Category Archives: Global Mobility

by @angieweinberger

In Germany there is rumor and evidence that Generation Y is not willing to work abroad. Now obviously, it is not the most important topic on German news considering we have a humanitarian crisis in Europe and refugee camps being attacked. BUT if you are a Global Mobility Professional or a global line manager who needs internationally-minded and experienced team members you might start to worry about this Gen Y. 

The underlying tenor of the SPIEGEL article is that work-life balance seem to be more . Raising a family is a value again and men and women want to share the load of educating children and careers alike. Good news for women’s careers, bad news for Global Mobility.

Is this really a global phenomenon though?

If you check out the study “Talent Mobility 2020” by @pwc you will read (and maybe tweet)

“The millennial generation will view overseas assignments as a rite of passage, an outlook that will change the way workers and organisations approach overseas opportunities in the future.”

An experience

I don’t think that Gen Y is not willing to move abroad. For me Gen Y might be over-saturated. Gen Y professionals grew up with the option of studying and working abroad before they entered the workforce. In my days having studied and worked in another country was an achievement. Now it seems very normal.

I still believe though that the experience of a long-term assignment (minimum two years) is not replaceable with working in your home region only. It’s also a different experience moving abroad for studying or an internship when you are 25 and single compared to when you are 35, married and with two children.  Believe me: You still need the experience in today’s globalized world. Also, the world has more countries than Germany. A lot of Indians, Chinese and Brazilians will love to go on an international assignment if you ask them.

 

If you want to be an effective global professional you have to have had exposure to people from other cultures and you have to have FELT the difference between working for example for a manager with a hierarchical approach who might be French versus the participatory approach of a Swedish manager. It is not enough to read about this difference. You have to experience it.  When you feel the difference you can also pick the style that suits you best once you are leader.

When you never lived in a country where people have a different skin colour than you, you might have never been exposed to cultural dominance or the opposite. You might have never understood cultural bias or you cannot even differentiate faces of people with a different racial background…let alone pronounce their names correctly.

It’s all good and well to prioritize family over work but who says you cannot have family while you are on an international assignment. Who says you cannot bring your husband to Bangladesh if you are a successful career woman? I know a gay couple who moved to India and a father of four who worked in Thailand and I’ve spoken to Western career women who worked successfully in Abu Dhabi. It’s all possible with the right attitude, global competency and the right package. It also works when you have an international assignment business case with a repatriation plan.

This is where we might find the real issue. A lot of companies have decided that Gen Y “needs talent development”. So they have sent the young talents abroad without a real business case. Obviously then your experience might be flawed. When I was sent to India almost ten years ago it was an eye-opener for me and I worked really hard. We had a staff shortage and we needed to pull ourselves together in order to build a BPO from scratch. I learnt a ton about Indian culture and even more about myself in stressful projects. Maybe it is worthwhile checking what your assignment business case really is.

While we currently have a tendency of cultural regionalism we should not forget that the market growth is not happening in Switzerland and Germany but for example in Turkey, Malaysia, China and India or in the countries that had wars for the last decades such as Iraq. If you want to be successful you might not even have a choice other than moving around for your career.

Please share your view on moving to other countries on international assignments (no matter which generation you belong to).

 

2014-05-08 16.50.16

 

I have been reading this great publication so I thought I’d share it while we wait to get back into work:
“Competitive advantage in the digital age lies not in securing the best technology, but in using and managing talent well – and that demands truly great leadership. But this is leadership in a radically transparent world, where organisations are far more complex, where ideas are a commodity, and where talent is mobile and autonomous. Leaders must create a culture where innovation thrives, ideas spark into life and people – whoever and wherever they are – are bound together in a common cause.”
 
#leadership

by Angie Weinberger

We work with a lot of highly motivated Global Mobility Consultants but sometimes we feel they should get their act together and feel more passionate about their work.global-606828_1280

Most GMCs I know are well educated at least to Bachelor degree, speak several languages and have good business acumen or psychological understanding. Some are tax advisors or immigration lawyers. What unites us is that we breathe Global Mobility and we are approachable people with a big heart. But what I don’t get is why I still meet people in this profession who complain about the job.

