Author Archives: Nabeha

“Human Touch” is Critical to the Future of Global Mobility.

We are robots. At least you could get this impression when you deal with us. Virginia Robot is an observer in our “Global Mobility Academy”. They* comment regularly on our work. For example, when we analyze the process landscape or helping expats with their immigration process Virginia butts in with a comment how AI could do all that faster, better and cheaper.

For the last three years we’ve been experimenting with digital global mobility coaching and transition support with you.

We are in a good position to criticize the digitalization buzz and AI hype. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of new and shiny tech tools and I get excited about apps, but somewhere down the line, they usually disappoint me. For example, on Saturday I tried to book a flight via my Swissair App while on a train. It seems I just entered another country when…the process failed. Now, I’m trying to find out if my booking was saved in an “interrupted” cart or something and haven’t had a response for 48 hours. When you are an entrepreneur time and health are your most critical assets and it frustrates me when I “waste” time.

In 1999, when I called our global tax provider I either received an answer right away or they would call back within 24 hours, because that was considered good client service. Now, when I call I often don’t get a chance to leave voicemail and when I email, I can be happy if I receive a response within seven days. In my book, that’s not good enough. Let alone, that contracts have typos all over and tax declarations need to be corrected. I’m not even a tax advisor but it seems that I smell errors.

My contracts aren’t perfect either. I blame that on the fact that I haven’t really learned basic administrative tasks as usually I would have an assistant supporting me. I can draft, comment and edit, but I don’t really have the energy to make it look perfect.

A few years back the “Executive Assistant”  had been replaced by HR Software and “manager self service”. BUT what if you are building a new team or function? Wouldn’t it help to have admin support or an outsourced virtual assistant sitting at a desk in a home office in Burkina Faso or Bangkok?

So yes, I am interested in exploring working with a colleague such as Virginia Robot as long as they don’t outsmart me in front of my clients. They will probably be better at cost projections while mine may  have formula errors and miss social security data. Virginia will also work 24/7. Maybe they have design skills and a knack for perfect templates.

And they won’t catch a coronavirus, or strain a leg in a skiing accident. At some point they could probably replace our assistant and maybe us as well.

Still, when I look at reality I’m not really worried.

Why we don’t jump on the AI Hype just yet


You may have noticed this yourself too, but in the past few years, Global Mobility has revolved around process segmentation, outsourcing and offshoring.

While this has resulted in tremendous optimization and cost saving, it has also  had the unintended but unfortunate effect of giving this perception and reputation of being “robotic” and “fragmented”.

Before we can teach AI we need to get our digitalization teething issues sorted out globally. On our wishlist is the “holy grail”, the site that rules them all. Disruptors  in this field such as INEOMobility, Topia, ReloTalent, VendiumGlobal, Benivo are racing for developing collaborative sites that speak to each other through API codes.

It is therefore up to us as Global Mobility professionals to bring back the “human touch” to our industry.

Our assumption is that through digitalization we will cut down on the middle person and establish more direct relationships between you and the vendors. We recommend to Global Mobility Professionals to have a personal meeting with you and your spouse before the move and one debriefing meeting after the return. Ideally, a personal catch-up during the home leave also helps.

Even if we cannot imagine a robot filing tax returns, sending social security applications and reviewing immigration documents, because of the complexity of the overall topics, we have to see that essentially we are dealing with data.

When I look at my current reality, I often feel thrown back to 1999 when I started in the field and we moved from net calculations on paper to excel. Due to IT security, GDPR and connectivity issues, I can use my hours on data distribution and entry essentially.

I prefer to sit down with clients in person and talk face-to-face, because then I feel productive. My team of researchers and I thought we should be open to innovation while also looking at risks especially through the intercultural, diversity and inclusion glasses.

Focus on Making Constructive Advances in AI

On the subject of improving Global Mobility, we would also like to discuss possible ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be integrated into Global Mobility in a positive and constructive manner.

Before we begin, it is important to realize that the technologies that we usually discuss under the label of AI are actually not examples of Artificial Intelligence, but a specific subfield called “machine learning”. Because the latter does not sound as exciting, the general term of AI continues to be used interchangeably, though they shouldn’t be.

