Category Archives: RockMe!
Mountain View

You probably heard me tell you before that I don’t consider myself an “Expat”. I have been living in the same home for more than ten years now and feel so settled in Switzerland that I am working on the steps to become a Swiss citizen right now. During the pandemic, I became an “accidental expat” because for a while the borders between Switzerland, Austria, and Germany were closed. Then for a long time, it was just too dangerous to travel and potentially bring the virus to my elder family members. I’m relieved to say that my beloved grandmother Maria died this year at 100 1/2 years of age and that she left us peacefully after a long and satisfying life.  My family was very lucky during these times. However, I will not forget that it took a virus to close the borders and we might be exposed to border closing during any national or international issue in the future. You decided to go on this adventure, but you might not always cherish it when you are in the middle of it. You might find many aspects of the global nomad lifestyle satisfying and you could still feel stressed and exhausted right now. You might have overworked yourself, taken too little time for yourself or your loved ones or you might be feeling a bit disoriented around this time of the year. We tend to look back in December and think about what we want to change in the New Year. We are all experiencing varying levels of emotional and mental turmoil. There is no solution to the root causes of that anxiety, but we need to maintain our mental health like we do our physical. The World Health Organization, correctly anticipating that the longer the pandemic lasts, the more it would impact mental health, has spent the last couple of years publishing support and guides for people to follow. I have been following them, and they have proven helpful in centering me and giving me better control of my mental health.

Pause. Breathe. Reflect.

Take some slow breaths, inhaling through your nose, then slowly exhaling through your mouth. Slow breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress because it signals your brain to relax your body. There are various breathing practices such as Yoga and other forms. You start right now by listening to your breathing for a few minutes without trying to control it.

Improve your Healthy Routine

The emphasis here is on both Health and Routine. That means not using alcohol and drugs to deal with fear, anxiety, boredom, and social isolation. Instead, focus on establishing consistent sleeping patterns, maintaining personal hygiene, eating regularly and having healthy food, and improving time management to include exercise, work, and personal time.

Practice Self-Care

We are human and thus not immune to doubt and anxiety. Don’t expect too much of yourself on days that are more difficult than others. Instead, accept that some days, you may be more productive than others. One way to practice self-kindness is to reduce how much you watch, read or listen to news that makes you feel anxious or distressed, especially news from your home country. Limit news to fixed times during the day and listen only to trusted sources. 

Offer Support in Your Community

If you can help yourself and have the capacity for it, helping others can be good for you too. Offer support to people in your community who may need it. We have learned to be resilient, we have survived previous crises, and we have managed to turn our lives around in the oddest situations. But now, we are not so sure anymore. When will this pandemic end? And how will we live when we get out of it? Which part of the world still feels safe? Will our children ever be able to catch up on the school lessons they have missed? 

Like we need yeast to bake bread, we need energy and love to work and live with people around us. We might think that we can just stay at home and send our avatars to work, but who would we then be? 

We need to get dressed in nice clothes, have a commute to work, and have a distance between “work” and “leisure.” Otherwise, we lose our fire and inspiration and lose touch with our inner creator. 

Join our RockMeRetreat

I missed having offline workshops and what I love about this retreat is that we can be offline most of the time and connect with our inner creators again. We can work on our relationships with people who are important to us. We can build a community of people who help each other irrespective of their cultural or religious background based on shared values and profound love for people.

I wish all of us to support each other in communities, and I’m convinced that an OFFLINE RETREAT will most certainly create miracles despite the wonders of technology. Because of the travel situation and insecurities around the world, we currently offer the RockMeRetreat in Switzerland at the Ilanz monastery. I have been on a retreat there before, and it’s a humble, yet quiet and comfortable place, and the sisters are extremely warmhearted and welcoming, and the mountain view is just amazing.

If you wish to join us for the RockMeRetreat in November 2023 please sign up for this list so we can inform you further about the retreat.

We might also consider other places for custom-made RockMeRetreats. Please email us if you wish to consider a retreat for your leadership team in 2023. We’d be happy to discuss your needs further.