It’s hard to work in GM if you are not passionate about global people

Once in a while though you might feel a bit frustrated. It could be because you just worked so hard to fight through a contract and did overtime to have the assignee on host payroll on time…when the business line manager calls to tell you that the assignment is off.

Or you spent hours in conference calls to work out a good compensation package for an assignee…when you are told by your manager that the assignee stays back in home because she or he just negotiated too hard.

And these are only the slightly annoying days

Remember when you fought for keeping policy and then the boss of your manager overruled your decision with a simple “Don’t overcomplicate everything…”.

Or when you were told by an assignee that they had the best moving experience and then your key account manager tells you that the assignee was adding moving goods after the quote which will make it impossible for them to work at the price they had quoted you. Or that day when an assignee called you to tell you that she had just moved into a hotel but her visa and work permit process did not seem to have been approved yet and you help her find a hotel as you feel bad even though the delay had been caused by the authority.

As GM Professionals we deal with a lot of issues every day but often we don’t get the recognition we deserve.

When I was at the start of my career I had a folder where I placed “positive feedback”. I got really lovely emails and printed them. This folder I collected for the rainy days…but nothing prepared me for the days of real frost.

Winter is coming

The “winter” (as GoT-fans might say) in my career came fast. One of my assignees died in a car accident, another one had a heart attack and one of our US assignees died on September 11th. All within about two years. You are so close to your assignee population that losing an assignee is the worst that can ever happen in your professional life. I became an expert on death in service. Then I moved into another role (with other challenges…).

Fast forward to about 10 years later I was sitting at the hairdresser on a Saturday morning. I read everything on Twitter related to #Fukushima. We had a crisis in Japan.

With the support of SOS International and three hours later my assignee with spouse and two small children were on the way to Tokyo airport. Our assignee was back on his desk at “home” on Monday. Many other assignees did not find the time to leave Japan on time during the Tsunami as their companies were not prepared to deal with emergencies. Even though I was criticized by our CEO for what he thought was an “emotional” and hastened decision in the end I knew I did right. I will never forget the moment when I met our assignee afterwards.

Maybe this event is one of those reasons why I will never leave Global Mobility. Once you get sucked in into this world it is hard to leave. Another reason is that the colleagues you meet they are also big-hearted people.
For me GM is one of the most interesting areas of HR. Our work can be critical to the business and we are subject matter experts. No one will say “Oh that balance sheet…I could have calculated this with a bit of common sense…” (which is a typical reaction you get as an HR person when you want to implement a new idea).

Advice to my less experienced colleagues in Global Mobility

Dear junior colleagues I advise you to pick your battles wisely. Use your energy to support your assignees and your business line managers but remember that most of your discussions are not life and death situations. Learn to focus on solutions not problems.

Invest in personal relationships to your assignee population. You are more effective when assignees trust you blindly.

Prepare yourself for emergencies of your expat population so you know how to react to such a situation like a robot. Ask for security training from your corporate security. Go through the same training as your expats. Learn everything about high-risk countries and how to deal with natural disasters, political turmoil and health issues of assignees.

Attend intercultural trainings as often as possible to understand the host cultures and your HR colleagues in those countries better.
Manage at least 200 cases in your early career so you understand the breadth of the work. Then find a focus topic that you are interested in and deepen your expertise there. Examples include tax, social security, immigration and employment law.

Build up a strong professional network of GM colleagues as they will be able to have advice when you deal with a new country or when you deal with a special topic that you did not encounter yet. Your network will also encourage you and help you gain perspective in case you ever feel frustrated with the work.

And if all else fails you can always call me. We offer a new program for GM Professionals called “FlyMe!”. Reach out to me if you would like to discuss anything.

 

 

Have you ever wondered what you are doing there in Shanghai, Pune or Moscow? Is this international assignment really a career step for you or do you feel that the tasks you have are less challenging than in your previous role? Have you felt a bit downgraded even though you might earn more money than ever?

