Common in recruitment, in job ads and in the reasons for rejection. The general understanding says that older candidates are expensive, out of touch with technology, unwilling to learn, not mobile or flexible. There is also the perception that senior workers will be sick more often and take advantage of the pension fund and other statutory benefits. 

That may be applicable to some or even most of them, I do not know. What I do know is that my life took me through several countries, forced me into various professional fields and in different career levels. I mastered all situations, brought up three millennials who now have excellent jobs, I even built a new successful business in a foreign culture. 

Every 2-3 years I get a new certification or vocational training in something that interests me. 

Yet, no wonder, I do not fit in a neat list of requirements that are expected from a regular job candidate in Switzerland. Basically, a linear resume with a field of study that I would work a number of years in. I ask myself, who is it that lacks flexibility? Am I really expensive? Maybe a potential employer needs a person skilled in overseeing a vast field of challenges without losing the focus. Quick assessment of risks in early stages is more effective than problem solving later. Maybe I do not want to work full-time and my income is not the most important parameter for a job, maybe I wish to have a role with a purpose. Sounds familiar? You probably connect these expectations with young generations.

So, I am now an orchid lover. As mentioned above, some people never want to hear about having orchids at home. They are too sensitive, demanding, need too much care. Do they really? 

Those who know and love orchids will tell you that they are easy to care for, blossom for months, return to bloom for years when you give them basic care. In the past, I would buy a blooming plant that would lose the blossoms within days and then turn into a “salad”, a green-only something. Very often, I would soon discover some busy leaf bugs or mites and throw the plant away. 

My orchids do not get leaf bugs.

However, one day I found out that one of my orchids had tiny, white bugs around the submerged roots. Another day, I realized that another orchid was not only getting wrinkly leaves, but it had also not blossomed for a long time.

Did I change my mind about orchids then? Did I throw them all away? I didn’t. Did I say: All of them get bugs and wrinkles? I didn’t. 

I have 13 orchids, so I know that the majority of them behave differently. Let some of them be unhappy, inflexible, in a bad mood. After all, they are just living beings. Give them a chance to show what they can do for you. 

Imagine! One of my oldest orchids even rewarded me with a soft fragrance over several months this summer (I know, these species are not supposed to scent, yet it did). Be open-minded and you will meet wonderful orchids – and people. They may not be easy to read at first, but they will reward you along the way.

About the Author

Monika Fischer is an experienced international professional in relocation and global mobility, a versatile client and account relationship manager. She is also well-versed in sales, real estate marketing, office, and project management and skilled in effective communication in international teams. 

Monika still has capacity outside her current commitments with us. She can help you on a contract or part-time basis.  You can contact her through LinkedIn mentioning GPT or email her for further contact at abcd.mf@gmail.com

 

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!

Last week, we talked about why building professional relationships is harder for expats. Now let’s discuss another side of the coin – how to create an inclusive environment for expats. If you were Dr. Rainer Schulz you’d probably ask yourself what you could do to build a safe and collaborative environment with people from different cultures.

1 – Deal with your Gollum

If you are an expat leader and want to create an environment where people trust each other, you will need to show vulnerability and role-model trustworthy behaviour. If you wish to be trusted you might have to show your weaknesses, your Achilles’ heel and let your team know how they can best support you. You might have to explain what triggers your emotional side, what makes you feel weak. You might even have to accept that you are not a superhero and that nobody apart from your “Gollum” is expecting this of you. My advice is that you seek coaching to work with the inner critic and put him in his cot.

2 – Work on your Implicit Assumptions and Biases

It could also be that you have formed assumptions about the host culture or about certain behaviours that are not appropriate and could end up impacting your relationship with your international team.
One way to address this is to bring up your implicit assumptions for discussion in a learning environment. This gives you the opportunity to not only correct your biases but also learn more about the host culture and its nuances. In my view, it always helps to attend intercultural competence development training.

3 – Reduce your Language Complex

Moving to another culture often comes with a form of language limitation. It could be that the host language is entirely different than your mother tongue or that you are speaking the same language with a different accent and different cultural references. For example, American English often uses references from Baseball in every slang, which doesn’t translate into our context in Europe.

Sometimes even a small difference in how you pronounce a word can create an entirely different meaning for a sensitive listener. Humour, sarcasm or irony often do not translate so well and we haven’t even discussed the pace of speech, tone of voice, the use of silence and interruptions. I try to listen more in conversations and take notes and often I have a hard time then to say something right away without the proper reflection time.

