Category Archives: The Global Mobility Workbook
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Biases and prejudices are burdens that confuse the past, threaten the future and render the present inaccessible” ~  Maya Angelou. 

Although international organizations have Diversity and Inclusion objectives, in the vague sense of it as it were, yet according to a report by KPMG, 2018, many are falling short due to failure to understand how Diversity and Inclusion impact Global Mobility programs. 

Another survey by KPMG highlighted that the majority of Global Mobility Programs do not have specific Diversity and Inclusion objectives as part of their department’s strategy. 70% of the companies that do have diversity and inclusion practices in place stated that this was due to a strong business case for diversity across all areas of the business. 

At this juncture, it is important that we define “Female and Minority Talent”. While what you consider as a minority will depend largely on your home base country, where your headquarters is based, I recommend that you consider all of these groups:

  • BIPOC: The acronym BIPOC refers to black, indigenous, and other people of color and aims to emphasize the historic oppression of black and indigenous people.
  • LGBTQ+: LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, and other sexual identities and genders.
  • Religious and cultural minorities in your home and host countries.

We previously discussed the obstacles women face in Global Mobility. We also raised the why question. This is about the how.

As rightly posited by Tom Paton, diversity is slower to gain reception in areas where prejudice or centuries of deep-rooted behavior may persist. Unconscious bias is when a Sponsoring Manager is preparing to send only white men abroad to fill a business gap. 

What you will see is often unconscious bias against female talent because the Sponsoring Manager assumes that a woman has a house to keep and children to raise. Sometimes the prejudice is just as simple as “women don’t do this kind of job or can’t work in this country”. There is a strong stereotype that women with children don’t want to work abroad. 

Meanwhile, data shows that 88% of women feel that they need to go on an international assignment to advance their careers (PWC, 2016). The study shows that 73% of women in Financial Services wish more transparency on opportunities overseas. The lack of transparency in overseas opportunities leads minority groups and women to be underrepresented as they are not aware of the opportunities. 

Consequently, companies have smaller talent pools as the communication of overseas opportunities is often rather ambiguous. The outcome of the survey by KPMG brings a little hope in this aspect, as nearly half of the companies surveyed indicated that the review of their Global Mobility processes will result in broadening communication to employees about opportunities. 

We all want to maximize the potentials of our pool of resources. 

There is enough evidence that companies having both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity are more likely than ever to outperform their less diverse peers. 

McKinsey’s most recent report ‘’Diversity Wins’’ outlines that companies in the top quartile for gender-diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth-up quartile. The outcome for ethnic and cultural diversity is equally appealing. Therefore, the business case for diversity and inclusion is clear, it is time for us to take matters into our own hands.

Here are our top six tactics to give female and minority talent a seat at the Global Mobility table.

1 – Identify Strong Candidates: This boils down to eliminating all forms of prejudices, stereotypes, and biases. Regardless of being male or female, it is important to create a system of identifying those who are qualifying for international work and projects. The key points to consider for an ideal selection are performance, potential, and if needed proficiency with the relevant languages. Use your performance and potential data and don’t just rely on “gut” feeling about candidates. Make sure that you have “hard skills” added to your HR System so you can search talent by language or IT skills.

2 – Select Candidates Based on Intercultural Sensitivity Tests: Every candidate that meets the requirement for being sent on an assignment should go through an intercultural sensitivity test.  We must stop making the assumption that women with children are unwilling to take up an international assignment.  Not only can women be willing to receive an assignment, but they are just as capable of accomplishing great things and succeeding as their male colleagues.  On another note, the potentially stressful or dangerous context in the host location might be a deterrent for some employees, but before assuming, have a conversation with your potential assignee. You have to ensure that your selection process is based on data and facts, rather than sentiments. Work with a professional to assess their intercultural competence. At GPT, we use assessment tools such as the Intercultural Development Inventory or  Individual Cultural Blueprint Indicator.

3 – Provide Global Guidelines for Recruiters: This sounds simple yet very profound. We have witnessed the surge of different “expatriates” such as Cross-Border Commuters, Virtual Assignees, Global Nomads, International Business Travelers, and Commuters. In Global Mobility, if we want to be inclusive, we need to offer support to all of these people, their families, and their needs have to matter to us. Here are my ideas for your global recruiting guidelines. 

