How have you been? I feel we haven’t heard from you in a while. The reason you haven’t heard from me was that I was tied up with managing a the fallout of the tornado and the Coronavirus and handling new client projects. And while I’m priding myself of being highly productive I have to admit that in the last few weeks, I experienced an unusual sense of high alert and I needed to take a weekend off and be offline for 48 hours. You probably didn’t notice as my friend Virginia Robot was still working in the background. I wanted to talk to you today about how it is to build and run a small business in Switzerland.

Starting a business is not for the weak-hearted

It requires a lot of discipline, physical and mental fitness and friends who won’t leave you if you haven’t been in touch for more than a week. You need a life partner and family who is fully behind your decision and you need to be prepared to work harder than ever. I’m saying this after almost 10 years of building and running a business that is offline and online, with freelancers in different locations and a mixed client base.

Two years ago I was drained of resources, my savings were all used up and I had invested in two additional courses. Not only was I ready to give up and get a full-time job, I even had said “yes” to a full-time job offer. But then “fate” kicked in. In a very relaxed moment after a few days of RockMeRetreat I knew I wasn’t ready to start a full-time job in a leadership role where I would spend all my energy on maneuvering politics, playing the game, coaching a team and sitting at a desk for more than six hours a day.

Yes, I was very disappointed when the company told me that they wanted to hire somebody else. I was down and scared but at the same time, I was relieved. And I knew this feeling. It was the smell of freedom.

When you know deep down inside that you will always fall back on your feet, and that you have all the skills and power within you to make a living. This is called real freedom.

This is not a pep talk on how we should leap out of our comfort zone and fight for survival daily, because this kind of adrenaline is not good in the long run. This kind of adrenaline you only need in a real emergency situation during a tornado or a Coronavirus but not every day in your life. This is why I am currently happy to have a part-time role that pays a good salary. Did you know that a university guest lecturer makes the same in an hour in Germany as a kitchen aid in Switzerland? So, despite the fact that I had a lot of work in Europe, I hardly made enough money to survive here.

Playing a safe game is not for entrepreneurs 

Security is nice to have, a paycheck is wonderful, being able to be sick and getting paid is sensational, free coffee and tea at work are amazing and then the luxury of a paid holiday. I mean, this is what you take for granted when you are employed. You think it is a given. You are giving your time to the company, but guess what? It’s not a given.

Switzerland is paradise on earth and it makes me sad when I see colleagues who do not appreciate what they get from work.

For me, it is working with a team of people, being accountable, yet not fully responsible and also having financial freedom. You probably wonder how you keep the energy drainers out of your work environment and for that my advice is a simple one: Focus on your own well-being first. Focus on that as long as you need, stop eating junk food, go for a regular walk, stop working after six hours and change your routine to fit your life. Most of the issues we have at work come from our fear of not being enough. We overcompensate.

I’ve been one of those people long enough. As an HR Professional, I have viewed our performance culture evolve over the last 20 years and I don’t think any “Management by Objectives”, any performance goal has ever brought as much motivation into my life as the work I’m doing pro-bono or (almost pro-bono) as a guest lecturer.

I’m motivated to work with clients in my business not only because I earn money but because I feel that I’m changing lives with my work. The money is a necessity. It is the perceived value of my time and it equates the risks and costs I’ve been putting into my business over the last 10 years.

However, money is not a reason for motivation. And this is one of the reasons why many companies produce zombies at work. People aren’t feeling connected to a cause, the company’s shareholder value is not motivating enough.

I’m in favor of abandoning performance management systems. I believe we should give our people the benefit of the doubt again and help them find their intrinsic motivation. We should help them work in projects where they can thrive, help them develop client relationships that they will find engaging and we should above all change lives.

Leading is not for the bean counters

And if you doubt now how you can help your team to get to that level, we should have a conversation. I would say that first of all: Everybody still has a ton to learn in this world. Understanding that is the first step to growth. For many people, especially women, you need to also help them find the confidence to move ahead. In Switzerland, many women grew up in a male-dominated environment where they learned to work more than their peers to be recognized, and when they tried to move up the ladder, they had to show their teeth.