Back to School – Seven Virtues for Purpose, Performance, and Productivity

Video Interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv1ju5gxMLs

 


How many times do you open your inbox and find over a hundred unread emails? And how often do you “clean your inbox” just to find it overflowing with emails again the day after? One of the reasons why I get stressed around emails is that I spend a whole day in a workshop and I cannot check my emails because it would distract my mind too much. Then I check my emails after the workshop, when I am already exhausted and know that I have a lot of tasks and queries to handle. When I worked in the corporate world I would often have a day full of meetings and calls and come back to my desk at 5 or 6 PM and “started to work productively”. Or, you probably know this: it’s Friday, 4.30 PM,  you are just about to start your weekend and then you see this one email and it keeps you at your desk for another hour. Your partner in the meantime is waiting for you to help with the groceries or wants you to be home early so that you can greet your friends that are coming by for dinner. There are different reasons why our body shows stress reactions and I thought it would help to break this phenomenon down to help you deal with it.

If you experience high levels of stress when you find too many unread emails in your inbox, you should know that you’re not alone. In fact, the phenomenon is so widespread that it became known as inbox anxiety

Inbox Anxiety Came with Emails

When emails were invented in the 1970s, nobody had a clue of how radically they were going to change the way we work. In time, they have become such an ubiquitous tool that, depending on your seniority, there’s a chance that you haven’t even experienced work without emails. I personally remember the days when we did not have emails at work yet and I went through several tech upgrades since then (desktop, laptop, blackberry, smartphone). Despite more than 25 years of experience with the technology I still don’t know exactly what to do when I get certain emails. One ground rule I established early in my career was: when I am angry I don’t send a response. I wait until I feel calm again. In fact, when I then go through the same email with a fresher approach, I sometimes even notice a certain positivity that I had overlooked earlier. 

You might be surprised that our generation still relies so much on email but inbox anxiety doesn’t only refer to email now.

I have several other professional inboxes to manage as well (Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, XING, four email accounts, professional messages on FB pages, Instagram and Twitter direct messages). Sometimes, I feel like I should change my job description to “emailer”. 

With the Corona-crisis and the need to work from home, most of us probably worked even more with emails and messages than usual and despite the general reply-to-all rule in some organizations this is still not done so you are falling off a thread and then you have to follow up or update your colleagues in a different way.

In our team at GPT, we introduced Slack during the crisis. We had already failed at it in 2016 largely due to my inability to focus on too many channels so now I’m making a more concerted effort to use Slack instead of WhatsApp. I don’t really use it to replace emails but I notice it helps me write less follow up emails and also I can ask the Slack bot to remind me instead of asking our intern. 

I’m trying to find out where MY own inbox anxiety stems from and I hope to share this with you so you find ways to overcome this as well.

  • Switching Off and FOMO

One issue that creates inbox anxiety for me is the need to switch off completely for short and extended periods of time. Last year, I took the liberty not to be available for four weeks over the summer. Some of my email accounts were not checked while I was offline. That created stress when coming back. Same happened when I was out sick for three weeks with COVID19 this year.

There is enough research to show that you should completely switch off from work for at least two consecutive weeks each year. However, in most of your jobs it is still expected that you are available during vacation and weekends, especially during launches, emergencies, crisis and personnel related decisions.

As a matter of fact, according to a YouGov survey 60% of people check their work inboxes also during holidays. We don’t do it necessarily because we want to, but because we feel some sort of obligation to do it. The same research found that 80% of the respondents would actually prefer to “switch off completely”.

  • Being Responsive versus Productive

Another issue is that I would like to be responsive. It’s one of my trademarks. And there are certain limitations between being responsive and being productive. However, in order to be able to do “deep work” and to focus on quality time online with my clients I sometimes have to wait with a response until my work day is over or until I get a break. This might be only an issue when you are a small company and nobody else can cover for you. Most companies now don’t expect a response on weekends and responding within 24 hours still seems to be acceptable.

  • Underlying Relationship and Trust Issues

The third theme I notice has to do with email anxiety when you receive emails from certain persons. I assume that there is an underlying relationship or trust issue with this person. Maybe this person has treated you unfairly in the past or they have turned around something you wrote in an unacceptable way. Maybe they belittle you in their emails with their manager in cc or they criticize you publicly. A good manager would give their feedback in more appropriate ways than emails but we know that there are a number of mediocre managers out there as well.

What is Inbox Anxiety and Where Does it Come from? 

