Category Archives: Global Mobility
Giving back

Guest post by Brooke Faulkner

Whether on a short or long-term assignment, expatriates should take advantage of all that Global Mobility has to offer. Being appointed to new locations can further your professional development, help bring the best professional practices to new places, and help your company expand its global network. This is all not to mention that on a personal fulfilment note, Global Mobility is a perfect opportunity to experience new cultures, meet new people, and learn new languages.

Businesses who appoint expats may know of the business advantages, and they may even know of the benefits of global mobility. However, there are side effects of global mobility, and a significant drawback of an appointed expat is that they may become lonely in their selected location.

An expat can alleviate this sense of loneliness by giving back to their new local community. An expat is in a very unique position to experience not only new cultures intimately, but potentially better business operations for their company. Giving back to your new community can make an expat feel less like a tourist and more of local.

Volunteer


Being an expat can be especially tough on families. Sometimes, duty stations will require you to leave your family behind and as a result, expats can become very lonely. However, things such as Skype and other video conferencing apps can alleviate some of these feelings of loneliness. In instances of an expat feeling isolated in a new region, volunteering can help you connect to your new community while helping to improve it.

Especially if you are an expat in a developing nation, there are many nonprofit organizations and social enterprises you can sign up with to make a difference in your area. While volunteering, you will meet new people, and may even make new friends from another culture. In fact, just by spending your downtime toward something productive and alongside other like-minded people, you can root yourself in the community and become more sociable — removing that sense of reclusiveness.

Not sure where to start? Many hospitals may be looking for help to facilitate their population-based health services, and if you live in a region where people are suffering from noncommunicable diseases, you can lend your services to make a difference in your new community. Volunteering is not only a great way of encouraging a positive global community, but you will meet new people and make new friends.

Spend Money in the Community


You may understand that small mom-and-pop stores benefit enormously from your business. Especially in developing nations, a vendor will appreciate you purchasing from them, as your money will go directly to them and their family. Buying locally not only supports local vendors, but will improve the local economy overall. It is essential in these instances to remember that no matter what amount of money you spend in your area, it will make a profound impact — especially to those in developing nations.

It is not hard to imagine that you will be a welcomed face if you have a reputation for spending money and time with local vendors and businesses. Spending locally is also an opportunity to make new friends, as local vendors and shops provide a more personalized service, and these businessmen and women will likely set aside time to converse with someone they appreciate. Get to know the local vendors in your new community and become a friendly face around town.

Help Your Fellow Expats


As an expat — now hopefully treated as a local resident as a result of your community contributions — you have the opportunity to help other expats feel at home in their new location. You know that a new expat may feel isolated just as you may have when starting out, so wouldn’t you want to make them feel included?

Show an expat who is new to the area the ropes and pay it forward by including them in your volunteer efforts. Make sure they understand the importance of local spending, and introduce them to vendors who you have become friends with by doing the same. With more and more people volunteering and spending locally, you’ll see improvements in the surrounding community.

It is easy to feel like you stick out like a sore thumb as an expat. You can also feel like you don’t belong in your new community — but local spending and volunteering can quickly take you from feeling like an outsider to being a friendly neighborhood face.

Airport

by Brooke Faulkner

Retraining into a different career or opening a small business isn’t easy under the best of circumstances. When you’ve decided to start over completely in a new country, the circumstances are rarely ideal. The pressure is on for so many reasons — moving is expensive, and you may only have one chance to make it. There may not be family and friends close by to pick you up if you fall. You’re likely being inundated with new experiences and culture shock, and maybe learning new skills is the last thing on your mind.

If you’re looking to take a new step in your career, however, or at starting a business in a new place, spending extra time on acquiring a business degree could be well worth it. Let’s go over the pros and cons.

As so many other people have proven, it’s very possible to thrive in a new country, and all that pressure might just be the motivation you need to start on a path that truly makes you happy.

The big questions are:

Should You Retrain With a Degree?

The short answer to this question is: it depends. In countries like America, where student debt is skyrocketing, it can be a difficult question and dependent on the resources available. In other countries like Germany, where tuition fees are subsidized, it’s a much easier proposition.

It’s impossible to say “yes, absolutely” or “no, definitely not,” because the world is full of different types of success. Some college dropouts go on to become extremely successful, while many jobs with high salaries won’t consider candidates without relevant degrees. Especially in the business world, roles and job titles are becoming more specialized, and companies hiring for management, finance, and other demanding roles like to see a strong background like a business degree.