Then they were told that they were too aggressive and too pushy. Then they started to have self-doubts and then they fell into a complacent state where moving up was no longer an option. I know many women who are excellent, but they neither sell themselves nor do they get enough credit for their work. They run departments silently in the background, while a male colleague gets the bonus and the honors. Yes, I know this is 2020 and I’m having enough of it.

I made a commitment this year to help more “outsiders” and I’m starting with women in developing countries, with more senior women who don’t have enough income for their old-age and also with women from minority backgrounds. Another group we have diligently excluded from certain privileges in the labor market are people with a refugee background who cannot produce the right papers, certificates for certain jobs and people with a mental health spectrum such as people with autism or clinical depression. These topics are still taboo in the labor market. We need to move from diversity to inclusion. It’s 2020!

Do something amazing today! Hug a co-worker.

 Angie
 

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#diversityandinclusion

“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

Recent legislative and policy changes in many countries around the world seem to be signaling a global shift from open market to a form of protectionism. Today, I would like to discuss what exactly this is and how it impacts everyone in Global Mobility, using the example of an upheaval close to us: the dreaded Brexit.

Before we delve into Brexit, let’s take a look first at how open market policies were and still are beneficial to Global Mobility.

Open Markets and Free Trade

It all boils down to the fact that free trade agreements specifically include concessions for mobility. Combined with reduced taxes and government programs to encourage foreign investments, this literally opened the door for GM professionals to successfully ply their trade in different countries. Another step later down in this pipeline is the streamlining of visas and entry requirements – all things that promote the movement of skilled professionals across borders.

Brexit: An End to Unrestricted Movement

The political machinations that led to the UK deciding to part ways with the EU, that is, Brexit, have been discussed far and wide and I will not be going over them. If you are looking to brush up on it, the NY Times and BBC have good summaries here and here, respectively. Relevant to this discussion is the fact that the British people have been promised that Brexit would mean an end to the EU’s famed free movement, that is, the right of people from mainland Europe to live and work in Britain. This is a form of protectionism, the term mentioned earlier. Protectionism refers to the economic curtailing of foreign imports through tariffs, quotas, and other governmental policies. Cutting down on the import of foreign workers falls under it, in direct opposition to the free movement that made the EU a unique success story in world history.

Common sense identifies this as a detrimental idea, not only to GM professionals but to long-term economic stability and growth, yet so few speak up against it – the very fact that Brexit is happening is evidence of that fact. Why is that so?

Fear-based Politics Is a Tool of Suppression

A major reason for that is the fear-mongering stoked by politicians, particularly about how immigration and immigrants “steal” the jobs of the locals – this belief is particularly strong among the working class who rally behind all attempts to close down free movement. Unfortunately, this spread of fear works on everyone, at various levels, especially in these times of economic hardship, it is easy to buy into the idea that immigrants are responsible for the worsening economy or the lack of jobs. No one likes to step out of their comfort zone, especially to speak up about uncomfortable topics.

The result? While Brexit has been lingering for years, the political uncertainty it has led to is already creating ripples across the GM community. Companies will be faced with increasingly challenging situations when seeking to move the talent they want, into the location where they are needed most.

Many companies are moving out of or planning to move out of the UK, taking with them hundreds of thousands of jobs from locals. Clearly not the best-case scenario.

This unpredictability is not limited merely to the immigration aspects of Global Mobility, as taxation and exchange of information would become increasingly sophisticated, making it more difficult for companies and authorities to work out and resolve issues of governance and tax payment. A potential problem that arises from this unpredictability is not knowing how the UK will treat its laws and legislation dealing with worker rights, taxation and other aspects that were based on relevant sections of EU law. That is something troubling corporations and experts in finances, taxation and mobility alike.

Another factor determining why we haven’t been more outspoken about the ramifications of politics on our field is the overabundance of fake news. When someone’s statement is countered with aggressively presented “facts”, the people believing in those “facts” can end up influencing others and drowning out our voice of reason.

