Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

 

 

You could be a #GlobalMobility rockstar with a few tricks of the trade.

I held a talk at the Forum for Expatriate Management event in Rotterdam a few years back. Every word is true today. I am nowadays more involved in operational global mobility topics than I ever was and while the constant filling of payroll instructions, hypo tax calculations, and balance sheet updates reminds me of the Sysiphus tasks I mentioned in the talk, I have learned a great deal over the last few years and I don’t mind the operational work so much anymore as long as I can still coach expats and their families.

I am contemplating that even expatriate payroll is so much more interesting than normal payroll and that we need professionals with intercultural competence to ensure that the expats get paid correctly. You would think this is easy but believe me with all the technology, processes sometimes seem more complicated than in 1999. At that time we used to calculate net payments on paper.

In the last few weeks, I used a calculator every day and excel became my second best friend. On a few occasions, we don’t seem to get it right in the first attempt. The bonus is wrong, the expat unhappy and we get a new calculation. Then we start again. The third time it’s easier.

In a case from the UK, I notice that the pension contribution has changed from the previous year. In one from Madagascar, a figure was not transferred automatically into the next record of the assignee. A lot of checking and cross-checking is needed.

Once you think that you finally have created the right balance sheet you send it to the assignee and they tell you that it is a joke. They challenge your figures and you need to go back to the provider and explain why the tax system in the UK reduces your personal allowance once your salary reaches 100k GBP so that your bonus is taxed at an unimaginable tax rate. Or why the INR has devalued against the EUR and how that is reflected in the Cost of Living Adjustment. Then they ask why the COLA is calculated on spendable income only and how we came up with that figure.

You need to see every step along the way as learning towards what you can contribute to the world. If you don’t enjoy this process, tell yourself that it is only once a year and it pays your rent. I see exciting challenges for the GM Professionals but even if you are in a different field you might relate to these topics too. Here are seven current issues that seem to be examples for GM Professionals around the world

  1. We solve issues with manual workarounds that we cannot seem to handle with technology.

  2. We need good working relationships with our colleagues and the expats around the world to solve those dilemmas.

  3. We need superior technical skills in tax, social security and immigration and other subject matter areas so we don’t lose oversight of the full process.

  4. Without the experience of at least 200 cases, it is really hard to see patterns in your problem-solving approach as every case poses a different country combination and needs to be tackled individually.

  5. We need high levels of focus and productivity to deliver excellent solutions.

  6. We work too many hours and it is hard for us to keep healthy.

  7. Many of us are women and at a career and pay level that is way below our background, competence, and qualification.

One of the reasons why I started my company Global People Transitions was to help Global Mobility Professionals develop further. I would like to encourage you and support you with advice on how to get your develop your global competency further.

You can buy “The Global Mobility Workbook” (2019) for further explanations, apply to become a tester of our RockMeApp and you can book 1:1 coaching sessions with Angie Weinberger.

Lifestyle Expatriates are often expat spouses in Dual-Career Couples, Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) and Gig Workers (or Digital Nomads as they tend to be called too). This is one driver of Global Mobility.

I have been a strong proponent of Global Mobility for years now and most readers and clients will know my general optimism towards it. This week I will be taking a critical look at the trend towards more Lifestyle expats and various shortcomings that need to be addressed. AIRINC (2019) confirms that 13% more companies now have an international one-way transfer policy (72% vs 59% in 2018). We also have to take into consideration here is that our populations are a lot more diverse than they used to be 10 years ago (Weinberger, 2019).

Let’s dive right in.

In recent years, we have come across a new source of mobility traffic. We can call this driver “lifestyle”. Through technology, economic crisis, and mobile mindsets, younger professionals are more willing to move to other countries to find work. The local-to-local hires from abroad are often “coming for love and staying for the job”. Locations with a high influx of foreigners due to low unemployment, high staff turnover and perceived high quality of living – such as Australia, Canada, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Switzerland – attract professionals from many countries. The jobs require academic backgrounds and professional experience but can be filled by local staff, if the talent is available in the marketplace. There is, however, a downside to this trend. Not many professionals think about the long-term consequences of moving from one place to another. Social security is covered in a later chapter, as well as other potential issues that can arise for global mobility professionals.

Lifestyle expats are often expat spouses in Dual-Career Couples, Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) and Gig Workers (or Digital Nomads as they tend to be called too).

What’s in the packages?
Often the packages of lifestyle expats are limited. They have a local employment contract in the Host Country. Sometimes we support the immigration and relocation process. The company does not always offer international medical insurance or an international pension plan. In many cases, this is not because of bad intentions. Often, local HR staff has not considered the package and support as they have misconceptions about how these systems work globally.

