The traditional models for international business expansion, talent recruitment, and retention, as well as forms of employment, are all undergoing a change, and the implications for employers and employees alike are many. Some of this change is captured in expressions such as “digital nomad”, “gig economy”, and “work-from-anywhere”. While most understand these, there is no universal definition of what each term actually means. Still, what they can all be related back to in one way or another is the fact that the relationship between a particular job and the location where it is performed is getting increasingly decoupled; while at the same time work itself is becoming more project/task-based rather than job-based.

An indication of some of the forces behind the shift in how and where we work can be gleaned from the company-wide email Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky sent at the end of April this year, explaining the company’s permanent “live and work from anywhere” policy. He wrote, among other things:

“We want to hire and retain the best people in the world (like you). If we limited our talent pool to a commuting radius around our offices, we would be at a significant disadvantage. The best people live everywhere, not concentrated in one area. And by recruiting from a diverse set of communities, we will become a more diverse company.”

One driver for a more global vision of where talent is located and how it is attached to an organization comes from the workforce itself, for which a desire for more flexibility, greater work/life balance, and autonomy are increasingly important factors. To a great extent, the work-from-home shift that happened during the Covid pandemic served to reinforce the validity and the viability of this way of working. Not only did people efficiently and effectively work from home, but they also provided models for collaborating across borders and time zones.

For companies, technological progress along with the greater desire among workers for flexibility, and the demonstrated doability of working from home is a bit of a game-changer. It means that they now have the possibility of building an international presence more or less anywhere without going through the difficulties of opening a local branch — traditionally one of the big obstacles in building an international footprint. 

In his email, Brian Chesky goes on to outline how Airbnb’s work-from-anywhere program is structured while also touching on some of the hurdles that exist, one of which is securing work visas in foreign countries. In the case of Airbnb, that responsibility falls on the employee. Chesky points out that the company is actively collaborating with other countries to make it easier to gain remote work visas; another sign that this is becoming an important tool to attract and retain talent, and that this way of working/living is here to stay. Currently, there are about 20 countries that offer remote work visas.

Obtaining a visa is one of the practical problems with the “work-from-anywhere” movement but there are other, more structural ones, as well. For example, many are wondering what a shift like this will mean for organizations when it comes to company culture, engagement, loyalty, and communication. Another concern is that a global gig economy would deplete the knowledge base of the workforce. Moving from fixed-job functions to project-based tasks means continuity and development over time may suffer which could have an impact on skills development and the transferring of skills.

For workers, the physical freedom that comes with “work-from-anywhere” can be weighed against a general lack of security and financial instability. That’s because, typically, this kind of employment comes without benefits such as pensions, paid time off, healthcare, unemployment insurance, etc. 

There are societal concerns as well, and they include worker representation and gender equality. Driving collective agendas when the workforce consists of independent contractors who are spread out geographically is a difficult undertaking. And on the topic of gender equality, the fear is that more home-based work will manifest what research shows to be a great imbalance between men and women as it relates to domestic work, with women doing three times more than their male counterparts. 

The shift in work means that HR departments everywhere will need to figure out how to recruit, train, and retain talent in this new landscape, while also managing a more “on-demand” workforce. Standard relocation packages are becoming increasingly irrelevant as traditional expat relocation is making room for a global gig economy, along with other forms of mobile work situations, such as cross-border commuting, business travel, short-term relocation, etc. For HR, policies for compensation, processes, compliance, and benefits will have to be reviewed and updated to fit the modern globally mobile worker.

By: Felicia Shermis

Sources: 

https://lamaissa.medium.com/the-rise-of-the-gig-economy-in-global-mobility-8249fc40156e

https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Dilemma-4-The-Rise-of-the-Expatriate-Gig-Worker

https://www.ericsson.com/en/blog/2022/2/gig-economy-what-is-it

https://www.forbes.com/sites/suzannerowankelleher/2022/05/11/airbnb-work-from-anywhere-permanent/?sh=1666f6d036e2 

https://news.airbnb.com/airbnbs-design-to-live-and-work-anywhere/

 

Recent research shows that employee well-being and mental health are losing ground in companies’ business agendas. A survey from the CIPD and Simplyhealth notes that there has been a decrease in many areas concerning the importance of focusing on mental health; for example, the number of managers who have bought into the importance of wellbeing dropped from 67% to 60% between 2021 and 2022, and the proportion of HR professionals who think senior leaders encourage and focus on mental health has declined from 48% to 42% in that same time period.