Does anyone remember the infamous “Brexit Bus”? Despite being proven to be a falsehood, that “fact” is considered one of the major reasons the Brexit referendum was won by Leave. Despite people speaking up about the falsehood of that “fact”, the Brexit Bus still swayed millions with its lie. How does one make themselves heard in such a scenario?

Echoes of Brexit Around the World

Brexit and EU are not the only places where this tidal wave of fear-based politics and misinformation have had an impact on Global Mobility. In March 2018, Australia ended one of its most popular work visas for global professionals with claims that the visa was taking jobs away from Australians, replacing it with one that was a lot more stricter on professionals and companies alike. The USA’s stance towards the mobility of foreigners is also of note, targeting millions of Muslims from around the world, and about the same number from south of their border through the implementation of various “travel bans”. These policies have been crucial in disrupting nearly all companies that source their talent globally.

As these roadblocks mount, we are faced with a unique, ever-growing challenge of navigating political opposition to its core tenant and unpredictable laws that can spring up at any moment. Given this uncertainty, what we can do at this turbulent time is developing a series of rapid response protocols/procedures that allow us to stay on top of these shifts while carving out a longer-term plan for navigating these changing political waters.

We need to stay relevant

As mentioned by Tracy Figliola and Gina Vecchio in their excellent article “Global Mobility Coming of Age” (The International HR Adviser, Winter 2019/2020) we are currently at the crossroads of extinction or expansion of our profession. As I’ve been working on expanding our skillset and mindset over the last few years, I would certainly hope that we step up our game this year.

If we want to continue adding value as a function we need to show through our actions that we are finding solutions to all those ever more complex issues. I usually hold back my political opinion here and on social media for fear of attracting trolls and haters but I committed yesterday to support “outsiders” more, and to work with an even more diverse team in 2020.

We need to think big and start with baby steps at our own front yard. For example, I will work with an intern from Africa this year. My clients come from around the world but we can still do more to encourage global competency development and break down the barriers to Global Mobility. We can set examples and work on positive changes in our realm of influence whether we are expats, expat entrepreneurs, scientists or Global Mobility Professionals.

Are you in? If yes, what are you committing to do more of in 2020? Write back to me with one sentence only.

Kind regards,

Angie.

PS: As a lecturer and Expatise Academy Advisory Board member I recommend the Master Course in Global Mobility at Erasmus University. As the Registration deadline is approaching you should decide fast and read more here.
My lecture and workshop are on 31 March 2020 and zooms in on “Branding the Global Mobility Profession”.

Do you approach each new year with renewed vigor and plans for self improvement? Perhaps a better gym routine or healthier lifestyle habits? Maybe you wish to tackle your work in a different manner? Do you then find yourself not able to sustain these plans beyond a few weeks?

New Year’s resolutions often end up lacking consistency, and with 2020 heralding the start of a new decade, the pressure is on a lot of people to start at full sprint. However, as we all know…by Mid January we are back in full swing and forgot that we wanted to go to the gym, eat healthy, drink less alcohol and spend more time with our families. As we grow older we even recognize how some of our patterns of workaholism become worse every year.

I have to admit that I had a hard time to let go of work on 23 December 2019 and a nagging feeling that I did not fully finish a task related to GDPR. (Don’t ask!!).

Now, as the New Year has started I realize a lack of motivation and find it a bit hard to get going again. I know that I will be seeing clients, students and even have a video shoot next week but I’ve been trying to procrastinate work as long as possible. And because I know that you and I often feel the same, I was struggling to tell you to start setting your goals for 2020. I read a few blog posts and then I remembered that I had already thought of different methods to overcome procrastination.

A while ago I wrote about four approaches to managing a project: “Committing to Work – When you say “I do” and then you do”. I explained four different ways you can motivate yourself through any project and a new career or life goal is essentially a project.

