Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

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

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

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

 

Five Gaps in the Global Mobility Approach

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

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

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

Trend 1 Financial crisis led to budget cuts

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

Trend 2 Local Plus is the new black 

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

Trend 3 The Talent Gap

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

Trend 4 Health and Security concerns hinder free movement

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

Trend 5 Global Migration Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


The Bourne Effect – If you do not know who you are…

You are Jason Bourne, you wake up in a hotel room in a Middle Eastern country. It’s too hot in your room. You sweat and you just woke up from a nightmare. You are not sure if this nightmare is a memory because you cannot remember who you are. 

How will it be possible for you to connect with anyone? How will you trust others if you do not even know who you are? What if you have changed your identity so often that you cannot even clearly pronounce your name?

This is a challenge and you are probably shaking your head. “This is a movie, it’s not real.”. 
Yes, but there is a truth in this movie that is relevant to your job search in a new country. It might even be true if you are looking for a new job in your own country.

In professional life, we want to hire people we can trust. We want to hire a competent professional who can show us that they managed a similar challenge before. We want to work with people who will be self-starters and won’t need a year to be up to speed in the role.

You need a professional identity before you can enter the circle of trust. Trust starts with you trusting yourself, your knowledge, attitudes, skills, experiences and how you acquire and store them in your brain. You need to be aware of how you relax, how you focus and center yourself when you are in a critical and stressful complex matrix environment. (That’s why we are developing RockMe! at the moment).

I often notice when you come to see me, that you are not aware of most of your competencies. You take them for granted and assume that a recruiter, computer or line manager will already know everything about you when they scan your resume because they are mind-readers and miracle workers.

For them, it is as obvious as all the three-letter-acronyms you have been using on your résumé because English is their native language and they are working in a similar field, profession, and industry. 

What your personal brand should say about you

When we speak about the personal brand it is something unique to you, something that makes people remember your name, that sticks with people and that keeps you top-of-mind when they are looking for someone with your profile. This brand is not just a marketing factor. Putting three labels (professional designations) on your résumé will help a reader to categorize you and put you into the right mental box.

Ideally, you keep reminding this reader of you so that the box is not closed but open, and so that the avatar in the box shines like a Swarovski crystal. Oh, look, here’s Jason Bourne again. Matt Damon is associated with this movie role. He will never be able to play any other role without us thinking: “Oh, that’s Jason Bourne!”.

When I saw “Hidden Figures” and when Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory appeared, I had to laugh. Then, I always waited for him to act like the Sheldon that he is BUT he was playing another role and did that really well. It was hard for me to accept though because for me Jim Parsons is not an identity. For me this guy IS Sheldon.

Imagine you are trying to re-brand yourself. It’s very difficult. Your former career image sticks to your face and to your online trail. I can tell a few CEO’s who won’t find a job anymore because they are burnt.

What is your personal brand?

Your personal brand is not only your name, headshot, twitter handle, trademark, signature product or the funny pink hat. It’s also how you make others feel. It’s what you express with your seven work principles. People should identify you with how you work and how you relate to others.

They should be happy to refer you to others by saying: “She is really competent and helped me on several occasions when I was stuck. She has been my greatest cheerleader.” or “He is true to his values and always seems to do the correct move. He has never let me down.”

How to connect your personal brand with your seven work principles?

As you already know if you have been through HireMe! , we recommend that you develop your seven work principles in alignment with your personal values. An example would be: “I prioritize my clients over my prospects.”. If your personal brand is aligned with your work principles then your clients would say about you that you always take their concerns seriously and that you get back to them in an appropriate timeframe.

If you want this behavior to show, you could ask previous clients to endorse you for this behavior in their personal references and on LinkedIn. You could also try to write a special reference or recommendation about a person in your professional network, without expecting them to endorse you back.

Please tell me how you will review your work principles this week and how you will align them to your personal brand. Then take a break and watch a movie. It’s inspiring.


By Brooke Faulkner

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

Invest in Workforce Diversity and Hiring

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

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

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

Have a great Global Mobility Team

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

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

International Marketing Campaigns

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

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

Check the Risks of Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brooke Faulkner

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

#RockMeRetreat19

Join us for #RockMeRetreat2019.

Do you sometimes wonder when you update a spreadsheet, database or presentation, why you went to university in the first place? Do you sometimes feel in meetings that your potential is not fully utilized? Or when you run a team, are you the Chief Entertainer? Are you the parent cleaning up the toys after the kids, trying to stop them from fighting about the electronic devices, the projects and the recognition (i.e. bonus)?

Do you regularly try to calm the storm when one of your colleagues thinks she is right and the other one says that she started picking on him for no reason?