So here are a few examples and tips to consider.

Going to the US? –  Do you face any Work and Residence Permit Restrictions?
In recent years I have heard a lot of complaints about the US immigration process among others. Protectionism has made it a more trying and difficult process in many countries. In Switzerland, too, we have more administration to tackle than before the bilateral agreement with the EU on free movement was accepted. You need to learn and understand the steps of the immigration process – for certain countries such as the US, you will need the help of a lawyer. Check if your spouse is allowed to work in the host country.

Going to Brazil? – Have you thought about your personal security?
In several countries in the world, you might face issues of personal safety. Brazil is one such country which has built a bad reputation over the years. It’s worth taking a look at your government security websites before moving to a new country. Additionally, once you are there, find out right away where your Embassy is in case of an emergency and get yourself registered with them.

Going to Europe? – Do you have social security in this particular European country?
Imagine if you will, that you move overseas with your spouse, you just find out that you are pregnant but you don’t have health insurance coverage yet in the new country, nor any type of social security. You might not have new coverage because insurance companies won’t accept you or they will increase their premiums significantly.

This leaves you stuck in a limbo where you are waiting for the lengthy assessments for private medical, social security and international pension to come through, while your spouse or yourself require the use of those facilities.

Going to the Middle East – Do you have any residence rights if you get fired?
The employment on a local contract poses a risk in many countries in the world as you might have to leave the country in case you lose your job. If you accept a contract in the Middle East, make sure that you understand your rights and obligations but also your residence permit status. Is it bound to your employment or financial security?

Going to China – Are you ready to face the pace and work 24/7?
Some countries have a different work ethic than others. Some countries are highly productive while others still have a lot of inefficient processes. You could move to a country like China and be surprised how many hours you are physically expected to be “at work”, in the office or even socializing with colleagues. The pace in fast-growing markets such as China could drain you or become stressful in the long run.

Going to India – Will you face tax issues and do you understand your package? 
As a local hire, you might have different legal implications to consider than an expat being sent by a company. If you are going to India, it is worth checking the kind of tax exposure you will face there and to really understand the package that you are offered.

Relocation Planning is left up to you
Many companies have not implemented a great process for hires from other countries. HR often works ad-hoc and as mentioned doesn’t understand all implications.
I once met an expat who moved to Switzerland around the New Year and didn’t have a place to stay when she arrived! Normally, the company could have provided temporary accommodation but that did not happen, the expat ended up having to figure things out on her own.

You somehow forgot that the host country has a different native language than English
Internations mentions that there are still many expats moving to another country without managing the host language to a workable level. I’m often surprised when clients complain about German being ‘so hard to learn’. Even if you can survive well in Switzerland without German, not speaking the language hinders you from integrating into a culture and entering the “circle of trust”.
How can Global Mobility help if they are not empowered and don’t have the staffing?

Increase the Scope, Team and have Global Mobility report to the CEO
What can be done to improve on these shortcomings? On an organizational level, I strongly feel that making Global Mobility a  function reporting to the CEO is the most logical path to positive consequences. Global Mobility activities need to include all sorts of cross-border activity including weekly commuters, International Business Travellers, International Hires and “Digital Nomads”.

It would allow for smarter, involved decisions regarding Global Mobility professionals as part of the company’s expert staff. Looking after the wellbeing of your international workforce is now considered essential to an organization’s success, there really is no justification for slacking off on that front.

Having the CEO directly involved with Global Mobility allows them to devise budgets and become the escalation point for critical hires and moves. Often, CEOs only hear about GM when things go pear-shaped and there is, for instance, a real life-and-death situation such as a terrorist attack or a tsunami – at times like these GM might not be able to get through to them because there are too many layers of organization between them.

Address the Package Issues through a Guideline
We should address the package issues and devise at least medical coverage, support with the immigration for expat and spouse, international pension, pay for the move and repatriation in case of redundancy and ensure the personal safety of the expat family.

Despite the tougher aspects of being involved in Lifestyle Expatriation, I still maintain my optimism. The Future of Global Mobility will see us rise to the level of other corporate functions and we will be able to support our diverse global clients even better than today.

Great strides have been made in recent years and I am certain that the coming days will see more positive resolutions to people’s pain points and enhance the expat experience.

Lastly, I’d like to mention that the third edition of The Global Mobility Workbook is coming together really nicely.  For a field evolving as rapidly as #GlobalMobility, revisions to the workbook are inevitable to continue being of value to professionals. This edition brings you many new chapters, thorough analyses on the Future of Work and a host of improvements.