We also found more real-life examples related to global recruiting where in the past “Application Tracking Systems” left a lot of broken shards and many applicants felt as if their applications went into a black hole.

One possible way to bring AI to Global Mobility, and something that is already being researched, is integrating recruitment with an algorithm. This algorithm would not be constrained by human biases of any sort – such as sexism or racism – and could focus solely on pertinent skills, qualifications and experience.

Unfortunately, as with all new technologies, we must tread carefully. AI is created by and trained on human values, experiences and examples and can take up our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Some issues reared their heads recently with Google’s AI misbehaving and an AI art project turning racist due to bad training being input to the algorithms. So much of modern technology is influenced, primarily through various funding channels, by the elite of the world and they exert their beliefs and biases on controlling the direction the development and usage takes. In fact, their economic, skin-colour and gender privileges are often visible in these creations.

When the original Kinect was released, it had difficulty recognizing people with darker skin. It was discovered that the early code measured the contrast between the eyes and the upper cheek and nose. So, without optimal lighting conditions, that algorithm was failing to detect people without white or light skin. Later iterations of the product fixed this issue, and worked in sub-optimal light as well.

Another example of AI-gone-wrong was revealed with Amazon scrapping its internal AI-based hiring tool after it was revealed that it was somehow biased against women. Again, because the current AI is actually just machine learning, the recruitment tool learned from the historical data given to it. The professional workplace, like most other aspects of life, was male-dominated and the AI learned to be biased against women’s resumes as a result. Not a good look for AI, and Amazon.

Careful nurturing of this new technology will definitely have benefits not just for Global Mobility, but all aspects of work as we know it.
AI-powered digital spaces are already enabling whole groups of professionals to interact more efficiently and effectively, every social platform utilizes algorithmic data feeds and machine learning of your usage habits to connect you to relevant professionals. That is how thriving communities of artists form on Instagram, writing groups on Twitter and digital marketers on LinkedIn.

This technology has also made its way, to some degree, into strategic workforce planning and even transforming workspaces. The flip side, again, is that businesses need to be wary of adopting these changes too fast, or without any feedback from the employees who will be impacted. In fact, a frequent pushback to such decisions is the employees desire to have a suitable workplace that promotes comfort and familiarity for them, such as break spaces, meeting rooms and workstations.

This brings me full circle to my initial point: the “human touch”. That will be the determining factor to the success or failure of AI adoption. It is critical to maintain the human touch while transitioning processes and systems to AI. So as we rethink our business core and competencies to align with AI and technology, we should do our best to remember that at the heart of our work in Global Mobility are people, with emotions, feelings, skills and abilities, who are diverse and unique and deserve to thrive in the best work conditions. At least for a few years, parts of our brain aren’t yet reproducible according to this neuropsychologist.

At this point, there are no easy solutions as most companies are treading new grounds in adoption and optimization. However, one thing organisations, businesses and Global Mobility Teams can do is to remember to make this shift in a way that aligns with business needs and the needs of the people.

“Think Global People” ran a detailed discussion on this subject which you can read here to increase your knowledge, as AI adoption will soon become the hot topic in Global Mobility.

What’s your experience and preference when dealing with Global Mobility Professionals? How would you feel if you received an automated but personalized email from your colleague in HR instead of a phone call? 

References and further reading:

*They is considered the new default neutral pronoun. We decided to use it for our non-human friends as well as we learned that ‘They’ was called the word of the year for 2019, for this reason that it was inclusive of all genderfluid, humanoid or otherwise beings.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/sep/17/merriam-webster-they-nonbinary-pronoun

https://mindmatters.ai/2020/01/ai-in-the-courtroom-will-a-robot-sentence-you/

https://www.nzz.ch/zuerich/mensch-oder-maschine-interview-mit-neuropsychologe-lutz-jaencke-ld.1502927

https://www.un.org/en/gender-inclusive-language/guidelines.shtml

Any experience with these disruptors?