4 – Enhance Intercultural Intelligence Across all Levels: “Intercultural intelligence means suspending judgment until enough information about the other person becomes available; paying attention to the situation; cross-cultural training that increases isomorphic attributions, appropriate affect, and appropriate behaviors; matching personal and organizationally attributes; increasing the probability of appropriate organizational practices”  Now is the time to promote intercultural intelligence within your workforce population. Offer “Unconscious Bias” training for your senior managers and ensure your senior managers lead a diverse workforce. Expose them to other cultural styles.

5 – Offer an open Job Platform: Most companies work like Twitter. You have fans and followers and people who watch what you are doing closely. Instead of organizing talent programs, you can make your global job market transparent. All talents want to be given a fair chance at success and you need to find ways to motivate more introverted busy bees as well. Part-timers often need more recognition and sponsors who help them be seen for opportunities. 

You might want to rewrite all your job postings to be more inclusive and reduce the white male-dominated language. You also need to reduce the profiles so they match real professionals. As I mentioned in “The Global Career Workbook” most job profiles I’m reading have been written for Superman and Wonderwoman. According to a study by Hewlett-Packard, women only apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the requirements while men already do so if they meet 60% of them. This finding is often quoted in articles to prove that women lack confidence. It is never wrong to boost up your confidence, but the reason behind the figures seems to be something else. 

According to an article by Tara Sophia Mohr, the reason why women apply less quickly is because of the bias that women need to meet more qualifications than their counterparts. Secondly, from a young age girls are being taught to follow the rules and are being rewarded for doing so. This often leads to a rule-following habit that makes women believe that if they don’t meet all the requirements, that they shouldn’t waste their or the HR Manager’s time and energy. So, don’t post vacancies that only heroes can fulfill as you will miss out on many potential candidates. 

6 – Target Your External Job Ads to Female and Minority Talent: When you post a job profile on LinkedIn, you can pay for as much or as little exposure as you want and target it to a very specific audience. Indeed, if you manage your campaign effectively by targeting Female and Minority Talent you not only show your support, you also help your brand. Mention that you wish to hire women and minorities explicitly. Posting jobs online is like getting applicants in real-time. Online announcements can help you either increase your efforts to attract more candidates or even prevent candidates from applying if you’ve already found the right person for the job. If you are looking for younger recruits in particular, then e-recruitment is probably the single most effective and efficient strategy possible; in the US, for instance, 98% of the 18–29 age group are active internet users. It can help if you build a fan base through a specific topic and use this fan base for building your female and minority talent pipeline.

We’re offering a series of free workshops in advance of our upcoming #HireMeExpress fall group program.

Workshop 1:  Partnering Masters – Building Effective Relationships 

with Angie Weinberger
Thursday, 24 June 21 

from 4 PM to 5 PM CET

Workshop 2: Powerful Missions – Having a Voice in a Sea of Noise 

with Angie Weinberger
Thursday, 1 July 21 

from 4 PM CET to 5 PM CET

Workshop 3: Planning Money – Bringing Financial Security to your Life 

with Keren-Jo Thomas
Thursday, 8 July 21 

from 4 PM to 5 PM CET.

We promise friends, fame, and finances.

#hiremeexpress #humantouch #globalmobility #expats #digitalnomads #networking #minorities #diversityinclusion #financialplanning #retirement #friends #fame #jobalert #jobs

Please sign up here to receive all updates on our workshops, the 19 POINT FRESH RESUME CHECKLIST, and our special offers:  http://eepurl.com/hitraT.