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

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

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

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

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

Communication across Cultures is a Challenge

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

And yes, there could be plenty of reasons behind these issues. Maybe it’s “not my fault” or “not my responsibility”. However, if we don’t achieve our goals as leaders, then we are not good enough as leaders. 

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

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

Does your partnership or family life suffer?

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

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

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

What is Global Competency in Global Mobility?

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

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

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

I’m trying to summarize the reasons why Expats and their Spouses have a hard time building professional relationships in Switzerland:

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

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

So, I decided to let go of “strategy” and follow my gut and memory. I realized that the best idea is not to worry too much about “contact segmentation”. We Germans love the word “Begriffsabgrenzung”, so we also do this to our social life (“Bekannter, Kollege, Freund, Verwandter, Familie, Partner, Ehepartner…”). It’s a step-by-step approach showing how much you trust the other person. The same segmentation exists in Switzerland, but there are “false friends”, e.g. the word “Kollege” means “Work Colleague” in High German and “Friend” in Swiss German. The meaning of the informal way of addressing a person with “Du” has a different meaning in Switzerland than in Germany. Without intercultural training a German manager will behave like a bull in a China shop in Switzerland – completely unintentionally. Hence, working with German managers in the “honeymoon phase” is a lot of work for the trainer or coach.

My approach after 10 years in Zurich

Some of my colleagues in the #GlobalMobility world have become friends over the years and some of my best friends from the university days or early career are colleagues or clients now. Some of my team members have almost become family and some of my family members work in the same field or closely related ones. 

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

When you know in your head and in your heart, that this person would never talk badly about you behind your back and would not spill your secrets with your competitors. I thrive in safe and collaborative environments but these require “relationship work”. We can’t stay on the task-level (the “Sachebene”, one of my favorite German words).

I’m aware that it takes “advance-trust”, but it also requires globally competent managers, Global Mobility Leaders and Expats.

We’ll continue with this topic next week.

Have a great week ahead!

Angie

PS: During the RockMeRetreat! I will support clients to overcome these challenges by applying the 4 P’s of building professional relationships (Purpose, Preparation, Presence and Promises). 

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

 

Why buy us?

“Global Mobility” is currently undergoing a global transformation. New technologies, the constant evolution of companies, generational diversity and political situations have evolved the roles and lives of mobile professionals faster than existing policies can keep up, calling for a clear focus on the processes to be updated to cater better for the people driving Global Mobility.

Are you as a Global Mobility Professional feeling overwhelmed by the speed and scope of this ‘boom’? Perhaps you need to introduce yourself to the field and get a better, broader overview of Global Mobility. 

Maybe you are in HR or a line manager and want to ensure that you are becoming an employer of choice for younger generations demanding “Global Mobility” as a prerequisite for working with you. 

Or, you are just on the brink of deciding for or against an international assignment as an expat or expat family and want to understand the language we use better.

How we will help you

Working with “The Global Mobility Workbook” and Angie Weinberger will enable you to:

  • run your Global Mobility in a more strategic way by deeper understanding trends and drivers of Global Mobility
  • develop and sort out your legal framework, policies, guidelines, exception management,
  • give you models for improving how you explain what we do to the outside world,
  • support expats and their spouses and enhance their “Expat Experience” through training, coaching and deeper understanding of the psychological effects of cultural adjustment,
  • develop your professional profile and “Global Competency”.

In order to make the expat experience worthwhile for their careers and support for their families even better, it takes people who want more than ticking off a checklist.

It takes dedicated professionals and it needs personal communication with the entire expat family. We want to bring the human touch back into our process-driven work.

That is just the tip of what Global Mobility truly is, and the Global Mobility Workbook provides not only a baseline starting point to understanding the field but is a hands-on manual for people in HR, line managers, expats and their spouses.

What you can expect from us

  • Establishing the Global Mobility Brand. Strategic classification of international assignments for the “business case”, integration of the assignment in succession planning and more. 
  • Optimizing the Global Mobility Process. Optimizing the operational handling of Global Mobility in all corporate processes from recruiting, via talent development to localisation. We explain basic principles without the technical details that overwhelm beginners in the field.
  • Defining the Global Mobility Clients. Focusing on the experience of expatriates and their spouses, as well as on the process of monitoring those who are affected, including their safety and health. We also give an overview of emergency situations.
  • Building the Global Mobility Team. Presenting Global Competency as a key component in the career development of Global Mobility Professionals. It’s a mix of knowledge, attitude, skills, reflected experience and body learning. We also coach you along the way and develop an online learning plan together.