At first glance, the numbers may not seem that stark but if you consider that we are still grappling with the Covid pandemic and all that has come in its wake — return to work concerns, safety measures, vaccination status conflicts, etc., and add to that the general state of the world with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the instability and fear that has brought, then the case for making mental health a top priority should be strong. After all, employee well-being — mental and physical health — is crucial to ensuring employee engagement and performance.

Even though the Covid pandemic is not front and center in the same manner it was a year ago, it is still dictating life in many ways; the remnants of its influence are everywhere: to mask or not to mask, to jab or not to jab, to work in-person or not to work in-person, etc. And this point in time has proven confusing for many; where before we had strict rules to adhere to, we now have a mish-mash of recommendations to consider. For some, the loosened restrictions and return to “normal” is liberating while for others it is the opposite and instead invokes feelings of uncertainty and a lack of safety. This limbo creates all kinds of issues in the workplace and beyond.

A small example of what it can look like in the workplace was shared by a friend of mine who works at a large tech company where they are now back in the office. One of his colleagues will not take their mask off all day, not even to eat. When the workgroup scheduled a lunch together — outdoors — to do some team bonding, the colleague declined to join because they did not feel safe with masks off, even if outside.

It’s not hard to see what some of the disrupting consequences of a situation like this can be, where you have a co-worker who spends their days in the office feeling unsafe (and possibly hungry) and a disjointed team. Ultimately, dynamics like these impact everything from interpersonal relationships and collaboration to quality and productivity.

HR departments have taken notice of the issues that are surfacing in the wake of the pandemic. According to the CIPD survey, 66% of HR professionals said they are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on employees’ mental health.

The pandemic hit the globally mobile employees hard — some got stuck in places they could not get out of; others were forced to put career plans on hold. Yet another group had to continue to travel with the many restrictions and uncertainties that came with that. 

An employee I know has traveled internationally for work throughout the pandemic and the toll on their mental and physical health has been real. Months of navigating ever-changing entry regulations, testing requirements, living in ”bubbles”, and quarantining (while also running the risk of getting stuck in a “quarantine hotel” for weeks on end) left them exhausted to the point of needing medical care. They’ve received minimal wellness support from their employer during this time, even when asking for simple measures to be put into place. They are considering leaving their position because of the lack of support. Research from Cigna shows that 56% of globally mobile employees look for mental health support, and only 30% receive it.  

So what can companies do to mitigate stigma, increase support, and promote mental health? A 2019 survey conducted by Harvard Business Review in partnership with SAP and Qualtrics found that the most sought-after mental health workplace resources were a more open and accepting culture, clearer information about where to go/how to get support, and mental health training. The same survey showed that some 46% of all workers said that their company had not proactively shared what mental health resources were available.

Since stigma is still playing a part in preventing many from accessing mental health benefits, it is important to build a workplace culture that champions tolerance and openness. A good place to start is to make sure mental health is included in basic health care coverage and not only available on an opt-in basis. Easy access is crucial.

While the overall workplace standard for how mental health is approached is set at the company level, managers have an important role to play in building a culture that is open and accessible. Being honest about their own mental health is a way to build trust in a team. Checking in with individual employees on a regular basis is another critical component, as is taking a customized approach to meeting people’s needs. Building peer support teams is also a way to promote openness and offer support.

Neglecting employee mental health is not an option for an organization that wants to be successful; the consequences of doing so are too severe and will ultimately be felt on every level with not just individuals struggling but also weakened team cohesion, diminished creativity, lowered employee engagement and performance, as well as loss of talent altogether.