As someone new to the country, you won’t have a local job history, and so a degree can provide the proof that you’re knowledgeable and skilled enough for the job.

Does the Type of Degree and Location Matter?

In a word, yes. One of the big questions to ask is where to get a degree to support a career transition. If you’re moving to somewhere where education is cheaper, you may want to wait. If you’re moving to somewhere that education is more expensive, it might be better to plan ahead and work on evening classes or online courses before you move.

Another angle to consider is how the country you’re moving to views the schools in the country you’re moving from. Some degrees are transferable from country to country, but many are not. If that’s the case, you might be wasting your time investing in higher education before you move, only to find out it’s not usable! Different countries will have different professional standards, and different demands in the job market. It may very well be that the country you’re moving from has more prestigious institutions. If the country you’re moving to doesn’t offer courses in a language you’re familiar with, that’s another reason to seek higher education before you move.

Online courses are a potential solution to this problem. You may be able to start studying abroad before you move. Or it might be in your best interests just to wait and plan on deciding what kind of new skills and education you need after you move.

Financing Options

Financial aid differs from country to country. The availability and amount of financial aid, and whether you qualify, should have a large impact on your decision. The amount of financial aid from government programs might be better in your home country, or the country you’re moving to might have specific grants and loans for immigrants or international students. Going to a country on a student visa first can often be a stepping stone toward future residence. Germany, for example, has abolished all tuition fees — even for international students.

Starting a Business in Another Country?

Some countries, such as Canada give preference to immigrants who are looking to start a business. Merit-based visa applications can be helped along greatly if you can prove that you’re going to create jobs. Do you need a business degree for that? Not necessarily! Canada, for example, just requires that you acquire support from designated Canadian investors. But you might need a degree to convince investors in your capabilities.

Bill Gates famously dropped out of school. He went on to build one of the biggest companies in the world. Steve Jobs dropped out too. In fact, there are plenty of stories of dropouts who made it big. As inspiring as it is, though, don’t let the hype cloud your judgement. For every famous dropout, there are so many more dropouts who don’t make it. Since we see the famous ones talked about a lot, it’s easy to buy into the dropout myth — that higher education is not necessary.

While it’s absolutely possible to succeed as a business owner without a business degree, getting the right degree can help reduce the risk of failure immensely — and in the business world, the risk of failure is very high. According to Investopedia: “The SBA states that only 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10. The SBA goes on to state that only 25% make it to 15 years or more.”

Getting the right education gives you the knowledge to start up successfully and future-proof your business against mistakes made early on, that become disastrous later. You’ll learn a lot of the details about running a small business that you might otherwise not know or learn without training and mentorship. You’ll learn lessons the easy way, in a safe environment, instead of learning them during business failure.

So, is a business degree worth it? Honestly, that’s up to you. Like everything in life, a degree’s worth is in how it’s used. The wrong degree could be a waste or a hindrance, but the right one could set you up for success in a way nothing else can.

In many cases what you’ll want is good information. That could come in the form of a career or academic advisor based in the country you’re interested in moving to.

Need further guidance?

Check out Angie Weinberger’s Global Career Workbook or sign up to our website as a Reader of the Global People Club Sandwich.

Degrees in Global Mobility:

Please mention AngieWeinberger as a reference and contact her if you want any advice on the Master Course. Angie has gone through it herself too and is a lecturer in the course.

You can find her Master Thesis here.


Brooke Faulkner

Brooke Faulkner is a writer in the Pacific Northwest who has conducted business all over the world. You can find more of her writing on Twitter via @faulknercreek

#digitalnomads #knowledgeworkers #globalmobility


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

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

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

 

Five Gaps in the Global Mobility Approach

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

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

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

Trend 1 Financial crisis led to budget cuts

With the global financial crisis, we have also experienced travel and expat budgets being reduced to a minimum. That led to a number of local moves and assignee experiences, in general, got worse. Also, repatriates often came back to receive a severance package and were unemployment in their home country afterward. We also see that companies merge, acquire, outsource and offshore so that job security for all staff is non-existent. Especially in the EU, many countries are new to this kind of unstable job market and do not yet have the tools and systems in place to have a fluid and flexible workforce. Cherished and spoilt expats dwell on the verge of desperation because they have been made redundant at the end of their contract.

