Tag Archives: Global Mobility

by Tracy Hope

When I was 22, I moved from New Zealand to California’s Santa Cruz, from one ocean-loving, laid-back community to another. I was young, I was excited, I was a newlywed on an adventure, and I couldn’t imagine the culture shock that I was going to experience there.

It was only years later, when I had moved back to New Zealand and was preparing to move yet again, this time to Zürich, Switzerland, that I really took the time to analyse why returning to NZ from Santa Cruz was such a relief. I never found my niche in California, and it never felt like home. I made few friends there and had a permanent sense of being a fish out of water. And that was in a country where I spoke the language and grew up watching Californian TV shows and movies; the thought of living in a culture with another language (or two) with no prior experience was both exciting and terrifying, and I decided I was going to enter this new adventure with a firm plan to make it home.

 

There were many reasons why that first relocation felt like a failure. Don’t get me wrong: I loved living there and the opportunities I had for travel and new experiences. But I had expectations from TV and media that left me disappointed and disillusioned, and the culture of forming relationships with others was vague and confusing to me as an outsider. I read books and articles about life as a foreigner in Switzerland and set my expectations low when it came to making friends there.

 

I bought novels and biographies, learned about the history of the country, followed blogs and instagrams and researched my husband’s new employer, a global tech corporation with a large European headquarters in Zürich. We spent hours trawling through the company’s relocation tips and processes, and finally one day he pointed me to a page announcing a network just for spouses and partners of employees. Nervously I registered, noting the strict protocols to confirm that I was indeed married to an employee and therefore wasn’t joining just to learn company secrets. When my registration was confirmed, I was given access to a whole world within Zürich that I would never have known existed: a community of women and men in the same situation as me, learning to get along in a new country.

 

I read every webpage, browsed every topic in the mailing list archives, found the answers to questions I had and conversations that reassured me that everything would indeed be OK.

 

By the time I arrived in Zürich, exhausted and hungry on a snowy Tuesday evening, two children and a husband and a wagon full of suitcases in tow, I had already planned playdates with other families and had tips on how to get from the airport to our temporary apartment. Within two weeks, we had solved all of our new-arrival problems from registering at our local Gemeinde and choosing public transport passes to finding an apartment and buying new furniture. As soon as we moved into our new home (and assembled our Ikea furniture), I opened our apartment up to the community. Ten women came to introduce themselves and offer me their support and advice. Within a month of arriving on the other side of the world, I had found my home.

 

Having something with as much value as this built-in support network has been the most valuable tool for my relocation, and it’s turned me into something of an evangelist for plus-one networks for internationally relocating families.

 

There may be nothing more useful to a new arrival than this existing support network, made up of people who have already experienced what you are experiencing, and can give you not only helpful advice but the reassurance that it is survivable.

 

International HR researchers and RMC’s such as Brookfield publish extensively about this topic. They have found that more than 80% of international assignment contracts that fail, do so because the employees’ spouse or family is unhappy. Having a strong support network for spouses and partners of a company’s employees can drastically reduce the number of cancelled contracts.

 

The purpose of a plus-one network may vary wildly depending on the country and the community itself. My own community provides support for job seekers, language support, financial advice, social events and even regular welcome activities for new arrivals, giving them answers to the questions everyone has in their first months. The community can serve as a bridge between the company’s culture and the culture of the country, finding ways to connect foreigners with locals and open communications.

 

It seems unlikely that something so crucial to a successful family relocation can be so hard to find, but there it is: in the city of Zürich, a hub for international companies’ European offices, only one company and one university boast a network just for employees’ partners. In the case of the university, an entire department exists to support families of employees, while the company’s Plus-One network was founded and is managed entirely by volunteers within the community.

 

And here’s my point: anyone can make such a community exist. Whether in the financial, pharma, or academic sector, any like-minded group of partners or spouses of employees can create something that will boost the chances of a successful relocation, and hence the success of a company’s international employee contract. With solid support from HR, a company can increase the likelihood of their international employees’ contract lasting the distance. When the family is settled and happy, it should go without saying that employees are settled and happy.