According to Ron Friedman, author and psychologist, the reason why we feel overwhelmed when we find a lot of emails in our inbox is that each message is a new demand of our time and it triggers one more decision to make. This leaves most of us with less energy for the work that matters. Another reason that could make you anxious might be the lack of clear expectations and etiquette especially in the intercultural context you live in as an expat. 

Also not having anybody to delegate emails to and feeling responsible for client service even when it’s not in your direct area of control could considerably make your stress level rise. In fact, studies have shown that checking email frequently leads to higher levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. 

We feel stressed also because we don’t feel productive. As we are constantly interrupted by a “PLING” our cognitive performance is reduced resulting in an attention deficit. According to research done on the negative effects of email on productivity, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the taks after we’ve been interrupted. Now, think of how many times they interrupt you at work and make an average calculation. It’s scary.

There is one more issue related to inbox anxiety and this is known as “email apnea.” In fact, 80% of people tend to hold their breath unnaturally when going through their emails causing a change in  their normal breathing patterns. Holding your breath can contribute to stress-related diseases because it throws off the body’s balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitric oxide.

Seven Tips to Help you Take Back Control

Here are seven tips that will help you take back control of your inbox, time and productivity.

1 – Clarify the Purpose of Your Conversations

Make sure you know the communication policy and etiquette of the company where you work. This will also make clearer why and how you’re using emails and not other tools. 

2 – Build Better Relationships to the Senders and Receivers

If you don’t know the other person well, try to reciprocate their tone. You don’t want to come across as too friendly or too formal if the relationship is just at the beginning. When I communicate in German I struggle because the connotations between how you address a person are quite different depending on the cultural context. In English you can easily be far too informal and hurt somebody’s feelings. As a general rule, avoid emotions and emotional topics.

When you aren’t familiar with the sender, another good alternative is picking up the phone. If you are a Millenial calling someone you don’t know might not be your preference, but I still think it’s the best way to establish first contact with someone. 

3 – Stop Escalations and Solve the Real Issue

I love to watch escalation bingo on email only when I’m not in the firing line and cc-ed but not cause of anger. I personally read too many emails that are escalated to the appropriate management level too late. We are then often reading a lot of blame-storms and cover-your-back when the real underlying relationship issue is not addressed. I’m pretty good at NOT responding and I’m often slow when it’s heated or emotional. The reason is that I often need a break from the emotions that are triggered. 

I can leave emails drafted for days only to discard them. It’s a skill I learned. Sometimes I might come across rude or negligent…It even happens that I forget an email. However, it’s often not that important or the person can find another route to talk to me. If the person knows me, they will reach out by phone, text message or just resend. 

4 – Stop Flagging, Sorting, Deleting and Trust Your Inner Priority Manager

I hear people are still flagging, filing in folders, reading and answering emails all the time although I notice that response time has become from 1 minute to 1 week to ghosting. Frankly speaking, I sometimes don’t respond to an email because I don’t feel that I have anything to say. In some cultural contexts this is a perfectly acceptable behavior, however, in some others this could come across as rude. 

5 – Limit the Times You Check Inboxes and Respond

Role model the change you would like to see in this world. If you don’t want to be bothered by emails after 7 pm, either you are powerful enough not to respond anymore or you also stop sending emails after “normal office hours”.

6 – Apply a Filter, Deactivate Notifications and Practice Writing Better Headers for Receivers

Have a policy for all your media who you accept and what kind of messages you will respond to. Instead of responding to every tweet I have now connected Twitter to Slack. I can check first if I want to respond or if it is a random tag.

I get a lot of system notifications, newsletters and promotions that I just scan but usually I only need to read the header or key words to know if it’s worth going deeper.

7 –  Track How Much Time You Spend Emailing, Messaging and with Whom

Try using RescueTime to track how much time you spend emailing. By doing this, you can realistically plan how you can gradually reduce the time you spend emailing. You might try to reduce by 5 to 10 percent weekly the time you spend on your inbox. One way to do this is to practice writing shorter emails. 

 

If you notice that you are so busy because you spend an hour sending cat videos to friends and family you might want to change that. And you might not know right away what you want to change and how. I recommend you call me for a 15-minute chat. Maybe I can give you guidance on how to reduce your inbox anxiety.