Companies and organizations often feel like kindergarten. As a leader you spend a large part of your day solving problems, easing difficult relationships, convincing colleagues to collaborate and cleaning up sloppy data entries from unmotivated service providers. They should be motivated by the fact that they charge you for their services but their staff lost touch to the end client. For them, it feels as if they are working in a data factory.

It’s a sad reality that shows in employee surveys and Gallup reports across the globe.

In my view, we need to deconstruct global careers and build a new concept for a fulfilled professional life for our expats, their spouses, and our #GlobalMobility teams. Last week, we started to discuss the future of work and how it will affect your “career”. We encouraged you to think like an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs have a purpose in their life. They know why they roll up a stone every day, they have an aim for their daily efforts. Being an entrepreneur for me has been the most challenging and most rewarding professional experience of my career. Not that I did not like my work earlier but I love the diversity and self-actualization opportunity that this kind of “portfolio” career allows a “multi-potentialite” with many interests like myself.

Here are five questions for you to reflect on:

1) What if you wanted or had to become an entrepreneur early next year?
2) What would be your three main goals for 2019?
3) Which knowledge can you build on?
4) Which critical skills do you want to develop further?
5) Which attitude would you need and which beliefs would you have to let go of?

If you would like to record your answers in our #RockMeApp or if you wish to join our #RockMeRetreat19 sign up here. #RockMeRetreat2019

Kind regards

Angie Weinberger

 

 

We recommend you also listen to and read this:

Podcast by Sundae Bean on Expat Life Upgrade

“The future of work is a complex thing” featuring Luke Skywalker and Buffy by the Libby.

Kai Beckmann’s take on the future of work Are we Curious Enough for the Future of Work?

Join the discussion on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter with #FoW.

 

RockMe! Retreat

For about a year now we have followed the discussion around “Future of Work (#FoW)” and we asked you what you would need to learn if you wanted to be more successful and happier.

You probably know that health and time are your most important assets. You would, therefore, ensure that you exercise, relax and watch your nutrition. You would also guard your time and try to be helpful at the same time. Most importantly, you would celebrate your close friends and family. They will probably stand by you when the going gets rough or when the rent doesn’t get paid.

You are not able to hide behind a manager and let her do the tough jobs only so you can complain that she never lets you do anything exciting. As an entrepreneur, you will stand in the limelight and you will need to perform all of your billable time.

What I have learned over the last few years is that “learning new stuff” took a new dimension for me when I started my business because, in the beginning, you have zero help. You can source support but it is usually too expensive so you will do a lot of tasks yourself that were done by other people in the corporate world. You might have been used to a team and never had to change the paper in the printer. You had a PA who would claim your expenses. Maybe you had a business development professional who would spice up your proposals. You certainly did not have to raise invoices and chase their payments.

On a skill level, we can always improve or learn something. We even need to practice in order not to forget.

If you feel you already know everything, you could write a book or learn Mandarin or Arabic. This will probably humble you.

Most of you have one theme in common. You are overwhelmed and stressed. One of the reasons is perfectionism, another is the need to optimize life as if it was a business. Everything is a project. The first communion of your daughter an event. The light exercise is a fitness marathon.
A date with someone is a juggling exercise and creates anxiety as you will need everything to be on the “promi-dinner” standard. Your apartment is mega-clean because you only accept hotel standard nowadays. Do you also fold the toilet paper into a triangle shape sometimes and lay a piece of chocolate on your partner’s cushion?

Stop perfectionism. Start Creation.

Give room for creation.

When you are satisfied with your work because you have a strong purpose, the amount of time you put in is not really that relevant. Your creative process needs a different space than a factory-style task. Deep satisfaction comes from creation, not from the routine and administration. I also believe you can only monetize creation. Routine can be automated and outsourced.

We created the RockMe! App to increase stress for you. No joke. You will probably feel under pressure to achieve when you work with a coach. You might experience though that your energy is more targeted. You will achieve what is important to you and you will do it with pleasure. I advise you to write your three major goals for 2018 in present tense as if you had already achieved them. If you are a visual person try to find an image or photo for every one of the three future states you would like to achieve.

As soon as you start working with the app one of our coaches will check in with you on a regular basis to see how you are getting ahead. Will this cost you anything? Yes. You will need to give us feedback. If you find our work helpful, we assume that you will recommend GPT and the RockMe! App to all your contacts and friends. That’s all.

I wish you a productive week.

Kind regards,

Angie Weinberger

P.S.: Don’t forget to check out Lucie’s post on Expat children and Identity Crisis.

Plus, read this article if you are interested in 12 tips for working virtually in a multicultural team.