 

A small amount of time and energy can go a long, long way towards happy relocations.

 

Want to learn more about how to create a Plus-One network? 

About the Author

Tracy Hope does not consider herself a “trailing spouse”. She finds new ways to support recent arrivals in Switzerland through integration events and small business support, and teaches English to children on the side. Kiwi by birth; community builder, writer and teacher by vocation, she will try anything once. Her business, Language Plus, is an English-language school for Swiss and bilingual children, but its boundaries are limitless.

Nine box grid and assignee selection

Expat Selection is a myth and if you would like to select expats in a structured manner you better start with a few basic adjustments in your global sourcing process.

Succession Planning

Succession Planning should guide individual development plan, the international assignment business case and the transition plan. I advise thinking the international assignment from the end. Start to think about the next role before you discuss the international assignment business case with the assignment targets and cost projection. In other words, find a position the assignee could fill after the assignment in your succession plan. Most companies only have a succession plan for the top 10% of their positions but what about the other 90%?

Use your Nine-Box Grid wisely

In order to have a good succession plan in place companies often use an extensive talent selection process that is usually based on the nine-box grid. The nine-box grid helps to decide where your candidates are within your talents. Usually, the key talents would be found in the 3,3 box or A-category. In multinationals, A-candidates often fill market assignment, B candidates sourcing assignments and C candidates talent assignments. Depending on your main Global Mobility drivers, you could consider D-candidates for lifestyle assignments and sometimes even for sourcing assignment.

Data-driven decisions

I would like give you an insight into assignee selection because I often receive questions about this topic. Generally, there is no best practice for assignee selection. The reality I often see is that current assignee has already left. The HR Business Partners or Talent Managers run around screaming “Hello? Anybody out there?” and the first good candidate who raises the hand is accepted. Then because it is already late in the process and the position has been vacant for too long, this candidate negotiates a fantastic package. As there is usually no structured global sourcing process in place you might want to follow the next step to develop a data-driven decision about your assignees rather than a purely network-driven decision.

Interview at least three candidates per role

Make it point to shortlist more than three candidates per role and where possible look for a diverse selection of candidates. Open all jobs up to C-level on a global job board so candidates can also nominate themselves.

Check the local market before hiring an expat

Before you reach out to the global candidates or Headquarter try to hire from the local market. An expat should be the last solution to consider, not the first especially if there is a high likelihood that you are looking for a specific skill set.

Base selection on hard skills

I’m often surprised on what basis expats are chosen for a role. You need to match their hard skills to the profile you are looking for. Treat them as if they were an external applicant and be critical of their self-assessment. Have a standardized assessment or test in place for critical skills.

Only chose high performers

If a person is a medium or low performer they will certainly not perform better in a country where they do not understand the culture and where they do not have a network. A high performer in the home country will in my experience perform one point less in the host country in the first year. Often expats go down from 3 to 2 in the nine-box grid, or from 4 to 3 on a 5-point scale.

Assess their intercultural competence

Candidates might be great on their home turf but could fail in a cultural context that does not suit them. You could have the intercultural competence of your expats tested. There are various assessment tools in the market and they could help with your choice.

Take the Expat Spouse into account

If the assignee is married or in a partnership you could obtain a pre-hire assessment for the spouse. Often, the spouse is neglected in the process and the issue of the spouse not finding employment is only raised when the expat family is desperate and unhappy in the host country. As a modern employer, you should assume that the expat spouse is key to the success of the assignment and therefore needs to be on board from the start.

Learn about particular needs of the Expat Family early on

You could have the best selection process, a fantastic candidate and waste a lot of time because the needs of the family have not been met. For example, if the candidate has a child with special needs you should know if the host country has a school that adheres to those needs. Also, if there is an elderly relative to consider, you should have an idea how to tackle this situation. You could discuss a special roster with extended home leave or an additional bedroom. You would need to check if you can obtain a residence permit for the extended family members too.