By: Felicia Shermis 

https://www.relocatemagazine.com/articles/talent-management-health-the-challenge-and-benefits-of-nurturing-mental-and-financial-wellbeing-in-global-employees-sp22

https://www.relocatemagazine.com/news/hr-cipdhealth-andwellness-cipd-employers-risk-dropping-ball-on-employee-wellbeing-rholmes-0422

https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/a-holistic-approach-to-wellbeing-for-international-assignees

https://hbr.org/2020/08/8-ways-managers-can-support-employees-mental-health

 

By now we are all aware that including sustainability, equity, and diversity (often referred to with the abbreviations DEI or ESG depending on focus area) into your business model is a requirement for any company that wants to thrive — customers, investors, and employees are demanding it. It’s a hot topic and yet, the path forward — what to implement and how — is unclear for many. 

So what can it look like for a company that is actively implementing DEI into its culture, business model, and communications? What are important concepts and how do you get buy-in from team members and leadership alike? What are some of the pitfalls and how do you celebrate successes? Answers are going to vary, but there are some universal points to take into consideration.

Where to Start

A good place to start is to do an inventory of what you as a company are already doing, and what team members think about, and are involved with, in their daily lives. You are likely to find that much is already happening, albeit not necessarily in a coordinated or pronounced way. It is also crucial to take a look at what you as an organization stand for and where your natural touchpoints are.

When Globiana started the work of implementing DEI into our business goals, one of the first steps was to survey our team members to find out what individuals’ thoughts were on how we can be more inclusive, promote diversity, and manifest our commitment to sustainability. We also surveyed the composition of our team to get a clear idea of where we stand in terms of diversity. The answers in combination with how they naturally fit into the business we are in — global mobility — laid the ground for how to move forward.

Some of the results from our ongoing conversations are discoveries about how our core business already serves the purpose of creating understanding and collaboration on a global scale; how we use our voice and platform to create change; how the team dedicates time to ensure we reflect on best practices; and how each team member is accountable to their personal goals. 

Long-Term Perspective

Implementing strategies for DEI is not a “one and done” kind of event. To gain long-term benefits, the topic will need to actively stay on the agenda as a way to hold the team/company accountable, and as a way to note progress and celebrate successes. A common pitfall with these kinds of efforts is that they become a “paper product” without real implementation; meaning, it’s easy to set up lofty goals but unless they are actively pursued, they don’t mean much. That’s why it’s important to really think about what makes sense for your organization, what you are asking of individuals, and how the efforts are supported. Seeking feedback and buy-in from employees, and keeping an open dialog with interested parties, is crucial for success.

As a measure of how important the topic has become in the wider world of business, there are efforts underway to implement universal ESG accounting standards so that companies can easily report their performance to investors. The idea here is not to report on things such as carbon emissions, equity, and inclusion, but, writes Harvard Business Review, “provide credible information on the reporting done by a company on its progress in achieving whatever targets it decides to set (if any).”

The world of global mobility has a unique place when it comes to inclusivity and diversity, as these are a natural part of what we do. As Lisa Sezto-Ip head of global mobility at Varian said in a recent interview with Globiana: ”I feel that global mobility, in general, is a great enabler of diversity and inclusion. We take people to new cultures and environments and bring together multicultural teams. Nothing compares to sitting next to a colleague in a new country with your senses soaking up all the new and different ways of doing things, of sharing different cultures.”  

Language — The Tool to Promote Shared Understanding

Language use in internal and external communication is an important part of DEI implementation because it is how we build and promote shared understanding. To start, there are the abbreviations themselves — DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance). These don’t mean a whole lot unless they are first defined and understood and then used accordingly to reflect the work that’s actually being done.

Words and images matter and inclusive usage are essential to help people who have been historically marginalized (whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) to feel included. In the words of Corey L. Jamison and Frederick A. Miller (The Linkage Leader: 7 Actions for Creating an Inclusive Organization): “If we don’t intentionally include, we unintentionally exclude. The power of diversity thrives in a culture of inclusion.”

