Author Archives: Angie Weinberger
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

What attracts expat couples to Zurich? For a majority of them, the main reasons to move to Zurich are love, 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 the 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. 

“Lifestyle Expats” have different Challenges

As I explained in previous editions of “The Global Mobility Workbook”, we see a new breed of expats who move from country to country. This is generally because they grew up as Third-Culture Kids already, their spouse is offered a job in another country and they tag along and still wish to have a career or they are simply from a generation who feels entitled to international experience as part of their early-career experience.

They are on local contracts

Most “lifestyle expats” in Zurich are on local contracts.  It is already a challenge to have children in different school systems and moving them from country to country, even if they are in the international school system but it’s even harder when you have to pay yourself. As an international parent you need advice as you will not necessarily understand the Swiss school system.

They underestimate the effect of culture

The next underestimated challenge is 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.

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? 

We need to start with ourselves and raise our “global competency”. “Global Competency” is a model I developed for “The Global Mobility Workbook” as well.

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 expats from other backgrounds in a better way.

What does this mean for Global Mobility?

Basically, we are moving away from policies and focusing 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, our 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 Global Mobility 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”. 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. The term “migrant” is considered to 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.

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

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. Let me call it “Expat Experience” for our purposes. “Expat Experience” is more than just a case of user experience. There are several components to it. As we start to develop the idea of the Expat Experience, I think we should focus on five components:

  1. the service expats receive at touch points, 
  2. the cultural adjustment process, 
  3. the learning journey
  4. the “deeper expat experience”
  5. the communication hole.

The five components of the Expat Experience

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”

 

 

Nine Phases and Cultural Transitions (The Global Mobility Workbook, 2019)

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 Expat’s Feelings in the Process

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. 

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 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.”

If you are in Global Mobility directly or if you are a service provider seeing an expat and their family as a client or customer will probably help. You are not only serving a company.

 In my view our higher purpose is to bring the human touch back into Global Mobility or as I said in my talk:

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.” 

Kind regards 

Angie Weinberger

 

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.       

According to Brookfield (2016) 95% of companies do not measure their Global Mobility Return on Investment.

“Given the inordinate amount of cost pressure on mobility today, it is somewhat surprising that more companies do not seem to have basic cost management practices in place. Only 62% of respondents indicated that they track costs during an assignment, and even fewer noted that a cost-benefit analysis is required at the outset of an assignment. With barely two-thirds of companies actually tracking the basic and most transparent part of their investment in assignments – their cost, it is not surprising that 95% of companies do not measure international assignment ROI.” 

This research is from 2016 and I bet if we had an updated version we would come to the same conclusion. When I speak to Global Mobility Professionals about ROI they usually roll their eyes and tell me all the reasons why it is impossible to measure Global Mobility Return on Investment in their company.

Over the last two months, I also read “Managing Expatriates – A Return on Investment Approach” by McNulty and Inkson (2013). It’s a great book, slightly academic but has really good ideas about what we can improve in Global Mobility. The authors suggest a new model and approach for expatriate ROI. I like their approach because they build on five core principles. (If you are short on time focus on Chapter 9 of the book).

As the authors state previous data based on repatriation turnover, assignment failure, assignment success and job performance were not consistently measured. To date, I often have doubts about statistics, traffic light systems, and metrics. Mainly, because I know that the data behind is often incomplete and stats are too often used to manipulate decision makers in HR and the line. This is because these decision makers are usually men in their 50ies, analytical thinkers, who need numbers to justify their gut feeling. If you have worked in an industry for 20 years, you know why you lose your best talent. You know that you have disappointed your female potential. You know that you are not doing enough for minorities. BUT without stats, you don’t see the need to change. Without suffering (as in losing clients, money, baseline) you don’t question the status quo.

Measuring international assignment ROI is easier said than done. The issue is not only about data quality and integrity. The main issue in my view is the lack of collaboration between line managers and Global Mobility Professionals. We can continue to discuss return on investment in Global Mobility for the next 10 years or we can adopt McNulty and Inksons five core principles.

We can continue looking for the magic potion that will make us look like the next CFO. (I’m thinking of Asterix as I write this. There should be an “Asterix with the GM Professionals…”).

Here are four reasons why I think we are not going to achieve a good measurement of return on investment in Global Mobility.