The older I get, the more introverted I feel and I find it quite hard to follow a meeting. I prefer to express myself through the written word. So, often I walk out of a meeting a bit lost. Maybe you know this feeling. I wish sometimes I could respond faster but the trouble is that knowing everything I know I need proper reflection time to come up with a good solution. My brain goes in overdrive.

You could make an effort to learn the host language better, use common phrases, get the dialect right and pronounce names correctly. This requires that you learn the names of everyone; from your clients, team members and colleagues, to the receptionist and mail person.

4 – Accept diverse Working Styles

Effective global teams allow for a variety of working styles and priority setting. However, many managers prefer to work with staff members who function like them. Unconsciously they find it easier. You can move out of your comfort zone and discuss differences in style with your team members directly. You could also address your preferences and request that team members accommodate your style to a certain degree or you could agree the checkpoints that you need in order to feel safe.

Also, if you prefer to be included in certain communications you should address that. When you are in your first 90 days with your new team in the host company, I recommend a symbolic kick-off meeting where you discuss roles and responsibilities, collaboration rules and principles and develop the short-term action plan together (assuming you move to a participatory, egalitarian culture such as Switzerland or Holland).

5 – Co-create Culture-Appropriate Roadmaps

Nowadays, discussing vision and mission is often perceived as an alibi exercise by management as the pace of change hardly allows for a long-term vision.

Hence, I recommend you focus more on the next six months and weekly actions to get closer to your vision. You should still create a vision board for yourself and maybe paint a picture or write about your vision. You could also write a mission statement for your area of responsibility. For your team though it is probably more important that you are fully present, your best self and have their back when they need you.

RockMeApp

Join our RockMe! program to become the Global Rockstar you would like to be. You can email angela@globalpeopletransitions.com for a chat or request access to our RockMeApp.

RockMe! Retreat

Have-Done-Lists are a great tool to boost your productivity. It is the opposite of the To-Do-List and was promoted by my coach educator Boudewijn Vermeulen. Like me, Boudewijn used to work in a consultancy company and he also coached a lot of lawyers. He knew about our ridiculous hours and how we were always trying to multitask to get more done in a shorter time frame but you probably know this situation from your own experience.

It’s 6.05 AM and you are just getting out of the shower… Your hair is toweled up and you light two candles. You get into your meditation pose and close your eyes. Then you realize that you have not set your alarm. So you get up and get your phone from the bathroom where you were reading an interesting article about the entrepreneur scene in Europe. Then you see that you have three new messages on WhatsApp…

At 8 AM you realize that your late and you hardly remember to take the train ticket, your badge, your purse and sunglasses and whoosh – you’re out of the door. You remember the candles, open the door again, blow them out and while you run to catch the train you think: “Didn’t I plan to meditate?” Sounds familiar?

We have too many distractions nowadays (oh no…I overcooked the pasta while writing this) that I often wonder how people get any work done at all. Have you ever caught yourself in the last 24 hours thinking “What am I actually doing right now?”. We have programs and routines and they do not seem to require the same brain activity as real challenges and often we are just keeping busy but our output is not really that relevant.

I saw several people walking on their Sunday stroll the other day and they all talked to someone on the phone via a headset. They did not just get a call. They planned to use their walking hour to speak to someone. I sometimes combine routine activities with other activities too. For example, I would watch a video or listen to a podcast while ironing. It works really well to combine such activities.

However, it does not help me in order to create. I prefer to mono-task and give my full attention to the task even if it seems mundane. I want to give my brain time to reflect and digest the input it receives during the week (and believe me there’s a lot of input). My creative side suffers when I don’t give my brain time to digest, reflect and organize. Unfortunately, with Social Media, I have such a love-hate relationship that I really need to discipline myself to get off them.

If you constantly feel that you are not getting enough relevant work done, I urge you to try the Have-Done-List.

1) Write down how you spend your time by using a “Have-Done-List”

I find the easiest way to do this is by having a notebook (old-school) next to my laptop or computer which just serves for this purpose (and other crazy ideas running through my head). You can add anything on this list that you have done during that day even this: “Sat down on a bench and enjoyed the sunshine in my face.”

Use Have-Done Diaries
Use Have-Done Diaries

2) Join our RockMe! Program and the RockMeRetreat

In RockMe!, we make weekly reflections a mandatory process. 15 minutes per week and you will be amazed at how much more you achieved than you thought. The thing is that if I don’t gently encourage you to do this you’d rather spend those fifteen minutes watching cat videos. For the youngsters amongst you, we have developed the RockMeApp.  If you are constantly feeling in a rat race you will profit from joining our RockMeRetreat.

Please share this post with all your rat lab friends and corporate clones.

Kind regards,

Angie Weinberger

PS: If you wish to have a fun chat with me about productivity please book a call with me here.