Trend 2 Local Plus is the new black 

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

Trend 3 The Talent Gap

We now lack the critically needed talent in important growth areas. Programmers and engineers are examples of professionals that are in high demand. In Germany, I heard that it is also hard to find lower qualified staff such as hotel staff. There is certainly a mismatch and gap between demand and supply. There are a number of reasons related to the sourcing process as well. Recruiting has become a science and needs to go through a transformation. Recruiters need to learn to cope with the demand and supply in a globalized market of talents. Language is still one of the main barriers to an influx of highly skilled migrants in Europe. Even though we launched the green card and blue card initiative we have not managed to attract the potential and talent needed within the EU for example in IT.

Trend 4 Health and Security concerns hinder free movement

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

Trend 5 Global Migration Challenges

2015 has been a year where global migration became pop culture. The term “refugee crisis” was coined in Europe. Even though we have had proportionately more refugees coming to Europe since the Arab spring started in 2011 in Tunisia, we all had more interaction with refugees in 2015. While I am personally concerned about the right-wing propaganda, I do understand that the intercultural and societal challenges of integrating refugees at least temporarily are considerable. As an HR Manager, I am concerned about discriminatory practices. Example: Geneva airport security personnel.

All of this has a led to Global Mobility being flawed, expats not wanting to go on international assignments anymore and overwhelmed GM Professionals who feel the pressure from all ends as they are in the firing line of assignees, business line, talent, HR and Finance managers. In addition to having been undervalued, overworked and squeezed by their interest groups classical GM tasks have been outsourced to Third-Party Service Providers and Shared Service Centers.

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

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

There is a need to change the approach to Global Mobility.

The more complex our global markets become, the more we need to re-evaluate our assumptions of how we run international assignments.

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

2 We need to ensure that there is an international assignment business case showing assignment drivers and targets, expected gains or opportunities, assignment costs, and a repatriation plan.

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

4 We need to upgrade the GM Professionals and the GM function needs to sit closer to business development and potentially move out of HR. We need to up-skill the case managers and train GM Professionals for a consultative approach where they can work as trusted partners with the business line managers. (I have extensively explained this topic in an article last year for The International HR Advisor).

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

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

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

 

 

 


By Brooke Faulkner

As the world becomes more connected, many businesses are dreaming of expanding into other global markets. In fact, 54 percent of US companies already have some foreign market involvement, according to statistics from Rutgers University, and a whopping 80 percent of business executives agree that U.S. companies should expand internationally for long-term business growth. Increased digitization may make foreign expansion seem like a piece of cake, but in actuality, many factors contribute to realizing success as a truly global business. Here are three things to consider when conducting business abroad:

Invest in Workforce Diversity and Hiring

The HR component of a business is often looked at as a follow-up measure after the integral team has established a presence in a new market. However, when doing business abroad, it is vital that HR and hiring processes are a part of the globalization vision from the very beginning. Since it’s critical to find the right balance between international structures and local processes, senior leadership must give due importance to HR systems and hiring processes.

Global success is a product of culturally knowledgeable leadership and management teams. Thus, diversity of board makeup is very important. In fact, “83 percent of executives believe that diversity has enhanced brand reach and reputation.” Diverse leaders and employees are integral when expanding overseas — not only to connect with local consumers, but also to understand local rules, regulations, and traditions. For example, the board of directors at MasterCard include executives from the United Kingdom, India, the United States, Mexico, Belgium, and Hong Kong. It is often more prudent to use talent from overseas to lead teams working within a specific region. 

That being said, businesses must be aware of the visa, work permit, taxes, and social security procedures required for individuals to live and work in another country. To be globally efficient, a company must have a Global Mobility Team that is agile and adaptive.

Have a great Global Mobility Team

Consider the example of London-based Diageo, a premium beverages company with offices in 80 countries and a presence in about 180 markets. Diageo has created the appropriate Global Mobility Team for different markets by using a customized shared services model. This model provides consistent service to employees and can easily be adapted to adhere to local market requirements. The company’s two centers in Europe and North America serve as virtual hubs,  providing faster service to employees in terms of processing paperwork, legal requirements and more, wherever they are.

Within Europe, crossing borders seem easy but cross-border workers might trigger immigration, tax and social security risks for the company. It is therefore vital to work with service providers who monitor all cross-border activity. 

International Marketing Campaigns

Marketing campaigns change drastically when doing business abroad. It’s not enough to simply transpose a campaign used at home to another country. When taking a brand overseas, one must remember that what works for one set of people might not necessarily work for another.