 

Kind regards

Angie

 

Resources

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/?s=My+favourite+Productivity+Hacks+%E2%80%93+Seven+Tips+to+claim+back+your+Diary 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/in-practice/201805/3-types-email-anxiety-and-solutions

https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/heres-why-email-makes-us-so-stressed-out-2015-2

https://happiful.com/how-to-deal-with-inbox-anxiety/

https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/the-6-rules-of-email-how-to-eliminate-email-anxiety-and-take-control-of-your-inbox

https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/email-apnea-how-email-change-breathing-2012-12

https://www.rescuetime.com/

https://blog.trello.com/work-life-boundaries-as-a-remote-worker 

References

Mark, G., Gudit, D. and Klocke, U. (2008). The cost of interrupted work: more speed and less stress. Conference Paper, DOI: 10.1145/1357054.1357072, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221518077_The_cost_of_interrupted_work_More_speed_and_stress

Mark, G., Voida, S. & Cardello, A. (2012). A pace not dictated by electrons: An empirical study of work without email. Conference Paper, https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/APaceNotDictatedbyElectronsAnEmpiricalStudyofWorkWithoutEmail.pdf

Waldersee, V. (2018). The majority of employees check work emails while on holiday. YouGov, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/economy/articles-reports/2018/08/15/majority-employees-check-work-emails-while-holiday

aggressionWhen your colleague Paul tells you he has get home at 6 pm to see his children he throws in that your boss asked for a report she needs to have on her desk at 7 AM tomorrow. You cringe and call your partner to tell him you will need another 30 minutes to finalize the report. Your stomach feels hot and red. You are angry. Your colleague manages to get away. Why does he not have a deliverable here? Why is this team effort on your shoulders now? You think you could test if the boss was serious about 7 AM but you know you won’t get away with it.

Another messed up night. Your partner will be angry too now. You strip out of your suit as soon as you get home. On nights like this after leaving the battle ground you just want to have a glass of wine and a bath. Your partner rattles with the car keys. It is his gym night. Dinner needs to be cooked, the kids want a story and your inner household monster tells you to clean up the wardrobe. At 10 pm when your partner gets home you just want to go to bed. You almost had a bottle of wine by now.

The next morning, you protect your feelings through professionalism. You meditate and go for a run to keep up a smile. You wear a mask. You put on your business persona together with your pin-striped business suit and when you ask your boss if the report was ok, she just shrugs

“I had other priorities this morning. Team meeting at 10. Will you book a room for us?”.

“Isn’t that Paul’s task?”

“Yes, but he got caught up at kindergarden and will only get here at 9.45 AM. Be a good colleague and get us some pretzels too.”

You smile your best smile and help out again. While men seem to handle office politics better, I often notice that women prefer to stay out of roles where they have to deal with conflicts all the time. If you are in a leadership role – no matter if you are male or female – you won’t stay out of the firing lines. Doing favors might be easy, but verbal and written attacks will be part of your day.

You might feel you are giving more than you should, you might even feel that some of your colleagues advance faster than you, make more money and aren’t even better at what they do than you are. The good news is: You don’t have to accept aggressive behavior at the workplace.

Five methods to reduce aggressive behavior at the workplace

1) Reduce Your Aggressive Tonality

You could be seen as aggressive by others. If you solve conflicts on your managerial level by escalating issues to the next level, this could be seen as conflict avoiding and aggressive. Maybe your intention is to highlight a flaw in the process or that the team is understaffed. Still, the effect could be different than what you intend.

You might underestimate your native language and cultural assumptions too. If you are for example a native Russian speaker you could come across as unfriendly and aggressive in English without intending it. Or if you are a native French speaker you might come across as long-winded and complicated in English. It is good to ask a native-speaker friend how they see you and what you could improve in your communication style.

2) Stop Giving Unsolicited Feedback

You might also be seen as passive aggressive as you feel the need to correct others and give them unsolicited feedback. I had a colleague who would do that. I know now, that he was just trying to help me to become more assertive but at the time it drove me crazy. The basic rule is that you only give feedback and tips if your colleagues explicitly ask you for it. If you are the boss you probably need to give advice but be sure that you tell your subordinate that. Otherwise they will feel scolded and like back in high school. Since I started a business it happened to me more than once that listeners in an audience wanted to help me “sell” my services better or gave me feedback on word plays they would not understand. I understand the intention but I would have remembered them in a different light if they had just asked me about my intentions before babbling their ideas out.