RELATED POSTS:

Why only 25 percent of international assignees are women

https://www.sundaebean.com/2019/04/29/121-why-only-25-percent-of-international-assignees-are-women/

The Ultimate Holiday Reading List for Minority Expats to Reinvent Themselves

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/the-ultimate-holiday-reading-list-for-expats-to-reinvent-themselves-start-2021-with-a-plan/ 

Why we Need to Push for More Minority and Female Expats in Global Mobility

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/why-we-need-to-push-for-more-minority-and-female-expats-in-global-mobility/

Every Expat and Spouse Should have the Best Experience – Why we Need to Transform Global Mobility

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/every-expat-and-spouse-should-have-the-best-experience-why-we-need-to-transform-global-mobility/

https://www.globesmart.com/blog/four-ways-organizations-can-support-their-lgbtq-employees/

References:

KPMG. (2018a). Inclusion and Diversity: How Global Mobility can help move the Needle. KPMG. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle-FINAL.pdf

Kramer, S. (2018). How Inclusion and Diversity Impact Global Mobility Programs [Report]. Retrieved 15 June 2021, from https://fowmedia.com/how-inclusion-and-diversity-impact-global-mobility/ 

McKinsey & Company. (2020). Diversity Wins: How inclusion matters [Report].
https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured%20insights/diversity%20and%20inclusion/diversity%20wins%20how%20inclusion%20matters/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters-vf.pdf

Paton, T. (2021). DiversityBusiness.com | News. Retrieved 15 June 2021, from http://www.diversitybusiness.com/news/diversity.magazine/99200881.asp 

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

Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified. (2014). Retrieved 15 June 2021, from https://hbr.org/2014/08/why-women-dont-apply-for-jobs-unless-theyre-100-qualified 

Rise of Women

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

For George, 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. However, 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. 

I bet it’s not the first time you are faced with this scenario. Wrong assumptions and stereotypes are in fact one of the reasons for which women continue to be highly under-represented within the expat population

However, there are a few positive sides that make the rise of women in Global Mobility look somewhat brighter than some time ago. Take policy and awareness for example. In 2011, only 12% of CEOs saw poor retention of female talent as a key business challenge, and only 11% were planning policy changes to attract and retain more female workers (PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey). Yet, just a few years later, 64% of CEOs worldwide confirm that they finally have a diversity strategy and 13% of them are planning to adopt one over the next 12 months (PwC, 2016a).

What’s to Celebrate?

When we look at data, it’s important to break it down. If it’s true that the percentage of expat women swings between  just 14%  and 25% (Mercer, 2017; PwC, 2016a; PwC, 2016b), we cannot bypass the significant differences between regions and industry sectors. For example, while expat women in the energy and high tech sectors are only 8-11%, the percentage for the life science sector is 23%. Companies in the service and retail sectors also generally tend to have a higher percentage of women expats. 

Other research (Communicaid, 2017) provides an even more optimistic picture, showing us how the proportion of expat women grew slowly but steadily from 1980s onwards.          

And always on the bright side, among those employees who have already had an international experience, 47% of the female and 53% of the male respondents confirmed they had completed more than one international assignment. In addition, based on their most recent international experience, 84% of women said that they would repeat a similar experience, and 93% state that they would recommend an international assignment to a colleague (PwC, 2016a). 

Last but not least, 73% of women working in Financial Services believe that they have equal opportunities than men to undertake international assignments at their current workplace (PwC, 2016b). This percentage is encouraging in comparison with the 50% of women taking part in the previous year’s millennial survey who believe that promotion is biased towards men (PwC, 2015).

Even with something to celebrate, we shall keep in mind that these variations don’t change the overall conclusions: we are still decades away from seeing this percentage rising to 50%. Predictions show that, in the best case scenario, this will be reached only around 2050 (Mercer, 2017) 

How can you benefit from having a more expat women ? 

1 – You will Facilitate Better Assignment Selection with a Broader Talent Pool 

One of the main mobility cost drivers is related to the limited choice of candidates ready for assignments. By inviting more women to the club, you create more options for your company and indirectly to control costs better. The more good candidates you have, the better will your selection be and the higher the chances that you don’t have to sell an incredibly overpriced assignment package.

2 – You will Record a Higher Assignment Success Rate

The When Women Thrive report highlights that women are perceived to have unique skills that are particularly relevant for expatriation, including flexibility and adaptability (39% vs. 20% who say men have those strengths); inclusive team management (43% vs. 20%); and emotional intelligence (24% vs. 5%.). In short, women tend to build cultural bridges better than men and work in a more sustainable manner.

3 – You will not only Attract, but also Retain Talent

Female demand for international mobility has never been higher than now, with 71% of female millennials wanting to work outside their home country during their careers. Also, 64% of all women interviewed said that international opportunities were critical in attracting them as well as keeping them with an employer (PwC, 2016).