Yet another aspect of language use is brought forward by Camilla Degerth, coach and DEI lead at Globiana; she points out that for the global mobility world, where words such as “diversity” and “cross-cultural” may blend together, it can also be a good idea to keep the following distinctions in mind: DEI is ultimately about being allowed to be who you are, i.e. you don’t need to change. Cross-cultural work is about adapting your ways/code switch for a better understanding of, and to fit into, a new culture or environment. In other words, belonging is more important in DEI, while awareness of own culture is more important to understand other cultures.

Summing Up the Basics

Some basics to keep in mind when implementing DEI:

  • Take a collaborative approach rooted in team members’ interests
  • Ensure buy-in from team members on all levels of the organization
  • Have a long-term perspective
  • Report on progress
  • Celebrate goals reached
  • Define language and agree on word use

By: Felicia Shermis

https://hbr.org/2022/02/we-need-universal-esg-accounting-standards?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/blog/human-capital-blog/2021/inclusive-workplace-language.html

At the time of writing this, about 3.8 million people have fled Ukraine because of the Russian invasion of the country. All in all, some 10 million Ukrainians are reported to be displaced. It’s staggering to think that in a little over a month, about a quarter of the country’s population has had to leave behind their lives and livelihoods, their family and friends. Many more are expected to follow in the weeks and months ahead. Most of them don’t know where they will end up, for how long they will be gone, or if they will ever return. About half are children (some unaccompanied); very few are men between the ages of 18-60, as they are the ones expected to stay and fight.

Ukrainians of all ages and sexes are witnessing the physical destruction of their homes and cities; of their people. It’s hard to wrap your head around how anyone can move on from circumstances like these, let alone rebuild a life. The effects of war may be felt immediately but the consequences are long-lasting. Sometimes they are felt for generations.   

That’s because, besides the physical and psychological damages, there is an impact on social structures, relationships, careers, and education. Starting over in a new country where you don’t know the language or the customs; where perhaps your degree is not valid, or your children’s schooling is upended, is not easily done even in the best of circumstances.

So far, most of the refugees have ended up in neighboring countries to Ukraine, with over 2 million in Poland. And while being out of Ukraine means relative safety, it doesn’t mean the end of hardship. For many, this is just the first stop, it remains to be seen where they will end up, and what the conditions will be like.

Typically, refugees face a long period of uncertainty, even after they have arrived in a safe spot, not knowing if they will be allowed to stay, or what their status will be. In the case of Ukraine, the EU has made an emergency decision that allows Ukrainian refugees to work, send children to school, and get housing and social welfare. In addition, the European Union recently assigned 500 million euros (roughly $549 million) for humanitarian aid to Ukraine. In the US, lawmakers have agreed on an emergency aid package that would steer $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The US also approved an additional $800 million in security assistance and has announced that it will accept up to 100,000 refugees.

The sheer number of refugees in such a short amount of time has brought many logistical and practical challenges. Help organizations and volunteers are doing what they can to assist the receiving countries to fulfill the basic needs of refugees. But as the refugees continue on to more permanent situations in other countries, they will need more help and help of a different kind. Once such things as shelter and food are resolved, that’s when the process of rebuilding starts. Part of the ability to rebuild will depend on being adequately prepared to take care of themselves and their families in their new environment.

At Globiana, we can help with some of that. One of our areas of expertise is providing transition support to the globally mobile so that they are better prepared to face life in their new locations. Our country-specific courses provide a knowledge base that can help navigate a new society.

That’s why we are opening up our course catalog to Ukrainian refugees. In an effort to serve them, we are building a dedicated site (our World4Ukraine platform will open its doors on April 7) where the first iteration will provide our courses in English. The work of translating the courses to Ukrainian has already begun and the translated versions will be added to the site as they become available. Over time, we are aiming to become a hub with rich content and additional useful tools for this population.

Furthermore, we are hoping to build partnerships with our colleagues in the larger global mobility community to serve even deeper needs. The global mobility community has a unique position to be able to help — we know the challenges of crossing borders, we have processes, procedures, and channels in place to mitigate some of the biggest hurdles. Together we can make a difference. 

Globiana’s tagline is “Humanizing Global Mobility” — what is happening in Ukraine is anything but humane. We are doing our bit to change that.  