It could be that you are a victim of a corporate strategy that does not really work out the international assignment business case but just sends “talents” abroad to give them “international exposure” or you were sent abroad to fill a gap, to replace a critical key person on a short notice. It was easier to send an assignee than to hire from the local market. Maybe your knowledge, skills and experience also justify that you were selected for the role but still…

You feel you are not working up to your full potential.

Here are five tips how you can improve such a situation:

  • Draft your international assignment business case by showing the business value of your assignment. Show facts and figures about how you can improve sales, research or processes in the new location. Discuss quarterly targets with your host sponsor. Ensure that these are filed and reported back to your home location.
  • Address the issue with your home sponsor on your next home leave. Discuss what you think is lacking for your career development. Make sure that the sponsor sees your development as a responsibility and regularly connect with her or him.
  • Journal your experience as it might be a perception error due to culture shock. Speak with an intercultural career advisor about critical incidents in the host location that give you the feeling that you are “an outsider” or “off track” or “performing badly”.
  • Ensure that your training and development history is updated in your home location regularly and that you keep your profile updated on any skill sites (internally and externally). Update LinkedIn at least every three months.
  • Build your professional network in the host location by attending business networks, industry group events and seminars. You will profit from your connections even when you move to another location.Reizigers 4

Traditional Vs Virtual Teams

Unlike traditional teams, virtual teams don’t meet at the same location daily which is becoming more of a feasible option in this century. Globalisation has created this concept which is a common phenomenon in large organizations as well as small businesses. In one recent survey by HBR, 79% of employees said they always or frequently work in dispersed teams. They define virtual teams as “work groups which (1) have some core members who interact primarily through electronic means, and (2) are engaged in interdependent tasks — i.e. are truly teams and not just groups of independent workers)”
Like any other team, these virtual teams also require proper leadership and management for optimum results. Let’s start with why we should opt for virtual teams.
virtual-teams
Advantages of Virtual Teams:

• Companies can bring global talent together when projects start, while employees can enjoy the flexibility of working from where they live according to their schedule.
• Organisations can cut the cost of relocation, traveling, real estate and other business expenditures. Businesses that use virtual teams to build global presence, outsource their operations or/and need less common expertise or skills from people who are reluctant to relocate from their home location.
• Virtual teams add diversity to a project. It is always better to brainstorm ideas to add creativity into work process, these virtual teams are ideal to do that. They also enable organisations to network globally with the fresh perspective of every country.

Challenges of Virtual Teams:

• As compared to traditional teams, virtual teams might be hard to get right and hard to manage. It might not always be easy to bring people from different cultures at one platform and get them to collaborate on a project.
• They can fall short of goals and motivation because of the way they communicate. They rely on modern technology, emails, video conferences, virtual meetings etc., which takes away the full spectrum and dynamics of in office face-to-face-exchange. Thus in order to excel, each member needs to be self-motivated.
• Collaboration within a project might cause delays in the working on the project.

Tips To Manage Virtual Teams:

• Build Trust

The first and foremost requirement is to build and maintain trust between team members. This helps unblock their communication and sustains motivation of each person involved. If they can’t trust each another, they will have issues in working together which is the essence of virtual teams.

• Clear Goals, Standards & Rules

Managers need to pay attention towards setting clear goals of each member, as well as the team combined. Performance standards and communication rules must also be clearly defined to avoid misunderstandings and harmful assumptions. In addition, they should also be clear on tasks and processes.

• Constant Communication

Team members should be able to communicate clearly, constructively and positively, even in the absence of nonverbal cues of face to face communication. Optimum use of technology for this purpose is a requirement.

• Build a Team Rhythm

This is much more crucial for global team to have regular meetings so that they stay on track, ideally the same day and time each week. Create meeting agendas in advance with clear agreement on communication protocol and timings. You will probably have time zone conflicts so don’t put the time zone burden on same members every time, instead follow a strict rotation to practice fairness and avoid biasness.

• Global Leader for Global Teams

Develop into a leader who appreciates the experience of managing global teams. Set up one to one performance management meetings with your team members. Make sure that these are taking place periodically and give feedback based on those. Let your team know how they contribute into the success of your project so that they get a feeling of ownership.

How do you manage your global virtual team? What is your experience?