If you want to be successful in attracting and retaining female employees, you need to have a talent brand with international experience as a core element of your employee talent proposition. 

Are you not yet convinced that more expat women provide a huge added value to your company?  In our previous post, we give other proofs of how a more diverse expat population makes you a more profitable and valuable company. 

Seven Obstacles to the Rise of Women in Global Mobility

1 – Strategy

Like the majority of international organizations, you too might be currently challenged with a lack of alignment between Diversity & Inclusion and Global Mobility. This is a crucial issue that you should be working to solve as soon as possible. When goals and data are discussed with Senior Management, Global Mobility Managers need to have a seat at the table. 

2 – Policy

Many Global Mobility policies have originally been developed for male assignees with children and a “trailing” spouse. It’s 2020 and this needs to change. Make sure your policy addresses the issues of expat women and new types of families – single parents for example (the vast majority of them being female), or same-sex couples.

3 – Nomination Process

As we mentioned in our previous post as well, too many times there is still a lack of transparency over who is assigned and why. Companies often don’t have a clear view of those employees who would be willing to be internationally mobile. And like in Alice’s and George’s stories, unconscious bias still plays a considerable (yet invisible) role in the selection of the right candidates. Because of the prevalence of stereotypes that associate women with family, female employees are usually not  even asked even if they would be willing to consider. 

I’ve been there personally as well. 

And if you want to take a small journey into the world of the unconsciously biased HR world, have a look at this insightful article on gender decoding. 

4 –  Non-Diverse Host Locations 

This is probably not such a big issue (apart from a few very critical war zones and dangerous locations). The issue, instead, is the assumption that expat women won’t be accepted because of the fixed gender roles men and women have in the host location. As a matter of fact, expat women in India have automatically a higher status than local women. And in some Muslim cultures, as long as you wear a ring implying that you are married, you can be seen as highly respectable and you will be treated accordingly. 

5 – Representation

While Global Mobility Managers are often female, women don’t benefit from the same representation rate at the upper levels. This means that Senior Leaders and Executives in Global Mobility are mainly men. As a consequence, there is an issue of lack of awareness at Senior Management level, and this is especially true in traditionally conservative countries.

6 – Lack of Visible Assignment Opportunities for Women

65% of female employees (PwC, 2016a) are still unhappy with the little transparency of their companies over the availability of opportunities for overseas assignments. 

It’s time that you make opportunities readily accessible to all, including underrepresented talent groups!

7  –  Lack of Human Touch 

The lack of Human Touch and/or previous bad Expat Experiences might stop women from actively seeking opportunities for international exposure.

In fact, teams are often too busy focusing on the many operational aspects of the mobility program and fail to design a human-centric Global Mobility program for their expat population. 

If you haven’t started yet, do it now. Talk openly about diversity in your policies and encourage internal discussion on this topic. Communicate about role models and success stories.

Six Potential Solutions  for a More Inclusive and Diverse Global Mobility Program 

1- Set Clear Diversity and Inclusion Goals  for Global Mobility

Global Mobility and Diversity and Inclusion teams need to set realistic yet challenging goals for increasing the number of female assignees AND female department heads in Global Mobility. According to KPMG (2018), only 41% of the organizations surveyed had clear D&I objectives in place. Without specific targets nothing will change! 

2 –  Allow for More Flexibility by Having Different Assignment Types 

New types of assignments and flexibility are making things easier for women and employees with family responsibilities to go on assignment. As I reiterate in The Global Mobility Workbook, Global Mobility should not systematically be synonymous with traditional Long-Term Assignment. In fact, even if those remain the most preferred assignment type by both genders, women favour 6-to-12 months’ assignments more than men (37% vs 29%). The same can be said for assignments shorter than three months (10% vs 5%) as well as frequent business travels (36% vs 32%) (PwC, 2016a).

3 – Identify and Understand What the Real Barriers are 

Do you actually know what the real barriers to inclusive mobility are for your workforce and organizations? If you’ve never measured in which way your current policies hinder women’s mobility, it’s time you act NOW.  Stop simply assuming the barriers to gender inclusiveness and understand better where the actual issues lay. That’s why I recommend intercultural training for all Global Mobility Managers.