If you have any questions on succession planning and expat selection in Global Mobility you can email or message me.

Angie Weinberger

PS: This post is a chapter from the third edition of “The Global Mobility Workbook”. Do you want to be updated on the publication or even receive more free excerpts? Sign up here.

„Mobility is finally making the shift from an international benefit provider to an appreciated strategic partner to the business.“

Chris Debner

 

Like ever so often in Holland events start with a slight delay because of traffic. The Swiss in me rebels but I tell her to enjoy the tropical atmosphere of the Royal Tropical Institute. I check out the remainders of colonialism: masks, spears and painted world maps in white marbled halls. The smell of adventure still hangs in the air. Here we meet the pioneers of Global Mobility, the seafarers, discoverers, and conquerors. At the time with weapons and bribes, now with the promise of prosperity. The UN Global Goals are printed on the beer coasters as if to remind us that we have moved on, that we are now looking for „peace and prosperity for all people.“

Inge Nitsche, CEO of Expatise Academy welcomes the Global Mobility folks to the New Year, launches the brand new Expatise Global Mobility Online Certification Course of the Expatise Academy.

Inge then kicks off the day by setting the scene. Inge poses the question if we are in transformation or being transformed. She asks if we are under siege. Before we get our seat at the table we need to check if we are still on the right track.

Do we still fly up or are we going down or do we have to do a restart in the air to land in a better place?

Key Note

Chris Debner opens the session explaining what a Global Mobility Strategy is made of. The elements of policies, processes and operating model. He shows us the building blocks from business objectives, stakeholder needs, assignment types, talent management & workforce planning, competence and capacity, culture to competitiveness, trends and external influencers.

Chris summarizes the paradigm shift in Global Mobility leading us from a compliance focus to a purpose-driven mobility, improved employee experience and increased outsourcing of transactional tasks and dedicated compliance functions.

Then he continues to explain how the needs of Gen Y (instant gratification, clarity, flexible approaches) will change mobility policies to customized packages for everyone. I also predict that this will happen. What I like about Chris’s presentation is that he is realistic. He knows where GM Teams currently struggle and proposes three key challenges:

  1. Skillset
  2. Time & Resources
  3. Engaging with the business.

As suggestions to work on these challenges Chris sees three points

  1. Invest in your training, education and work with a flexible workforce.
  2. Build the business case for change
  3. Collaborate with other areas outside of HR, invest in change and meet the business line managers to find out how you can provide values.

 

Open Discussion

I get up to facilitate a peer consulting exercise. This exercise helps with listening skills, ideally solves one current issue of a participant and helps participants to build trust amongst each other. Afterwards, we have coffee. I listen in on conversations. I understand that we face similar challenges in Global Mobility here and in Switzerland.

One difference might be the European Union context. It also seems that Brexit is more prevalent in Amsterdam. Companies shift their presence to Amsterdam, rents increase, „knowledge migrants“ flock the city, the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) directive is leading to more migrants and the city seems diverse. What I immediately notice in comparison to events in Switzerland is that I do not feel so old. I am sort of middle-aged here. I see grey, and white hair. I like it.

After the break, we split up into two discussion groups and look at Concerns, Challenges, and Opportunities.

 

Lunch is a standing lunch with sandwiches. What I find interesting is the different types of industries that are present. We see different challenges and different views on GM.

Afternoon Sessions

In the afternoon Bettina Tang presents a tangible step-by-step approach on how GM Leaders can learn to engage with their stakeholders. Bettina brings in the perspective that alignment between legal requirements and managing expectations of the assignee and family.

She also explains that the organizational structure matters. The closer you are to the CEO the better. It important to understand the persons you are dealing with and to know how to build relationships with them. As mentioned she introduced a tangible model, easy to follow.