By: Felicia Shermis

Sources:

https://www.reuters.com/world/two-million-ukraine-refugees-reach-eu-millions-more-come-official-2022-03-08/ 

https://www.npr.org/2022/03/08/1085200492/ukraine-2-million-refugees-russian-invasion

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/09/us/politics/house-emergency-aid-ukraine.html

 

This interview with Lisa Sezto-Ip, head of Global Mobility at Varian, has been edited and condensed by Felicia Shermis.

Please talk a little bit about your background — where are you from and what led you to this point in your professional life?

I started out in public accounting and didn’t really know anything about global mobility. But, I had a desire to go abroad and experience another culture, and I had studied Mandarin in college and I wanted to use and improve my language skills. When an opportunity came along in Hong Kong, where a friend of a friend offered me a place to stay, I moved myself there and got into expat taxation. I took the opportunity to have an adventure — that turned out to be my entry into Global Mobility. 

I moved back to the US after four years and I ended up doing mobility tax at Apple. There I focused on supporting employees who were on international assignments and relocating abroad.

By now, I have been at Varian for five years. We were recently acquired by Siemens Healthineers and are currently working on integrating our Global Mobility strategies. The two companies have been operating under different models so we have some work to do. There are a lot of moving pieces right now as we are planning for the future while supporting employees’ current needs. 

How do your unique background and personal story impact your decision-making while building/supporting global mobility programs?

Mobility is very compliance heavy so it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of things. Having moved abroad myself, I have a lot of sympathy for employees and their families. I know there is a big adjustment ahead when you move abroad. I have an understanding that everyone’s needs are unique. We have to focus on compliance of course but we also have to have a high-touch employee focus. 

One of the things we are looking to do is to change our standard relocation package to be more flexible. We want people to be able to make choices within a set framework rather than us having to make exceptions to accommodate individual circumstances, which has been the way it has traditionally worked. This new approach will be more scalable, as everyone comes with different needs — be it someone moving from a big house to a small apartment and needing help figuring out logistics with that, someone who is facing massive delays with their visa, or someone who has to find an English-speaking midwife in a foreign country.

What does your department look like, how do you work? What type of mobility do you mostly support (business travel, relocation, virtual cross-border collaboration)?

We are currently a team of two at Varian, with additional support from Siemens. As part of our combination, we are considering different models to best support the business. It’s an exciting time to start with a blank canvas on this journey of harmonization.

We support all types of employee mobility from international business travelers to long-term moves to remote work, and everything in-between. As a center of expertise, we have the opportunity to work with many of our colleagues around the world, from manufacturing to field service to finance to C-suite executives. We provide consultation on costs, compliance requirements, and unique personal considerations.

It is difficult to talk about global mobility right now without touching on how it has been impacted by the pandemic. In your view, what are the lessons learned, and what changes will be needed from global mobility programs going forward?

Covid has had a huge impact on global mobility. Prior to the pandemic, global mobility was largely forgotten. Now it’s been brought to the forefront because travel regulations, remote work, tax implications, etc. have expanded the scope of what mobility is and it has also expanded the population we serve. 

The floodgates really opened when Global Mobility departments had to widen their umbrella to handle requests from employees who wanted to work remotely from “new” places. 

Companies are starting to look at compliance regarding remote work and are putting limits on where employees can work. Early on, we created a steering committee to ensure we had a framework of guidelines to consider when requests for remote work “elsewhere” came through. Ultimately, these decisions are still most often made on an individual basis.

Travel restrictions have of course been a huge issue during the pandemic. They have not only caused employees to get stuck in countries but have also meant a lot of work to try to figure out how to get employees to where they need to be. The shipment of household goods has also been severely impacted — it’s become two to three times more expensive to ship, and it takes two to three times longer than in pre-pandemic times. 

These are all issues we think about when building support for the future. That’s why we are moving toward a more flexible system with cash allowances, for example.

Likewise, it’s hard to talk about global mobility right now without including issues such as sustainability, diversity, and inclusion. Can you share how you approach these topics within your department? What responsibilities do you feel global mobility teams have in this realm — when it comes to globally mobile employees and the support they receive, as well as vendors you choose to work with?