4 – Give More Visibility to Female Role Models

While 68% of men feel that there are enough male role models of successful expats in their organization, only 48% of women feel the same about female role models (PwC, 2016b). This impacts negatively the wider female talent pool of companies and their Global Mobility programs.  If you want to help fill the gap, take active measures to drive awareness of the positive experiences of successful expat women within your organizations. 

At page 24 of this PwC report you can read a short and inspiring testimonial of a Tax Partner and Expat Woman role model. 

5 – Use More Gender-inclusive Language 

Too often Global Mobility policies still refer to their globally mobile workforce with masculine pronouns. At the same time, they would make you assume that Expat or “trailing” Spouses should be female. Well, it’s 2020 and this is not anymore the case. If you want to make your program more inclusive, start from how you address your talent. The UN has recently published new very helpful guidelines that can definitely be useful for your policies too.

6 – Foster a Supportive and Inclusive Culture

It is absolutely critical for your company to move away from the restrictive gender stigmas of the past if you wish to unlock your full global workforce potential. Your ultimate challenge is to create a culture where all your employees are on board with diversity and recognize how valuable this is.

Our message is clear: Global Mobility strategies that do not fully include women will simply not deliver to their full potential.

How we can Help you

If it all makes sense to you but you don’t know where to start from, this is why we’re here. Here are four ideas on how we can help you.

  1. We deconstruct your expat nomination process and review your existing policies for inclusiveness.
  2. We improve the language you use in communication to make them gender-inclusive and we also help you sprinkle them with “Human Touch”.
  3. We conduct an analysis of your Expat Experience and identify unveiled barriers for female expats and their spouses.
  4. We facilitate transition workshops with expat women in the host country, and prepare female candidates for potential expat assignments through our exclusive 1:1 Executive coaching program RockMe!

PS: I want to tell you two more things.

Are you looking for a board member mandate in Switzerland? Have a look at VRMandat and Stitungsratsmandat and check how they can support you.

Look up the above links also if you’re trying to expand your board of directors.

Resources

Read the insights of the 4th edition of the Advance and HSG Gender Intelligence Report.

https://stiftungsratsmandat.com/de/

https://www.vrmandat.com/en/

https://dorothydalton.com/2016/03/11/gender-de-coding-and-job-adverts/

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20160929-where-are-all-the-expat-women 

http://www.internationalhradviser.com/storage/downloads/Gender%20Bias%20in%20Global%20Mobility%20Developing%20Female%20Leaders%20PwC.pdf 

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/global-hr/pages/women-expatriate-workforce.aspx 

References 

KPMG. (2018). Inclusion and Diversity in Global Mobility. KPMG. https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle.pdf

Meier, O. (2019). The path to diversity. Mercer. https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/the-path-to-diversity-women-on-assignment

PwC. (2015). Female millennials in financial services: Strategies for a new era of talent. PwC. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/financial-services/publications/assets/pwc-female-millennial-report-v2.pdf

PwC. (2016a). Modern Mobility: Moving women with purpose. PwC. 

https://www.pwc.com/gr/en/publications/assets/modern-mobility-moving-women-with-purpose.pdf

PwC. (2016b). 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 

This is a good example of Women in Global Mobility
Riikka Virtanen Schwitter speaking during the EY “Future of Mobility” event (February 2020)


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

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

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

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

Having lived here in Zurich for over 10 years now, I also prefer to run my life Swiss-style. Despite considering myself open and tolerant, I still mess up intercultural communication. I’m not always understood and sometimes I’m just wrong. I recently got into a long discussion about left and right and I know that I have a weakness there. At the end I had to find out that I muddled up left and right (again!).

Communication across Cultures is a Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Does your partnership or family life suffer?

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

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

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

What is Global Competency in Global Mobility?