3) Become a Listener

With the current average attention span of 90 seconds your colleagues will love you if you manage to listen to them for a full length of a three minute story without interrupting. If you practice to be authentic and a compassionate listener you will be seen as a source of inspiration and wisdom. Try to understand where your colleague or manager stands at the moment, which issues they have to solve and maybe also what they are going through in their personal lives.

4) Communicate your Needs

In business conversations it is helpful to speak about your needs and expectations in the I-form. “I need quite space to be able to think…” instead of “Could you shut up please?”. Or “I expect you keep the deadline for your deliverables as you promised to help me on this report.” instead of “Once again, you have not delivered what you said you would in time.”

5) Improve your business relationships

As I mentioned several times in the “Seven Principles for Intercultural Effectiveness” improving your business relationships   is the key to success in this globalized world. Work on every single relationship that is important to you and become a giver. You will be rewarded with success and long-term friendships across the globe.

Even if we have become used to it in our hierarchical work cultures we can all work towards a more appreciative communication culture. I recommend you learn about Marshall B. Rosenberg’s concept of non-violent communication and read Adam M. Grant’s book “Give and Take” too. Let me know if these five methods worked for you and what you have experienced.

Rise of Women

Picture this scenario: a leading multinational company must select somebody with the right skills to establish its first overseas division and has 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: she is now working overseas for one of their competitors and is very happy in her role.

The company’s decision came at the worst time for George. He and his wife were about to announce their first pregnancy to their families.  But he still said “yes” to the opportunity and eventually convinced his wife to give it a try. It was, however, very tough on her: She was sick throughout the pregnancy, and when the baby was born, she had no support network. This situation also impacted George’s performance which was disappointing compared to his pre-assignment performance. For this reason, the company decided to bring him back. 

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

Though we have to mention a few positive developments that make the prospect of the rise of women in Global Mobility look somewhat brighter. 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, only five years later, 64% of CEOs worldwide confirm that they finally have a diversity strategy, and 13% plan to adopt one over the next 12 months (Pwc, 2016a).

What’s to Celebrate?

When we look at data, it’s essential to break it down. For example, even if it is 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 tend to have a higher rate of women expats. 

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

Continuing 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 they would repeat a similar experience, and 93% said they would recommend an international assignment to a colleague (PwC, 2016a). 

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

Despite rejoicing over these good news, we shall keep in mind that these variations don’t influence the overall conclusions: we are still decades away from seeing the percentage of female assignees rising to 50%. In the best-case scenario, the predictions estimate this will be reached only around 2050 (Mercer, 2017).

How Can You Benefit From Having More Expat Women? 

1 – You Will Facilitate Better Assignment Selection With a Broader Talent Pool 

One of the leading mobility cost drivers is a direct consequence of the limited choice of candidates ready for assignments. Inviting more women to the club creates more options for your company and indirectly helps control costs better. The more good candidates you have, the better your selection will 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 more sustainably. 

3 – You Will Not Only Attract but Also Retain Talent

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

To successfully attract and retain 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 add immense value to your company?  In our previous post, we give other proof of how having 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 most international organizations, you too might be currently challenged with a lack of alignment between Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and Global Mobility. You should work on solving this crucial issue as soon as possible. When goals and data are discussed with Senior Management, Global Mobility Managers must have a seat at the table. 

2 – Policy

Many Global Mobility policies were initially developed for male assignees with children and a “trailing” spouse. It’s 2022, 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, for example.

3 – Nomination Process

As we mentioned in our previous post, there is still a lack of transparency over who is assigned and why. Companies often don’t have a clear overview of their employees’ willingness 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 candidates. Because of the prevalence of stereotypes that associate women with family, female employees are usually not even asked, even if they are willing to consider an assignment abroad. I’ve been there too. If you would like to take a short journey into the unconsciously biased HR world, look at this insightful article on gender decoding. 

4 –  Non-Diverse Host Locations 

This is probably not a big issue in reality (apart from a few critical war zones and dangerous locations). The problem is rather the assumption that expat women won’t be accepted in their new role abroad because of the fixed gender roles men and women have in the host location. In fact, expat women in India automatically have 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 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, lack of awareness at the Senior Management level is an issue, 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 their companies offer 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.