1) No clear assignment targets

If you want to measure ROI you need to have clear and measurable international assignment targets. Usually, assignment targets are blurry, hard to measure or non-existent. In order to determine ROI, a mix of operational indicators would need to be measured regularly. Examples include performance on assignment, repatriate retention, business volume driven by expats. We could measure savings and improvements through knowledge transfer, risk reduction, staffing stability and culture transfer from headquarter to other areas of the organization.

Most of these targets need to be transformed into measurable Key Performance Indicators. They would need to integrate into management information systems. And, we would need to have a clear understanding of what is actually expected of our expats around the world. Often this is not the case and evolves only during the assignment.

2) Flaws in the business case bring down Global Mobility Return on Investment

There should be a business case behind every international assignment and every kind of Global Mobility. Surprise…This is not self-understood.

Many companies have a hard time even differentiating between a developmental assignment and a strategic assignment. Often international assignments are not really thought through. Assignees are sent to “fill a gap”, “to accelerate a process”, “to drive more sales” and “to make them there do everything the way we do it here.” Ever heard this before?

We often do not fully understand the situation on the ground, in the host country until we have been there and done the work ourselves. Many home managers are completely oblivious to intercultural differences, the importance of local business relationships and the importance of the host language. Too often expats need a lot longer than expected to work through the intercultural transition phase, deal with family issues during the move and settling in phase and often expats overestimate their capabilities.

3) Decision makers and Global Mobility Professionals do not collaborate yet

Most managers think of “HR” as troublemakers, cost producers, and list tickers. Instead of asking Global Mobility Professionals for support in defining assignment targets and setting up a business case, they see them as the “admin, who will make it happen when I have decided”. This is a historical drama and Global Mobility Professionals have not managed to show their value to the line managers when they have taken on the role of the “Policy Police” in the past.

Managers do not involve Global Mobility Professionals because they do not think that they will get any good input from them. This process requires relationship and trust building from both ends. Line managers need to learn to trust in the Global Mobility Professional and ask them for support in defining the international assignment business case. If there is no business case or if it is not justifiable, it might be possible to consider a permanent transfer or alternative options.

4) We do not add to Global Mobility Return on Investment by focussing on bean counting

We need to stop bean counting in Global Mobility and start adding real value by supporting the talents and leaders of the company get their job done as quickly and effectively as possible. We should learn to trust expats in their decisions about budget and costs, give them a good shelve of benefits to chose from and have excellent and agile service providers available to us 24/7. We should not turn pennies around while in other parts of the company money is wasted. We should focus on what really matters and that is that we bring back the human touch into Global Mobility.

 

Angie Weinberger

PS: Sign up here to receive updates on the publication date of “The Global Mobility Workbook (Third Edition)”. Launch is scheduled for 7 October 2019 on Amazon globally.

 

 

 

Culture beats structure!


With “The Global Mobility Workbook – 3rd Edition” launch just around the corner, I thought I would talk a little about my journey of completing this book.

Every book project is a huge team effort. I realized in June that it would be easy to just quit the project so I forced myself a little. I used what I call the “people approach to managing projects”. I’ve explained this approach in a module of our RockMe! program.

The People Approach

“The “People Approach to Managing Projects” has several steps. First, you visualize the end result and paint a detailed picture of it. Second, you add post-it notes of people you see connected to this end vision. Third, you consider which role they will play in your end vision. Fourth, you reach out to them and let them know that you need their help. Then, you engage them for a job in your project and finally, you find two commitment buddies who will check in with you on your success and report to them on a weekly basis. It is also vital to tell the world about your project.”

I figured it would help to hire a team of professionals and also tell as many people as possible about my upcoming book launch. We decided that it was important to launch the book in the fall before the Frankfurt Book Fair and the start of the winter semester. And then I started to tell the world about the upcoming launch by writing individual emails to at least 100 people in my industry, acquaintances, and friends.

Set a Hard Deadline

Based on the availability of good friends and colleagues we then decided on a date for the book launch party. With that date in the diary, it was really easy to move forward.

I was being asked how I approached revisions with a fresh perspective after having spent so long on the book itself. The thing is, it is important to approach revisions with a fresh mind after having spent so long working with the book’s earlier editions – since 2014 and with some cases, I work since 2009.