Topia

https://www.topia.com/

INEO

https://www.ineomobility.com/

Vendium Global

https://www.vendiumglobal.com/

Benivo 

https://www.benivo.com/global-mobility-teams

ReloTalent

https://www.relotalent.com/

VendiumGlobal

https://www.vendiumglobal.com/about

Mention in comments below

 

I’m sure everyone has noticed the arrival of fall by now – the avalanche of brilliant red-golden leaves falling off trees, the shortening of precious daylight hours and the sudden briskness in the breeze.

While the beauty of a European fall is unparalleled, for some people the shorter days and cold weather heralds a period of demotivation. For me it is the “Zurich fog” and November that gets to me. So I have thought about ways to make November bearable.

Dealing with feelings of loneliness is doubly tough when you are an expat who just arrived here. However, even international people who have lived here for years sometimes miss good friends in this city.

Feeling lonely can affect not just your work performance, but your everyday life too. So today, I’d like to talk about ways in which we can keep ourselves inspired and motivated through November and the impending winter months, especially if we don’t have a family here.

Forestalling November Blues

 

Plan and stick to an exercise routine

Another critical component of improving your health is to fix and improve your sleep regimen. In today’s always-on era, we are all guilty, to a certain extent, or taking actions that poorly affect the quality of our sleep. So here is a short primer on how to get better, more refreshing sleep daily:

Take your mobile devices to bed. Give them a place in your home outside of your bedroom where you place them by 9 pm. After you’ve put your phone to bed, don’t touch it anymore. Use the “sleep” mode to block incoming messages. Turn off the buzzers.

Stop using all electronic devices two hours before you want to sleep. Studies show that the light emitted by screens can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake rhythms. Instead, consider going to bed with a novel or other light reading (again, not on devices).

Practice relaxation techniques such as PMR. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is especially beneficial for reducing muscle tension caused by psychological stress and has a proven rejuvenating effect if practiced regularly.

Get up at the same time every morning. This loops back to the discussion on how routine-building is beneficial to physical and mental health.

Learn a creative skill

An unforeseen consequence of expatriation is just how much every aspect of it takes over your life – from the learning curve of the new job to the subtle details of integrating into a new culture and country.
By the end of the day you may find yourself with no time left for your own growth.

In the scenario described above, it can be tough to carve out regular time for developing creative skills that interest you, especially if you don’t have an accountability buddy or coach to keep you motivated.

How does one find inspiration? I find that duplicating, or being a part of what the creative community does every fall is an excellent way to both build new relationships and spend time on yourself. In particular, I am referring to trends such as Inktober (in October) and National Novel Writing Month (in November) where large swathes of communities online and offline get together to create and explore their artistic sides daily for the duration of that month. We have our very own Zurich writer’s community supporting you with the Woolf.

If such creative endeavours appeal to you, definitely pursue them! Otherwise, you can utilise the same template for whatever skill you are looking to develop. Devote a fixed amount of time daily where, distraction free, you engage in a certain skill-building activity. As with the previous suggestion on exercise, routine and regularity is key! This is the reason why I encourage you to write those 25 minutes practices into your RockMeApp and tick them off at the end of the week. A good practice would be: “On 5 days out of 7, I’m writing my long-hand diary 25 minutes a day to develop a writing routine”.

Understand and explore your host culture through the German language

Though any time of the year is a good time to increase your understanding of the host country’s culture, fall is especially important. The weather is kinder towards cultural events like music festivals, theater and cinema, the perfect opportunity for you to interact with like-minded people at social events and integrate into society!

In fact, while we’re on the subject of exploring culture and language, I’d like to bring your attention towards a play being performed at the Schauspielhaus Zurich, Faust I.

Not only is Goethe’s Faust I considered the pinnacle of German literature, but its theater adaptation is also the most popular German-language play. I highly recommend that you take some time out to attend this play, its impact is felt not just in German culture but in cultures across the world. You can also read up some backstory to the epic tragedy of Faust before attending the performance.