HR and Global Mobility 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, Equity, and Inclusion Goals for Global Mobility

Global Mobility, together with DEI 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 DEI objectives. 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 Assignments. Even if those remain the preferred assignment type by both genders, women favor 6-to-12 months assignments more than men (37% vs. 29%). We can say the same 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 know what the real barriers to inclusive mobility are for your workforce and organizations? If you’ve never measured how your current policies hinder women’s mobility, you should 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 negatively impacts companies’ wider female talent pool and Global Mobility programs.  Therefore, 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. 

On 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. And quite logically, the consequence is that they would make you assume that “trailing” Spouses should be female. Well, it’s 2021, and this is not the case anymore. If you want to make your program more inclusive, start by addressing your talent differently. The UN has recently published new guidelines that will definitely be useful when updating your policies too.

6 – Foster a Supportive and Inclusive Culture

It is 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 its value.

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, we’re here to help. Here are four ideas on how we can do that.

  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 analyze 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 have two more tips for you:

  1. If you are looking for a board member mandate in Switzerland, check out VRMandat and Stiftungsratsmandat. Check how they can support you.
  2. Look up these two links above if you’re trying to expand your board of directors.

Resources

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. (2011). 14th Annual Global CEO Survey. PwC. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/ceo-survey/pdf/14th-annual-global-ceo-survey.pdf

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)

 


“We need to take a stance and stand up for minority and female talent now.”  @angieweinberger

Are you a Senior Manager, often managing globally mobile talent in your company?

How many times have you had the realization that your company’s Global Mobility Program is not diverse enough? Are you concretely working to achieve your company’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) goals, and do you foster more inclusion within your team?

Let’s see how you can actively help fill the current gap in diversity common to so many organizations.

What Is a “Diverse and Inclusive Organization”? 

An organization is diverse when it encompasses all aspects of the employees, from age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, family status, and background. However, an organization is only inclusive when minority groups are allowed and encouraged to participate in the decision-making process and to contribute to breaking the career glass ceiling. Besides being meaningless, diversity without inclusion does not drive team performance (Czerny and Steinkellner, 2009). To quote the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, “inclusive diversity is a strength.”

Why Isn’t There More Minority and Female Talent in Global Mobility?

A KPMG survey highlighted that most Global Mobility Programs do not have specific Diversity and Inclusion objectives as part of their department’s strategy. Why is that? 

According to 59% of the respondents, the reason is that candidates for international assignments are chosen by you and not the Global Mobility Team. This is true. However, this does not explain why you are not being more inclusive of minority and female talent in your selection. 

Could you not challenge your promotion and selection decisions more often? 

Another 31% consider the movement of people to new countries and cultures as diverse and inclusive by its very nature and do not think that further DE&I goals are needed. We believe this is too short-sighted and a biased view of the world. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at this stage still need affirmative action (also called positive action in the U.-K.), that is to implement policies and guidelines to correct tendencies due to bias against women or any form of minority.

You and I need to push actively to integrate more minority and female talent into our expat populations. 

What you consider a minority will depend strongly on your home base country, usually the country where your HQ is based. However, I recommend that you consider more second-generation immigrants, People of Color, and refugees.

Only 41% of the respondents say they have DE&I objectives as part of their Global Mobility strategy.

You indeed have acknowledged that meeting these goals is not easy. Here are the common challenges faced by most Global Mobility Programs.

1 – There’s a Data Gap on Most Aspects of Diversity 

Apart from gender and gender identity, there is a  scarcity of mobility-related data on most demographics (KPMG, 2018a). This makes it difficult for Global Mobility Teams to identify problem areas and find solutions related to disability status, religion, ethnicity, academic, professional, and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

2 – There Are Still Too Many Biases and Stereotypes

As you can easily guess, this issue particularly affects how women are represented within the international mobile population. Currently, women only make up 20% to 25% of it (PwC, 2016; MacLachlan, 2018), which shows how much more work is needed to fill the gap. 

The good news is that 88% of the women (PwC, 2016) feel that they need international experience to advance in their careers. The bad news is that there is a strong perception that women with children don’t want to work abroad. To make it worse, traditional mindsets still typically associate men with international assignments. 