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

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

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

Five Reasons why You might find it hard

  1. You are shy, introverted or not convinced that they are good enough to deserve success. Many partners suffer from the “impostor syndrome”, a psychological state of mind where people doubt their own accomplishments or consider themselves frauds just about to be exposed, especially if their career-driving partner just got another promotion in another country.
  2. You are embarrassed and ashamed of being “unemployed” in a society where most of your self-worth is driven by your career and how busy you are.
  3. You come from a culture where achievement is overly emphasized and ascription is considered an unfair privilege while at the same time they are blindsided by the fact that they had an ascribed status in their home turf.  Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner used to associate the achievement dimension with mainly protestant work ethic and belief. However, even if Switzerland is the home of Zwingli and Calvin, we have catholic cantons as well and status is often equal with family name, wealth and also how many generations you have already been a member of this society. So, there is still a strong ascription component that is not so obvious to outsiders. you don’t recognize that you have been in the out-group until you join the “Circle of Trust”.
  4. You are not aware of how they come across in person and assume that your style and behavior is “normal”. You have not yet learned to read the cultural cues that would indicate to them that they might be too pushy or even rude. A common example in Switzerland is that expats tend to overstretch a time commitment. For a society that runs on the clock and is a role model of the sequential time approach according to E.T. Hall’s time dimensions, this is often creating a lot of stress for the other person.
  5. You are sending messages with which in your home turf you would mark  your status such as the “Dr.” title in Germany or a certain seniority by name-dropping the influential VIP’s you used to hang out with but in Switzerland for example this is either not understood or considered boasting, egocentric and merely annoying. 

Over the years of running my own business and projects I often noticed that all the tools I tested to maintain a strategic approach to networking failed miserably with the extensive network that I’ve built over my professional life. 

So, I decided to let go of “strategy” and follow my gut and memory. I realized that the best idea is not to worry too much about “contact segmentation”. We Germans love the word “Begriffsabgrenzung”, so we also do this to our social life (“Bekannter, Kollege, Freund, Verwandter, Familie, Partner, Ehepartner…”). It’s a step-by-step approach showing how much you trust the other person.

The same segmentation exists in Switzerland, but there are “false friends”, e.g. the word “Kollege” means “Work Colleague” in High German and “Friend” in Swiss German. The meaning of the informal way of addressing a person with “Du” has a different meaning in Switzerland than in Germany.

Without intercultural training a German manager will behave like a bull in a China shop in Switzerland – completely unintentionally. Hence, working with German managers in the “honeymoon phase” is a lot of work for the trainer or coach. I prefer to work with you when you are beyond the honeymoon phase and you understand that you might not function in Switzerland like you are used to.

My approach after 10 years in Zurich

Some of my colleagues in the #GlobalMobility world have become friends over the years and some of my best friends from the university days or early career are colleagues or clients now. Some of my team members have almost become family and some of my family members work in the same field or closely related ones. And some friends will never pay you while others will insist on giving back. The world is colorful and so are people.

While saying this, I don’t want to imply that you have to like everybody you work with and everybody you network with. However, it’s another atmosphere for collaboration and innovation when you can fully trust the other person without a doubt.

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

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

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

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

Expat Experience

by @angieweinberger, the Global Mobility Coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lifestyle Expats” have different Challenges

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

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

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

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

What does this mean for Global Mobility?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Service at certain Touch Points

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

The Cultural Adjustment Process

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

The Communication Hole

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

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

The Learning Journey

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

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

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

The Deeper Expat Experience

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

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

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

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

What does that mean for you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind regards 

Angie Weinberger

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

Angie Weinberger

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

 

Related Links / References

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

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

Airinc (2019)

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

Internations

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

Project ZRH3039 – Final Report (2019)

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

Population with Migration Background

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

Revision Foreigner Law in Switzerland

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

Photo Credits: @Claudia.hug (insta)

When you are ready to show your art to the world you might find out that all the doors are open. 

Did you ever host a party and thought shortly before “What if nobody shows up?”. This is how I used to feel before every party at my house. I thought this time it would be different, but honestly, I was even more afraid. I wished for a few hours that I can sit on my sofa, watching a movie in my jogging pants and eat popcorn. And then I realized this is just a form of stage fright…

Our party was just like any great party.

Time flew by and I was too busy talking to people while magically the prosecco glass in my hand seemed to fill up automatically. I would like to tell you what I took away from the last five days especially if you didn’t have a chance to join us in person.