I ended my post with committing to doing the Master program in Global Mobility at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. My graduation party is almost a year ago. And while I still enjoy the moment of satisfaction and the additional certificate what I remember mostly about the course are the great people I met there: Lecturers, fellow students and organizers. People supporting me during my research and clients who answered a lot of questions about how they were using our RockMeApp. If you want to read my final thesis it has been published here.

If you really want to break through this decade try this:

1- Join us for a Global Rockstar Session

What is important to me when I work with clients in 1:1 Executive Coaching Programs such as the “RockMe! Program” is that we set three main career goals for you in our initial “Global Rockstar Session”. You can join us as a private client by following our onboarding process. As I only work with a limited number of private coaching clients this year I recommend that you email me your interest now and that we have a quick chat before the January enthusiasm passes.

2- Use the RockMeApp to define your weekly practices and learning goals

In my experience, nothing beats perseverance in guaranteeing whether you will be successful in achieving your three main goals. Professional athletes and billionaires have strict routines and practice regiments to be the very best.
I therefore always encourage clients to develop up to 10 weekly practices that will help them get closer to their main goals by using smaller steps. The RockMeApp therefore gives you a weekly checklist of those repetitive practices.

3- Understand and set your learning targets

Most of the time, if a goal overwhelms us in the professional context it is because we are lacking skills, knowledge or we don’t have the right attitude towards the task at hand. Break your three career and life goals into smaller, attainable sub-goals and define learning targets according to my global competency model. This is not so easy alone. Hence, I recommend you work with me continuously.

4- Define your three main priorities every week

From sub-goals you need to learn to set yourself three weekly priorities. This is what I do for years now with the RockMeApp. At the end of the week, I already write down my three main priorities for the week ahead. My productivity has been on an amazingly high level since I started doing this.

This is also known as Micro-productivity and helps your brain to see the final goal as more achievable and reduce procrastination. Furthermore, completing those smaller goals acts as positive feedback that helps motivate you towards that end goal!

5- Learn to reflect every week for at least 10 minutes

Lastly, I encourage my clients to answer four reflection questions at the end of every work week. You will know what they are if you are signed up to our RockMeApp.

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2020.

Kind regards,

Angie

We offer six months of academic internship at Global People Transitions GmbH. As an intern, you would have the opportunity to work within a small global, virtual team. We need academic support to assert the scientific background behind our coaching methodology and to manage projects that require academic research skills and presentation preparation skills. The internship can be combined with a thesis or university project.

As part of your tasks and responsibilities, you will assist the Managing Director and team with diverse tasks which include:

  • Quality assurance of our programs.
  • Research academic background for presentations and lectures in IHRM, Global Mobility, and Intercultural Communication.
  • Update presentations to a level where they can be easily commented and edited by the Managing Director.
  • Support book writing with references, proposals, editing, and additional input.
  • Support with the organisation of workshops, flipchart documentation, and participant profiles.
  • Support with organizing the RockMeRetreats. You will be able to join for free.
  • Virtual assistance and small, urgent tasks based on language capabilities and needs such as booking travel, digitizing and tagging documentation.

 

Your profile

We’re looking for a junior professional, who is autonomous and self-sufficient. The work requires basic knowledge of Google Business tools, MS Office Package, and Accounting.

We expect an excellent level of English in writing, German or French is an advantage. We’re looking for students in IHRM, Global Mobility or Intercultural Communication / Management. 

Location

This internship may be accomplished on-site (in the GPT offices in Zurich, Switzerland provided you qualify for a work and residence permit) or virtually from long-distance. 

The internship pays EUR 900 gross per month. We will offer regular 1:1 coaching sessions with Angie Weinberger during the internship. Ideally, you work full-time. However, we count your academic research as work time.

Start date: 1 April 2020

Next start date: 1 October 2020

 

Company Profile

Global People Transitions (GPT) is a global mobility coaching company, dedicated to helping expats improve performance through global competency. The company was founded in 2012 by Angie Weinberger. 

 

Application and queries

Please connect with your LinkedIn Profile to Angie Weinberger or send your paper-based CV and motivation letter to angela@globalpeopletransitions.com.