Interestingly, however, data shows that women don’t let that impede on their career plans: 66% of women would be happy to work abroad at any stage of their career (vs. 60% for men), and only 17% of women cited the well-being and education of their children as a concern preventing them from embarking on an international assignment (vs. 22% of men).

How many times have you consciously or unconsciously assumed that someone would not be able to perform their jobs effectively due to the situation in host locations? Or that they simply would not want to go on assignment due to family constraints, for example? Before assuming, just ask. 

3 – There’s a Lack of Transparency Over Who Is Assigned and Why

Let’s look at gender again. The data speaks loud and clear, and it’s worrying. 

According to 42% of women (PwC, 2016), organizations don’t have a clear view of what employees would be willing to be internationally mobile. This means that you may be choosing from a narrower pool than necessary. 

What’s more, only 13% of women who have been on assignment said that their employer has a program that positions Global Mobility as a core part of an employee’s career plan. 

4 – There’s a Lack of Flexibility in Assignment Choices 

You might not know that shorter and more flexible short-term assignments are notably more popular among women than men (PwC, 2016). In particular, women tend to give favorable consideration to frequent business travel based in their home country, fly-in/fly-out commuter assignments, short (6-12 months), and short-term assignments. Therefore, if you expanded the list of available options, you could match a more comprehensive variety of business demands. 

5 – There’s a Lack of Diversity Among the Pool of Candidates 

In heavily male-dominated types of work, such as construction and mining, casting a wider demographic net may be impossible. Likewise, some candidates may not go after mobility opportunities because they feel out of place. This explains why, for example, women, older workers, and people with disabilities may not raise their hands for relocations to oil rigs or construction sites. At the same time, minority groups may feel discouraged because they lack role models. But why not ask those unlikely candidates? Maybe that is all it would take! So, like Sundae Bean advises in her podcast discussion with Cathy Heyne, managers should be mindful of their assumptions and simply chose the best candidates for the assignments (not the ones they think want to take the assignment).

6  – External Factors Pose Barriers Too 

The definition of family has expanded to include same-sex couples for most mobility teams — rising from 17% in 1999 to 70% currently (KPMG, 2018a). However,  attitudes and laws in many countries have not kept pace. Most countries still don’t allow same-sex marriage, and homosexual acts are illegal in at least 69 countries. According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (2021), there are still seven countries where homosexual conduct is punishable by death. There are still ways you can support your LGBTQᐩ employees. Discuss potential assignment destinations with them and their partner, make sure you and the employee understand the legal situation in order to plan accordingly, and ensure having good support in the host country.

How Can You Benefit From Being More Inclusive?

Even though it may seem that the global business case for boosting Diversity and Inclusion is clear, the reality is still shockingly stuck in the last century. I have even observed that we have gone back three steps to supporting minority and female talent in the past 25 years.

If you want to expand your global competitiveness, you need to be a pioneer of equal opportunities, promote acceptance and understanding, and highlight the value of your employees. You need more than unconscious bias training for managers. You need to establish facts. And that can only be achieved with data. Here are the four main reasons to develop D&I goals for your Global Mobility Program.

1 – You Tap Into a Bigger Pool of Resources

Establish concrete goals for sending minority and female talent and persistently work towards achieving them. You will then automatically broaden the talent pool from which the mobile population is drawn. This way, you will also help ensure that the executive pipeline reflects your customer base, developing a more diverse group of future leaders. Finally, report the data regularly to your Senior Management. Without data, nothing will change.

2- You Have Access to a Broader Range of Perspectives

It should go without saying that a broader range of backgrounds (considering all possible factors, i.e., gender/gender identity, sexual orientation, culture, language, socio-economic classes, etc.) results in a team having a more comprehensive range of perspectives. That will successively reflect itself in better-stimulated creativity and innovation, and a team ready for all opportunities.

3 – Your Team Will Collaborate Better

It has been proven that women generally have better collaboration abilities. This heightened sense of collaboration is in part due to women’s better ability to read non-verbal cues. Better collaboration will allow improvement in many fields, among which many team processes. Researchers have observed that groups with more women tend to respect speaking turns better and are better at leveraging each team member’s knowledge and competencies. 