The Production Phase

Once the manuscript was ready in April we used it in practice already for workshops. A fresh perspective comes from readers, the feedback of learners and the experience of working with the cases and the book. Also, each team member brings in a new perspective. One team member is responsible for English language edits, another one helps with captivating titles while one member handles sales on social media platforms. I want to thank all my team members for working so diligently, especially over the last eight weeks. They helped turn the project into a work of art. I can be a pain sometimes and they really handled me well.
I also think it is important to work in a structured manner and trust that every team member will do their best in the process. So once the edits were done, I did not look at content anymore, only verified that logic and structure were matching. I also have to admit that the last revision involved some improvisation. I was sitting at Newark airport and because everything there is payable by credit card, I could not really find a place to sit and eat. I’ve stopped keeping a credit card to stop myself from overspending. One of the few habits that help me as a solopreneur.

I took out a small notebook and my iPhone and started to review the final draft of the manuscript. I managed to type down the result of my feedback into a Google Doc, share it with my graphic designer just before I boarded the plane. It was such a great collaboration that she was able to work on changes I requested while I was in the air.

Pre-Launch Phase

With the book going live on Amazon last week we have pre-launched it to the Global Mobility tribe.

On 3 October 2019, we will celebrate the book launch and that is the start of the “launch phase”. In the current phase, it’s important to sell as many books as possible. “Virginia Robot” at Amazon will then think that you are doing something right and promote your book further.

I have been going through different emotions and my imposter syndrome was trying to sneak in once in a while. So, there were moments where I wanted to stop the project.

The good thing is that this is my third book launch and by now I know how these inner corruptors feel. I understand that a lot of us artists are afraid to show their work to the world. It’s the first time I call myself “artist” and the first time I changed my LinkedIn profile to say “author”. For me, this was a process of at least seven years from blogging onwards to publishing a book.

The Devil is in the Detail

I care about details such as words, spelling, grammar, structure, typos, logistics and my guests!!!

The last two weeks have been exciting and intense because I’m not only the author of “The Global Mobility Workbook”, I am also involved in the major decisions related to production, digital marketing and launch aspects.

And while I have enjoyed every part of it, I also have clients, family and friends to take care of. Frankly speaking, I wake up at 6 AM on the weekend thinking about the book launch.

The Four C’s

You might understand that for “The Global MobilityWorkbook” I have summarized four key risk areas into a “Four C-Model”. The Four C’s are Cost, Compliance, Care and Career. Students really need such simplicity to remember models.

The launch party also follows a Four C model: Cremant, cheese, chips, and colleagues will be there. We are expecting the Global Mobility Community of Zurich as well as international guests from Dusseldorf, Dubai and Dublin.

Workshop and Special Program

We will also offer a free workshop on Friday, 4 October 2019 and enjoy a movie at the Zurich Film Festival. A tourist program is also planned for our international guests.

How can you Support us

Please help us promote the book and use the hashtag #TheGlobalMobilityWorkbook whenever you mention it.

If you tag me, I can appreciate and share your posts on Instagram angie_weinberger and Twitter @angieweinberger.

At the book launch, we will be sharing updates while the event is happening and also share a post-event video covering the highlights of the event.

Are you  an upcoming photographer and videographer in Zurich, willing to cover our event in order to get exposure?  We will promote you via our social media and on the event. Do let us know if willing to volunteer.

If you have any questions about the book or the event, please reply to this email.

Looking forward to welcoming those who RSVPed at the launch.

Have a productive week ahead.

Kind regards,

Angie Weinberger and Team

Why it is so difficult to come up with a good curriculum for Global Mobility

As you probably understood already the arena of Global Mobility is vast and no Global Mobility Manager will have all the answers. If you enjoy constant challenges and a day that never looks the same Global Mobility could be right for you. However, you also need to be very structured, focussed and analytical. For Global Mobility Educators, it is a constant challenge to provide a curriculum that is based on the right career level and also deep enough. Most courses you will find about Global Mobility in your home country will assume the home approach and all the special legal areas will mainly be presented based on “home” legislation and in the home language. If you are managing a global population and wish to implement a host approach you will need to go through a lot of learning by doing and you probably have to invent the wheel.

The Expatise Academy in Holland

I recommend the Expatise Academy program in Global Mobility because I am a lecturer at the Academy and have seen how they ensure the high-quality standards in teaching. The program has a modular approach and follows your career development as a Global Mobility Professional. You should consider learning the basics at least for the home country of labor and employment law, immigration, personal and corporate tax and you need to understand your Global Mobility policy and compensation approaches.