Bettina also urges us to get the basics right because assignees that are constantly complaining are not helping your credibility. I also took away that if you would like to be invited to the party, you don’t wait for the invite. You find a burning platform, address and solve it and then you claim your seat at the table.

Next on stage is Michael Joyce from AIRINC. He, first of all, apologizes for all the Brits coming to Amsterdam on a weekly basis. Not sure what they are doing but I assume they come to the party. Michael shares data. He claims that the pathway to the seat at the table is hard figures. It seems fine at times of fake news.

He brings examples of clients where either an internal perspective based on data (on housing cost, security, and education)  or an external perspective (a benchmarking that revealed that only 2% of companies in the survey applied negative COLA fully) gave the GM Leader the right to be invited to the table. This means that we all must upgrade our metrics (46% of their clients are doing that just now – you feel the pressure?). He also mentioned that 59% of all companies measure some aspects of assignment success.

A new trend in data is predictive metrics such as the retention rate after assignment, assignee satisfaction after assignment, job promotions and job performance rating after assignment. In an example case, AIRINC was helping the client to show the correlation of these metrics with performance.

And while these correlation factors might not fall within your remit, they are helpful data for management. I would include repatriate retention here.

Finally, Chris Debner concluded with showing that change does not always have to be transformational. There is also incremental change, where you target a specific aspect of your program and optimize that.

The room is full of mobility professionals. When I take my eyes of my notebook, I see eager faces. A few a bit drained of energy but most of us engaged as we want to understand how we can provide value to the business, how we can help the business with its transformation programs and where to start. A few suggestions include

  • Cost reduction
  • Easier administration
  • Improved employee experience
  • Fewer exceptions and conflicts
  • Lower risk exposure and
  • Reaching organizational objectives.

It’s almost 4 pm and I have not connected to WiFi yet. The temptation was there but I am trying to keep fully present. The next group exercise is a marketplace where the workshop on International Business Traveler compliance joins us. I speak to Maarten from PwC about the tax news and he tells me about a risk framework he is taking to customers. I ask him if he is willing to share it.

I smile as I am reminded of the early days in a role I took on in 2007 when I had to develop such a risk framework myself because I did not know where to find it online. Maybe it also did not exist then. Now, it’s just a matter of a short conversation.

The voices in the room with now around 50 professionals do not want to die down. We chat, we like this. Inge Nitsche decides to clink her water bottle and the birthday boy Ernst Steltenpoehl commands our attention. She closes the event on a positive note and invites us to drinks in the restaurant of the Royal Tropical Institute.

And while I order a glass of wine I look at the people of different cultural backgrounds in the room from India, South America, Europe and the Middle East and I’m hopeful that we Global Mobility folks may set an example and that we can help our businesses succeed in any country in the world.

If you are interested in having a conversation about the topic mentioned please let me know.

Kind regards

Angie Weinberger

PS: If you are looking to move into a new role this year, I would like to invite you to an exploratory session of HireMe!

Last week I told you the story of my car sale and how it challenged one of my principles of intercultural effectiveness. This was a story with a happy ending and thanks for your reactions and Sam-stories.

I have two more stories on digital client experiences. The hotel in Rotterdam is not a story like the last one. This is a story of my inner secretary’s failure. Some of you met my inner secretary already. She is not a perfectionist unfortunately and when I ask her to work for me (instead of a real assistant) she usually messes up something.

I had been to the Brainpark Hotel in Rotterdam several times already because it is convenient when I hold lectures at the Erasmus University. I was very happy the first and the second time. Service is good and food as well.

The third time was last March and there I wanted to cancel the room for one night and it required the intervention of a Dutch colleague cancel the booking without extra charge. I am not sure why I don’t seem to have authority in the Dutch context but maybe it is because I don’t function in that culture yet or maybe the clerks working at the reception are quite inexperienced. So let’s say there was a pre-history already and I had been a little put off by the March experience.