I feel that global mobility, in general, is a great enabler of diversity and inclusion. We take people to new cultures and environments and bring together multicultural teams. Nothing compares to sitting next to a colleague in a new country with your senses soaking up all the new and different ways of doing things, of sharing different cultures. What’s great about this is that it is a cycle — a gift that keeps on giving — when people come back from abroad and share their new perspectives, that impacts the home team as well. We are bridging cultures without even trying.

We are also thinking about sustainability issues when helping our employees move. We partner with a relocation company and through them, we do an intake survey to find out what is important for the employee in terms of housing, and what their thoughts are on shipping goods, for example. We encourage recycling and facilitate the collection of items for donation. 

Temporary housing is still pretty standard and doesn’t necessarily cater to specific needs such as an energy-efficient building. But once the employee is in place and looking for permanent housing, they can get help with fulfilling specific wishes, such as easy access to public transportation, energy-efficient housing, etc.

What does “humanizing global mobility” mean to you?

There are many ways of doing global mobility. Especially in larger programs, it can be very operational and transactional where there is a lot of focus on compliance. Humanizing it means focusing on the employee and their family — helping them to “see around corners”. The magic sauce is to come up with a program that is employee-focused, flexible, and scalable. We have to leverage technology to make things easier, we have to have comprehensive support from beginning to end, and we have to see the individual.

For many, the beginning of the year is about setting goals and making plans for how to reach them. But this year feels different — the uncertainty and disruptions we are still experiencing in the wake of the pandemic, make it difficult to know where to even begin. Old formulas and strategies that we are used to leaning on are not effective anymore, and it’s unclear what to apply in their place. The world of global mobility has been particularly beset with uncertainty as one of the most basic ideas behind it — the crossing of borders — has been impossible to predict and plan for these past couple of years. 

But, as uncertain as things are right now, there are many well-informed ideas about what the year (and beyond) might have in store and what to think about when it comes to charting a path for success and keeping a competitive edge. The most important idea, the one that works its way into almost all other aspects of how to create success in 2022 is this: taking care of “your people”, your employees. Without a healthy, invested employee base, success — however you define it — will be hard to come by.

KPMG’s Global Assignment Policies and Practices survey (published at the end of 2021) mentions in the very introduction of the report the role employees play in the success of a company as they write: “CEOs identified their employee value proposition as the top operational priority to achieve their growth objectives”. Employers will need to figure out how to meet employee needs, not only to ensure they are performing at the top of their abilities but to retain and attract talent as well. 

What Employees are Looking For

The complication here is that employees are not looking for the same things now as they were even a year ago. Life and work have been altered, and as people have had to adjust, their expectations and needs have changed. What that means in practical terms for employers will be different from company to company but there are some general trends to use as a guide.

Employees are looking for:

  • A clear plan for ESG goals (environmental, social, governance). It’s not enough for employers to craft a message of diversity goals or environmental engagement without action and follow-through. This extends to demanding accountability from vendors and includes reporting progress and results. 
  • A recognition that mental health is taken seriously and that there is adequate coverage, and that progressive policies are in place to promote better mental health.
  • A work environment that values work-life balance and real measures that allow for it.
  • Flexibility in when and where to work — at the office, at home, a combination of both.

What About Global Mobility?

Unsurprisingly, the basic question of what global mobility will look like going forward is still front and center for many global companies. The KPMG survey points out that one of the reasons for believing in the return of global mobility is that it’s an important recruitment tool — many employees still see the opportunity to work abroad as a career enhancer. It is also a way for companies to improve on diversity and social consciousness. 

The report says: “Evolving business models and the war for talent are expected to continue to drive the development of new and diverse talent mobility needs for organizations. Pandemic-related complications have led to more innovation and more reliance on flexible work options both domestically and abroad. As more borders open and viral infection rates decline globally, we fully expect business travel to resume albeit with less frequency and shorter trips.”

Building support for the altered circumstances in which global mobility operates will become a top priority in 2022. Some of the issues that employers are grappling with are:

Compliance Compliance has always been a concern when managing global talent and the pandemic has only complicated the matter. 