Photo Credits: @Claudia.hug (insta)

The event starts when you feel ready, not when it is scheduled

I was still in the middle of a call with an important client when my doorbell rang. This is rather unusual in Switzerland so I knew who it was. My first guest had arrived from Dubai. After an introductory chai, Nazia Abdul Rasheed and I took a walk through my city. I showed her Zurich’s landmark such as the Lindenhof hill, where the women of Zurich fought of the enemies in the middle ages by disguising as men. We went to see the Fraumuenster with the Chagall windows and left our doggie bag there as a gift to God. We walked through the old town, had a brownie at the Zurich Film Festival, lunch at St. Lucia and became friends right away.

Stage-fright is normal

I was struggling for a long time to recognize myself as an artist and even on Thursday I had this fear that no one would show up to our event. During the morning, I could tell that I had stage fright and it was worse than when I was playing a major part in the school play in high school. I changed my outfit last minute and was quite nervous practicing what I wanted to talk about. When my long-time uni friend Iris Kollek arrived I was a bit shaky and we had to leave to the location immediately. Our team and friends helped with the preparation of the giveaway bags, the book table and the room.

I had no idea that being in the centre of attention would mean that I would be overwhelmed when getting a huge bunch of flowers from Inge Nitsche, CEO Expatise Academy and her business partner Ernst Steltenpohl .These two “guild masters” of Global Mobility have supported me over the last five years and I was very surprised about the lovely greetings they sent me all the way from Holland.

My family showed up early as well as a few other guests but I was pulled away between photographers,  bloggers and last-minute organizational questions. After a photo session with Christina Fryer from @NewInZurich, I tried to greet most guests in person and loved how many actually did show up. Almost every seat was taken when we started (and the few latecomers filled the left seats.)

Photo Credits: @Claudia.hug (insta)

The History of Guilds is very relevant for us
The first speaker was Philip Welti, the Guild Master of the guild house wher

e we held our book launch. We heard from Philip Welti, the Guild Master about the history of the “Zunfthaus zur Waag” from 1637 to today.  We then moved to Monika Fischer’s story of her first intercultural encounter with her German mother-in-law. The “Potato Variety” story was hilarious and also showed how sometimes cultural differences are based on your perspective of the world. Monika’s experience shows that we can widen our view when we move to other cultures and interact with people with another cultural background. Monika also asked who in the room lived in another country than their home country or who had a partner or spouse from another culture. With a few exceptions, most of the people in the room showed up. We are living in the global village here in Zurich.

Magic happens when you leave the red sofa

When I went on stage I told our guests that we would guide them through an activity called “The Magic Postcards”. We asked people to get to know new people in the room and to catch up with the ones they already knew. As I’m a big believer in building professional relationships to get work I encouraged participants to write a postcard to the people they met at the event. During the next few months we will send out these postcards. I promised magic to happen and now I am excited like a child before Christmas hoping that whatever my guests wished for will come true over the next few weeks, be it a new role, a new job, finding a new friend, spending more time with loved ones, getting healthier, being with the parents, getting that writing project started or photography class done.

If you still want to write a postcard to another person who was at the event or was supposed to be at the event please let me know. Maybe the magic dust still works a few days later. Also, if you can’t wait to receive your postcards you can tell me to

Photo Credits: @Claudia.hug (insta)

prioritize or you could just practice patience.

“Patience is beautiful.”

I finally got to thank my mother in public. Even though I was a little nervous about doing this, I just had to thank and kiss my mother in public. Although I didn’t win an Oscar, I felt it was time. I knew she would not fully understand my words in English, I was hoping that she would love the gesture anyway. Thank your parents as often as possible. You never know when they will leave.

After the book launch is before the RockMeRetreat

Now, we would like to focus again on building our Global Mobility Guildhouse, helping our professionals, our expats and their spouses and all the clients we serve. We would like to spend the remainder of the year with ge

tting our clients ready for their next steps. The highlight of our business year 2019 will be the #RockMeRetreat. We still accept clients who are going through a professional change, have just arrived in a new country or wish to balance their own wishes with their careers better. We work towards more creativity, more agility and a healthier lifestyle together.


Personally, I wish to find a bit of time for writing, because after all, I’m a writer and this is what we do. I feel blessed, happy and want to thank you all for coming, your presents and your kind wishes.