It’s a workbook so it engages you with:

    • Goal Setting: In the beginning of our journey together you set goals for yourself.
    • Homework: Most chapters come with a suggestion of a homework.
    • 12 Case Studies: In addition we provide downloadable cases studies from daily business scenarios. These present you with various international mobility challenges to engage with and analyze. 
    • 7 Templates: We share templates upon request.
    • 5 Tools: We send you examples how you can run your operations and projects
    • 3 Checklists: Global Recruitment, Relocation, Social security considerations
    • 12 months RockMeApp: Free access to the RockMeApp, our career planner and online coaching platform (value 250 CHF/USD).

Sign up here for updates on this publication. 

About the Author

Angie Weinberger is the Global Mobility Coach. She combines executive coaching, her long-standing Global Mobility expertise and workshop facilitation skills into programs for Global Mobility Professionals, Expats and Expat Spouses. She’s a recognized guest lecturer in “Global Mobility” and “Intercultural Management” and has worked in HR with an international focus for over 20 years.

Previously she wrote “The Global Career Workbook” (2016). She also wrote a German textbook on managing international assignment into and out of Germany published in 2009, 2010 and 2011. This publication triggered her interest in writing again.

Angie’s current projects include building the Global Mobility Function for a private bank, the development of a web application for online coaching called RockMeApp and RockMeRetreat

Angie also defines herself as an author, social media junkie and Bollywood lover. She has lived and worked in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, India and Australia.

When Angie is not working she enjoys hiking in the Swiss countryside, watches movies and overindulges on the cooking of her Pakistani partner.

RockMe! Retreat

Have-Done-Lists are a great tool to boost your productivity. It is the opposite of the To-Do-List and was promoted by my coach educator Boudewijn Vermeulen. Like me, Boudewijn used to work in a consultancy company and he also coached a lot of lawyers. He knew about our ridiculous hours and how we were always trying to multitask to get more done in a shorter time frame but you probably know this situation from your own experience.

It’s 6.05 AM and you are just getting out of the shower… Your hair is toweled up and you light two candles. You get into your meditation pose and close your eyes. Then you realize that you have not set your alarm. So you get up and get your phone from the bathroom where you were reading an interesting article about the entrepreneur scene in Europe. Then you see that you have three new messages on WhatsApp…

At 8 AM you realize that your late and you hardly remember to take the train ticket, your badge, your purse and sunglasses and whoosh – you’re out of the door. You remember the candles, open the door again, blow them out and while you run to catch the train you think: “Didn’t I plan to meditate?” Sounds familiar?

We have too many distractions nowadays (oh no…I overcooked the pasta while writing this) that I often wonder how people get any work done at all. Have you ever caught yourself in the last 24 hours thinking “What am I actually doing right now?”. We have programs and routines and they do not seem to require the same brain activity as real challenges and often we are just keeping busy but our output is not really that relevant.

I saw several people walking on their Sunday stroll the other day and they all talked to someone on the phone via a headset. They did not just get a call. They planned to use their walking hour to speak to someone. I sometimes combine routine activities with other activities too. For example, I would watch a video or listen to a podcast while ironing. It works really well to combine such activities.

However, it does not help me in order to create. I prefer to mono-task and give my full attention to the task even if it seems mundane. I want to give my brain time to reflect and digest the input it receives during the week (and believe me there’s a lot of input). My creative side suffers when I don’t give my brain time to digest, reflect and organize. Unfortunately, with Social Media, I have such a love-hate relationship that I really need to discipline myself to get off them.

If you constantly feel that you are not getting enough relevant work done, I urge you to try the Have-Done-List.

1) Write down how you spend your time by using a “Have-Done-List”

I find the easiest way to do this is by having a notebook (old-school) next to my laptop or computer which just serves for this purpose (and other crazy ideas running through my head). You can add anything on this list that you have done during that day even this: “Sat down on a bench and enjoyed the sunshine in my face.”

Use Have-Done Diaries
Use Have-Done Diaries

2) Join our RockMe! Program and the RockMeRetreat

In RockMe!, we make weekly reflections a mandatory process. 15 minutes per week and you will be amazed at how much more you achieved than you thought. The thing is that if I don’t gently encourage you to do this you’d rather spend those fifteen minutes watching cat videos. For the youngsters amongst you, we have developed the RockMeApp.  If you are constantly feeling in a rat race you will profit from joining our RockMeRetreat.

Please share this post with all your rat lab friends and corporate clones.

Kind regards,

Angie Weinberger

PS: If you wish to have a fun chat with me about productivity please book a call with me here.