Greater need for real-time risk assessment/management — Risk assessment and management have become more complex and more urgent, as they cover a wider scope compared to pre-pandemic times, and as they are more time-sensitive than ever before. 

Distributed workforce The distributed workforce is here to stay and with that comes advantages as well as challenges. For employers, this means considering the effects on company culture, engagement, and communication, and implementing strategies for countering some of the possible negative outcomes such as feelings of isolation or broken communication. Some of the benefits of a distributed workforce include being able to hire from a greater talent pool, being a nimble company that can work across time zones, and greater opportunities for diversity.

Meeting the Demands of the Future

Many agree that the answers to meet the demands of the future will be found by combining hi-tech solutions with outsourcing for services while providing flexible support to fulfill new mobility needs. Employers are looking to:

  • Build flexible policies for relocation support.
  • Build cohesive vendor partnerships to support global talent in areas such as intercultural knowledge, as well as in tax, immigration, and employment laws, and for fulfilling duty of care.
  • Explore new technology and apply virtual solutions for collaboration, education, and communication. Vistage.com writes: “Nearly every industry needs to consider the impact of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and digitization. Those who choose not to participate will be left behind.”

The new year may not have started off as we hoped and uncertainty may still be the prevailing feeling, but as Amir Husain writes on Forbes.com: “If there is one thing we should be certain of about the future, it is that it will indeed bring forth many surprises. Even trends we are aware of now and think we understand will, in time, drive outcomes at a scale hard for us to imagine.”

By: Felicia Shermis

Sources: 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amirhusain/2021/12/31/2022-a-look-ahead/?sh=7e3adc4c7900

https://www.vistage.com/research-center/business-financials/economic-trends/20211209-trends-facing-business-in-2022-and-beyond/

https://www.upwork.com/resources/distributed-workforce

Leadership is much-discussed in the world of business — how to recruit, train, and retain talent are perennial topics on the agenda, and most often, good leadership is defined by traits such as great communication skills, the ability to delegate, empowerment, and integrity. And while these are undoubtedly important attributes in order to lead successfully, being a leader in today’s world requires additional traits, such as those encompassed in the three C’s — Curiosity, Courage, and Collaboration.

They are needed because we have entered an era that is defined by the recognition that we all share a responsibility to shape the world we live in with regards to sustainability, diversity, and inclusion (and beyond) — and the responsibility doesn’t start and end at home, it carries over into all aspects of life, private and public, home and work, in big ways and small.

The reasons for this shift are many — awareness of issues facing our global society, demands by younger generations of workers to make sustainability, diversity, and inclusion a natural part of business, and of course, a realization that there are business opportunities to be had.

As Olio’s co-founder Tessa Clarke says on simplybusiness.co.uk with regards to the concept of profit with purpose: “There’s a whole new generation of consumers — Gen Z and millennials — who are recognizing that profit and purpose are inextricably linked.” She adds: “Any business that does not truly embed profit with purpose into its DNA will lose its license to exist, I’d like to say within the next five years, but certainly within the next 10-20 years.”

And things are changing — a number of companies have been launched in the last few years with the purpose of doing their bit when it comes to addressing sustainability and promoting inclusion and diversity as a business idea. In addition, more and more established companies are also seeing the benefits of incorporating these practices into regular operations — when it comes to long-term costs and marketability, for example, as well as in attracting and retaining employees.

The shift in mindset can best be described as “currently evolving”, as this is still an area of learning for many business leaders. There may not be a “manual” yet to follow but the increased awareness has led to a greater willingness to look at business practices from the perspective of sustainability and to change goals to also include actions and benchmarks in these areas.

Globiana coach Camilla Degerth has seen this first hand with an increased desire among clients to explore ways in which these issues can be not just discussed in the workplace but also championed and implemented. Many are uncertain about where to start and how to make sure they are heard.

Oftentimes, the concerns raised in coaching reflect the insecurity an employee feels about bringing up an issue that lies outside their realm of responsibility, or that a leader experiences thinking they need to have all the answers. Some of the common questions that come up in coaching include:

  • How can I bring up topics such as sustainability or inclusion in our business practices without losing credibility?
  • Will this be seen as an investment or a cost?
  • How will people look at me if I say we need to change our ways?
  • How can I ensure employees feel safe enough to share their thoughts and ideas?