4 – You Control Costs Better

One of the leading mobility cost drivers is not related to pay packages and policies per se but because companies often have a limited choice of candidates for assignments. A broader talent pool facilitates assignment success and indirectly helps control costs. You depend less on one candidate and can negotiate better packages if you have a broader pool. You probably also have better candidates if you have more than one in the pipeline. Another way hiring minorities and women will benefit you financially is that happy and respected employees tend to be more loyal and easy to retain; that, in turn, saves you time, money and energy in the hiring and training process. Do bear in mind that hiring them is a good starting point, but not sufficient in itself: you have to treat them well and not be afraid to admonish sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, etc. in the office or anywhere, for that matter!

5 – You Improve Your Brand and Reputation as an Employer of Choice

Nowadays, having international experience is a precondition to reaching top managerial levels within many multinational companies. Employees develop essential skills and build a network that boosts their careers immensely. It’s therefore crucial that you promote mobility as part of your talent brand. If you do that, you will also be advantaged when competing for minority and female talent. Offering international opportunities to minority and female talent will put you ahead of the competition by showing in your reviews. You will become renowned as an “Employer of Choice.” 

If you feel you belong to one of the mentioned groups and you might need more support in order to have a breakthrough in your career you can always contact me for individual coaching. We offer several programs and free workshops as well.

The annual RockMeRetreat is for all senior-level professionals who need a boost to overcome challenges in there professional and personal lives. I am really determined to help minorities (of any kind) and women overcome the obstacles they face in their careers and better their journey.  The RockMeRetreat will also help you if you need a “pitstop” to think about your current situation, improve your relationships and want to re-energize yourself.

We are offering the RockMeRetreat this year at the Haus der Begegnung, Ilanz, Grisons, from 17 to 23 November 2022. Sign up here to be updated and informed.

Resources and further reading

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/05/the-myth-of-flexibility-for-women-in-the-workplace/?utm_source=sfmc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2777109_Agenda_weekly-20May2022&utm_term=&emailType=Agenda%20Weekly

121: Why Only 25% Of International Assignees Are Women

https://www-srf-ch.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.srf.ch/article/18661443/amp 

Murchie, F. (2020). Women on the front line. Relocate Global, Summer Issue 2020, p.13 https://content.yudu.com/web/fiqy/0A3p9yp/Summer-2020/html/index.html?page=12&origin=reader

https://attitude.co.uk/article/meet-the-head-of-the-united-nations-lgbtq-staff-network/23388/?fbclid=IwAR3iICb0qbAqf2lZWoerrUxYTkKIIgBrd7qBs3EWtgReDadvT54I9BoEDi0

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/5/18/21260209/facebook-sheryl-sandberg-interview-lean-in-women-coronavirus

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2020/06/three-degrees-racism-america/613333/

 ​https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200724-why-imposter-syndrome-hits-women-and-women-of-colour-harder 

https://www.fidi.org/blog/expats-with-disabilities?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=socialseeder&utm_campaign=2020+07+%2F+01+-+Expats+with+disabilities%3A+why+the+lack+of+accessibility+is+holding+us+all+back

References 

Czerny, E. J. & Steinkellner, P. S. (2009). Diversität als Basis erfolgreicher Teams. Eine ressourcenorientierte Betrachtung. Unpublished Working Paper, Vienna: PEF Privatuniversität für Management.  

Human Rights Campaign Foundation. (2019, Sep. 23). World Report 2019: Human Rights Watch Country Profiles: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2019/02/28/human-rights-watch-country-profiles-sexual-orientation-and

Human Rights Campaign Foundation. (2021, April. 23). World Report 2021: Human Rights Watch Country Profiles: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved June 04, 2021, from
https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2021/04/23/country-profiles-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity 

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

KPMG. (2018b). Inclusion and Diversity in Global Mobility. 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.pdf

KPMG. (2021). Inclusion and Diversity in Global Mobility. 2021 U.S. DEI report. KPMG. Retrieved 7 June 2022. , from https://www.kpmg.us/content/dam/global/pdfs/2021/kpmg-us-2021-dei-report.pdf.

Maclachlan, M. (2018; Mar.). Why Female Talent Are the Future of Global Mobility. Learnlight. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://insights.learnlight.com/en/articles/female-talent-future-global-mobility/

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