SPOTLIGHT: Goethe’s Faust I at the Schauspielhaus

I would like to highlight just what makes this performance of Faust I so special. The Schauspielhaus Zurich is one of the most prominent theaters in the German-speaking world, with an auspicious history dating back all the way to 1892, when it served as a stage for vaudeville performances and live music. Hosting a play as illustrious as Faust at a location that is essentially hallowed grounds for German arts and heritage essentially makes it the cultural event of the year! To celebrate with the international community in Zürich, the Schauspielhaus invites us to a special event.

All performances at the Schauspielhaus feature English surtitles now.

There will be an English-speaking introduction with welcome drinks starting at 6.15 pm. This is not only a great chance to learn more about the German culture. It’s also a cozy way to meet like-minded professionals. We invite the Global People Club for:

Saturday, 9  November 2019 at 6:15 pm

“Goethe, the Schauspielhaus Zurich and what it means for your integration”
– An English-speaking introduction to the house by one of the Schauspielhaus directors combined with welcome drinks.
7:00 pm – 10:20 pm
Play: Faust I by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Staging: Nicolas Stemann.

As a reader you can get two tickets for the price of one in any category for this special event on Saturday, 9 November 2019. To book your tickets, please email or call the box office by Monday, 4 November 19 with the code “Meet Schauspielhaus” and mention “GlobalPeopleTransitions”. 

Tel: +41 44 258 77 77
E-Mail: theaterkasse@schauspielhaus.ch

If you have any questions about the event you can also contact me. I will be there as well. If you have never read Faust I before I’d advise that you read it before the play. In my opinion this play is the key to understanding the “German soul”. You can see more details about the play on the Schauspielhaus website.

A guest post by Nabeha Latif – Social Media Guru at SparkZing


This week I’ll be talking about one of the most important tools in a professional’s repertoire: the LinkedIn profile. With over 500 million users, a LinkedIn profile isn’t just an afterthought, it is a mainstay of modern recruitment. Something that essential needs to be mastered fully, so let’s get to it. Presenting:

Top 10 Tips for a Killer LinkedIn Profile

1 – Get a personalised URL

In my experience, far too many professionals forget to do this, often because they simply forgot about it. LinkedIn provides you the ability to discard the standard URL (which is a jumble of letters and numbers) and have a vanity URL instead. This personalised URL can be used to promote your profile in email signatures, on business cards, portfolios and resumes. It also gives you the ability to target better organic SEO by putting in your job title or industry. Having your profile appear as a top Google search result against a job title keyword is a pretty useful trick! Check out LinkedIn’s own guide on setting up a personal URL for your profile here.

2 – Nail that headline!

You’ve got only six seconds to catch the attention of a recruiter on LinkedIn, which makes your headline absolutely do-or-die. Do make sure your headline contains the necessary keywords that are SEO friendly (that is, they contain certain words that people generally use when searching for the relevant job title or industry) and allow people to identify your industry with ease. Do make the most of the allotted 120 characters, don’t just write your job description. Try being playful (if appropriate) with word choices – sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity. Of course, don’t forget your real purpose: catching a recruiter’s attention. If your profile views drop, a reason could be that your headline needs to be re-worked.

3 – Populate your experience

Just like some people sometimes forget to update our CVs, LinkedIn profiles too can become stagnant. That’s why, every so often, you should sit down and make sure that everything from your summary, work history, projects, trainings and education is up-to-date. It helps to employ the same sort of creativity you used to create your perfect headline to show how you excelled during a particular role. Make sure that you review and plug in any gaps that may have been left in the first time round. The more a hiring manager sees of you, the easier it makes for them to decide if you meet their requirements.

If you have privacy concerns, you can choose not to share details about your career or self that you consider sensitive, as a LinkedIn profile is public and trawled by internet search engines. Concerns about private data stored by LinkedIn can be addressed by going through their GDPR-compliant privacy policy.

4 – Get creative!