Global Competency

A factor that is often underestimated in Global Mobility is the critical importance of developing global competency. As long as we do not see cultural differences, we do not know why men and women from other cultures behave and think differently than we do. We just assume that they are “strange”. Also, we might think we treat the other person with respect but the concept of respect is defined differently in other culture. Even if we consider ourselves open-minded, we might not have developed the skills that we need in order to be more effective in other cultures.

Our brains today still work in a similar way to that of the cavewoman. We often decide only about fight or flight. We hardly ever step back in stressful situations and think “Why is that person behaving like this?”.  We rarely sit down, take a deep breath, smile and then write a polite email to say that our judgment of the situation might have been guided by our own values and assumptions. No. Normally we jump to conclusions first and put other people’s behavior in a box (Like / Not Like). Facebook does not help.

We rely on our mental images and can become prejudiced because this is the way our gut decides if we are safe or in danger. Our mental images are influenced by our inner landscapes but also largely by the pictures we see on the news channels every day.  When some Westerners hear “Pakistan” they think “terrorism”, “Islamists”, “oppression of women” and “Osama bin Laden” instead of  “IT professionals”, “tourism” or even “Benazir Bhutto”.

A holistic Global Competency model

For the development of global competency, I have developed a simplified model with five elements: knowledge,  attitude, skills, experience and body learning. I first explained this model in an article in the German-speaking HR magazine Persorama (Weinberger, 2013). I work with this model in executive coaching and it also helps junior professionals start developing their effectiveness in a global context.

What is Global Competency?

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. It is a combination of knowledge, attitude, skills, reflected experiences and body learning.

Let’s look at the different elements of Global Competency.

Knowledge

You can gain knowledge of a country’s history,  politics, economy, and religion.  It is helpful not to focus only on factual information but to prioritize all the topics you enjoy reading about. As mentioned previously, start with the home country and move on to the knowledge areas of other legislation. Areas of knowledge you need to study are the tax, social security, immigration, local employment law, business terms, compensation and benefits, country-specific history and processes.

Attitude

It is very important that you develop openness for ambiguity, the potential to accept new experiences and the questioning of your own cultural minting. Through making yourself aware of and verifying your own cultural beliefs, you develop a more open attitude. Once you understand and are aware of your own cultural attitude and behaviors you are able to change your behavior to be more effective. You want to develop a global mindset and become more open towards ambiguity and not knowing. You want to practice curiosity and learn to be humble and serving.

Skills

Through developing your foreign language skills, active listening and empathy you can gain better access to people of other cultures. In today’s technology-driven times I believe it is also important for a globally active professional to have media competency. It’s important to be effective in telephone and video-conferences, but also to be able to build connections via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. If you are working in Global Mobility you will have to develop your analytical problem- solving skills, you need a feel for numbers. You want to develop your language skills (especially English). You might need consulting and communication skills. You need to improve the way you build relationships.  You need to work with information and communication technology effectively and have a grasp of Social Media.

Reflected Experience

When dealing with other cultures it is helpful to analyze critical situations and incidents. One option is the „search for the proof of the opposite. You could, for example, have an assumption about a person’s cultural behavior and then assume that it’s the opposite of your assumption and find proof for this theory. You can start to write an intercultural diary and reflect your assignee cases by applying systemic thinking. You need the ability to record cases, decisions, and exceptions. You need to able to note the details while not losing focus of the overall process. You could debrief challenging assignees with an external coach.

Body Learning

By learning dances or practicing martial arts, and relaxation methods you learn to focus and you will feel better in your body. Thereby you will be able to handle the stress and global complexity a lot better. A good physical constitution is helpful to remain globally competent and effective.  Other creative tasks such as painting, playing the piano and photography are also helpful. You want to develop a good routine for processing information. You can increase your presence in meetings and with your clients by following our advice on learning a dance, martial art or relaxation method.

Test your Intercultural Sensitivity

A lot of scientific work has been written on intercultural sensitivity. My favorite model is Milton Bennett’s developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (DMIS). This model is the basis for the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) by  Hammer and Bennett (2001).
Would you like to test your intercultural sensitivity with the IDI and see if you estimated your competence correctly?
If you would like to go through the test you can email me. The cost is CHF 97 including a debriefing.