Consider this Procter & Gamble example of doing business in Japan: When the company started selling Pampers in Japan, it used the image of a stork delivering a baby on its packaging. This image worked wonders in the U.S., but not so much in Japan. The company later found that the Japanese market was quite confused by this imagery, as stories of storks bringing babies aren’t part of Japanese folklore. Rather, the Japanese stories center around giant floating peaches bringing babies to parents. Had Procter & Gamble chosen culturally relevant imagery for their campaign, they would probably have had more success in Japan. Thus, it’s very important to know one’s audience, and thoroughly research culture and traditions prior to executing an international marketing campaign.

Check the Risks of Technology

The role of technology cannot be ignored when it comes to globalization. For one, technological advancements allow for rapid, real-time communications enabling customers to purchase products made anywhere around the globe. This, in turn, allows for pricing and quality information to be available to customers at the click of a button, resulting in very informed buyers with high expectations. Keeping the impact of technology in mind, business leaders must understand that they will lose pricing power — especially the power to set different prices in different global markets.

Secondly, it is technology that makes virtual hubs like Diageo’s possible. Two of the many benefits of digitization, especially relevant to doing business abroad, is the ability for employees to work remotely and the capability for global collaboration. So in case of a work emergency, where it isn’t possible to quickly hire local help or relocate an entire team to another country for a short-term assignment, cross-continental telecommuting makes for a viable solution. 

It can also help with retaining workers. Employees are more likely to stay at a job that allows them to live their best life. Better retention rates mean decreasing knowledge drain and less money spent on new employees.

However, this ease of access as gained through technological developments does come with its set of risks. Borderless workforces might be convenient, but the constant online communication and exchange of data put the company and/or customer information at risk of being stolen or hacked into. In fact, a new report by IDG Connect and Cibecs has highlighted that 50 percent of companies have “suffered data loss during the last 12 months.”

With this in mind, Ontrack recommends endpoint-focused data protection and data recovery investment as something all firms with a remote workforce or online capabilities should invest in. recovery budgets, with regularly-updated plans in place to restore lost data in the event of a mishap. Whether it’s simply selling products and services online or safeguarding sensitive internal data, effective data management and security is an absolute must for doing business abroad.

While expanding a business internationally may yield high profits and return on investment, the challenges in going global must not be overlooked. Therefore, it is vital for management to be well-versed with the multiple factors that come into play when conducting business abroad. A strong partner in the process is vital. For an early exploration of Global Mobility sign up to Angie Weinberger’s free upgrade of the “Global Mobility Workbook” (v3) here.

Brooke Faulkner

Brooke Faulkner is a writer in the Pacific Northwest who has conducted business all over the world. You can find more of her writing on Twitter via @faulknercreek

The Global Mobility Workbook

Global Mobility Professionals,

Since 1999 I have worked in the Global Mobility and international HR space and there is not one day where I do not learn anything new! In the year 2000, I sat in the last row of a very expensive Global Mobility seminar in Berlin. I was about three months into a role that was at least one shoe size too big for my experience but I must have made a big impression in the interview (and my future boss was probably desperate) so I landed my dream job which was to be the “HR International Advisor for the Asia Pacific responsible for around 80 assignees and representatives of a large global bank.

The seminar was a waste of money on me. It was far too specific and detailed. The cases were more the exceptions than the general rule and I am happy that at least I remembered when to apply the “183-day-rule* in a case of double taxation and when not even to bother.

We are NOT relocation professionals even though we often engage them. Later in my Human Resources career, I noticed that there is really not a lot of good advice out there for international HR professionals PLUS if you say you work in Global Mobility a lot of people think you are doing the relocation only.

When talking to other HR Professionals and senior managers they often underestimate the complexity of Global Mobility and one of the remarks that still makes me angry is when Global Mobility Professionals are called “ADMIN” because what we do requires an enormous knowledge and skill set.

If you are one of my colleagues you probably share my view that Global Mobility Professional have to be

  • Highly analytical (you are a comp and cost expert).
  • Highly technical (you are an expert on tax, social security, immigration, employment law).
  • Highly experiential (you have to have moved 200 expats to know your job).
  • Highly sensitive (you work with talents and their families in a phase of high stress).
  • Highly intercultural (you speak at least four languages and deal with numerous cultures).

One of our challenges globally is that there is no formal Global Mobility education. As mentioned in my recent article in the International HR Adviser, Spring 2018, we need to build up our own professional standards while we need to learn to work more in line with the businesses and clients we serve.

We need to step up and become real consultants. We have come a long way already and I wish to guide you further.

Sign up for the free upgrade of The Global Mobility Workbook, 3rd Edition (2018). You’ll also be the first to know when the book will be published.

Kind regards

Angela Weinberger