This is the third time I am mentioning creativity – that is how important it is. In a sea of automation (LinkedIn now has a feature that autofills your summary), it is very easy to drown in the overwhelming number of similar looking profiles. Learning to showcase your skills and experience in a smart, catchy manner greatly increases your chances of getting noticed by the right people. Put in media from YouTube, your favourite design wireframes or any public mentions or accolades you may have accumulated! You can do that by going to Add Profile Section > Accomplishments and choosing the appropriate section.

5 – Engage, engage, engage

LinkedIn is a social network after all and engagement is key to building a healthy profile. Engaging with peers through endorsements is a positive methodology, not only will you establish a good rapport with your network but will receive endorsements in return. That rapport can help you reach out for recommendations, an important aspect of building your brand and establishing yourself as a significant presence in your industry.
It is also imperative that you join the conversation. On groups, with key influencers, with colleagues and peers. Profiles that engage actively on groups are 5 times more likely to be viewed!

6 – Master the algorithm

A killer LinkedIn profile is one that hits the top of the search results every time someone searches for a certain kind of professional. Want your profile to be the one the LinkedIn search algorithm chooses? Here’s how: Complete your profile, 100%.

LinkedIn’s algorithm is designed to give top priority to profiles which are complete (they are referred to as “All Star Profiles” and only 51% of users have those). This means that if you missed out on any aspect of your profile, you will essentially be invisible in the search results. No one wants that.

On the subject of LinkedIn Premium: spending money on a premium account will not affect your profile in any way, there are no new features there. Those accounts are targeted more towards recruiters and job seekers looking to directly connect with people not on their network. That is why purchasing a premium account will not be helpful in improving the quality of your LinkedIn profile

7 – SEO is king

Some digital specialists posit that the modern Internet is driven solely on SEO. That may be debatable but in the case of LinkedIn, that is very much true! Make sure that your profile is the one found by external search engines: optimize job titles, descriptions and as previously mentioned, in the vanity URL. All these fields are text only and thus will be parsed by search engines, you want to maximise your chances of being the top of those result lists. “Digital Guru” may sound like a catchy job title but people searching for “digital marketer” or “digital marketing specialist” will never know of you! The key is to keep it simplistic so that you can be easily found.

8 – Be pixel perfect!

Having a professional profile picture on LinkedIn is critical – first impressions matter! Questions to ask yourself when selecting a profile picture: Does it have a neutral background? Are you appropriately dressed? Did a professional photographer take the picture or is it just a selfie?

I’m also going to direct you towards how you can elevate your profile by making sure you optimize the technical aspects of the images you use. Hootsuite covers it in great detail if you’re interested, but to summarize: Make sure your images are the right aspect ratio, meet the minimum pixel count and are the correct file types. You don’t want your images to be blurry or misshapen due to incorrect dimensions!

9 – It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon

You burn through an entire weekend getting your profile into tip-top shape. Great, you now have a killer LinkedIn profile! However, what happens after a week? A month? Six months? Remember this statistic: 40% of LinkedIn’s active user-base logs in daily to the platform. These are the people who take time out every day to post, interact, tweak and improve their profiles, connections and more. Emulate them, make LinkedIn a part of your routine, it will maintain your profile as one of the best and help maximise your chances of catching the eye of recruiters, should you be looking for a new job.

10 – Run a company? Treat the page as you would your profile

If you run your own business and have it listed on your LinkedIn profile, you should make sure that the company page receives the same care and attention as your profile. After all, both must reflect the same values. Rigorously fill in and verify the information pertaining to your company, set up a consistent posting schedule and boost posts from your own employees – all add up to creating an interactive and healthy social space around your company.

***
A reminder: I will be offering this year’s RockMeRetreat from 21 November to 28 November. The RockMeRetreat is a seven-day leadership retreat in Southern Germany, where you will get to network with other Expat Leaders and Professionals and develop your global leader competency.

The RockMeRetreat is designed to amplify your success on your chosen career path and help you move towards the breakthrough you need to become a Rockstar in your chosen field!

Sign up here for entering the conversation with me. If you wish to speak to me directly, please book an appointment by replying to this email.

Kind regards,
Angie.

PS: Meet me to discuss your participation in the RockMeRetreat November 2019 by booking your special Rockstar Session with me now.