In November, when I booked a room through their website again, my inner secretary was happy that it all worked fine until I contacted the Expatise Academy again to discuss a few more small topics. I found out that we are actually in Amsterdam for this particular event. (“Never assume anything!” is a new principle of intercultural effectiveness),

The event was happening in Amsterdam, not Rotterdam and I had taken a late flight already. There was no point in going to Rotterdam first.

Normally, this should not be a big deal. Most hotels have a normal cancellation period of one or two days before the actual reservation. It was 10 days before the actual event.

I was not concerned at all until I contacted the hotel to cancel the room. They told me that they still needed to fully charge the room to my credit card as this was in their terms and conditions and I had agreed to them. If you are like me you probably don’t read terms and conditions for these kind of transactions either.

It took me now at least a minute to even find the T&C.

They look a lot worse than an expat tax policy or expat contract.

While I find this a strange business practice here is what the T&C say about cancellations:

“3. Reservations with prepayment cannot be changed and/or canceled in any way, and sums paid in advance as a deposit cannot be refunded. This is indicated in the conditions of sale for the rate.”

I asked them again, explaining the circumstances. I also asked if the manager could call me to discuss. Same response, no calls from anyone. I tried not to get angry. Remember, I am self-employed and for me 130 EUR is a lot of money.

Then, I also received about five automated notifications talking to me about my upcoming trip to Rotterdam. Responding to them did not work because they were sent from noreply email ID’s. Tripadvisor asked me for a review of the hotel I had just “spent a night in” and for the first time ever I gave a 1-star review called “No one cares.”

Now, I still don’t get my money back because it also seems that they do not care about their reviews but now my credibility on Tripadvisor has risen. Seems when you write good reviews you look like you are paid to that. When you write bad reviews you become an authority in the hotel business. I will continue to write bad reviews going forward and call a spade a spade.

My insurance company does not cover “miscommunication” as a reason to pay back the lost amount and even interventions by Expatise Academy did not make a difference.

Why am I telling you this?

  1. If you are in Rotterdam and you stay at this hotel tell them that they should be more careful about how they treat their returning customers. 
  2. On a more serious note: Our expats and their spouses and children often feel like I felt in this case. They feel like a number, a case and not like a human being that has issues and circumstances.

Please do not assume that expats have read their contracts, the policy and other documentation you have sent to them. Try to put yourself into their shoes. They are your client and they have a lot of other topics to worry about during that time. I would appreciate if we can all add the human touch back into the Global Mobility Agenda 2018.

Bring back the human touch into your Global Mobility population

Put that on your agenda for 2018. Collect ideas with your team about where your processes are disintegrated for the expat and their spouse. Check in with your population and improve your expat experience. You can email them one by one or through a mailing program such as Mailchimp or Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM).

In the Global Mobility Workbook (2016) I give a lot of advice on how you can check in with your expats and spouses regularly.

Let me know what you decided to do.

Angie Weinberger

PS: Mark your calendar and sign up now for 23 JAN 2018: “Building the Global Mobility Business Case”, a workshop by Expatise Academy in Amsterdam on 23 JAN 2018

 

Depending on where you live, your job prospects can vary a lot. You may live in a city with a lot of jobs in your industry and it’s great when that happens. However, sometimes as outlined in this infographic from Hansen & Company, it can be difficult to get a break. Some people might need to move to a new city if their job search is proving fruitless. It isn’t nice but sometimes there is no other option.
If you live near Texas, it may well be worth checking out the jobs boards in cities there. For example, in Plano, Texas job growth has been fantastic in recent times. It still has extremely affordable housing and the highest number of full-time employees in the United States.
Unfortunately, there are still plenty cities with very high unemployment rates. Even the most qualified people might find it difficult to pick up work in certain areas of California such as Fresno, Stockton, and Modesto. Find out more information about the best cities to get a job in the infographic.

Go to http://www.hansen-company.com/immigration-into-us/.