Answering these questions is where the three C’s come into the picture because it’s the business leaders who are guided by the principles of the three C’s that are most likely to make progress and implement changes successfully. The three C’s break down as follows:

Curiosity — learn more about the issues and about ideas for how to tackle them. To have the awareness that you don’t have all the expertise.

Courage — be vulnerable and admit that you don’t have all the answers and solutions, and then the willingness to empower others to step up to the plate.

Collaboration — take the step to work together across hierarchies, ages, and roles. This is a big task but building allyships will help move projects forward.

It’s not easy to institute change — of any kind — whether it has to do with redefining how you do business, showing vulnerability as a leader, starting a new business partnership, or acknowledging that you don’t have the expertise needed to tackle a certain issue. The beauty is that in empowering — that is, letting people around you know that their voice is important and that they have something to contribute — you feed creativity and collaboration. And those are traits that are good for any business objective, period.

Much of what is discussed here is not news — from the dynamics of younger generations driving change — in the business world and beyond — to older generations being mentors and guides. What is different is perhaps the urgency felt by so many and the fact that leaders today are more visible to employees, and to the public, than ever before. The words and actions of a leader have the potential to reach far, making their sphere of influence large, which means they can impact change to a greater extent. So, the questions are what is the responsibility of business leaders, and how can they build organizations in which employees feel empowered to bring new ideas forward?

By: Felicia Shermis

Sources:

https://www.simplybusiness.co.uk/knowledge/articles/2021/10/tips-for-saving-the-planet-from-food-sharing-startup-olio/?ref_id=CPNXA&utm_source=email&utm_medium=olio_sustainable_business&utm_campaign=ots_pdc

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/11/generation-x–not-millennials–is-changing-the-nature-of-work.html

Often when talking or reading about how global mobility fits into the structure of a business, it’s done from a numbers perspective. There is no doubt that the economy of global mobility is important. However, there is another, less examined key aspect to consider — the people involved — those supporting global mobility efforts, and those being supported by global mobility programs.

These are the human resource teams and service providers who have to balance cost vs value on a daily basis, and who have to keep up to date on conditions, policies, and regulations, domestically and across the world. They are the ones who know that every implemented policy and crunched number will ultimately affect not just the directly impacted employee or business unit, but also the greater “ecosystem” surrounding them.

They are the employees who work, travel, and move across borders, and who are asked to produce at a high level regardless of where in the world they are, or how attuned to a new culture they are. These are the employees who are asked to work remotely in a multicultural group, across time zones and language barriers without missing a beat. They are the ones traversing continents to represent, give presentations, and negotiate deals in culturally appropriate and effective ways.

In short, they are the very diverse group of individuals behind the catchall term “Global Mobility”.

Spending time on the finer points of global mobility at this juncture may seem counterintuitive to some considering the recent struggles the industry has experienced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And, yes, it’s true that cross-border movement has been hampered. But, cross-border collaboration has not.

Thought exchange and teamwork across borders are as commonplace now, if not more so, as before the pandemic — technology has made sure of that. The need for intercultural knowledge and understanding of how to collaborate across borders and across cultures has not diminished, if anything, it has increased. As a global mobility service provider, Globiana has seen this first hand.

“Keeping a global view of the process of global mobility is as important now as it ever has been,” says Globiana CEO and Founder Elena Mosko. She points out that it’s easy to forget that cross-border collaboration, whether in person or virtual, is a high-stakes venture. It is well known that the negative effects of failed cross-cultural communication and adaptation are many and can be severe — for individuals, their families, and businesses alike. What is less well known are the greater cultural impacts and how those shape how we as people — and by extension businesses — view each other. How we lay the groundwork for trust and understanding. How we build for the future.

So, what is the responsibility of individual companies and global mobility service providers when it comes to the bigger picture of promoting understanding and bringing in the human aspect in what is traditionally a transactional part of business? Do individual companies have a responsibility at all?

As a company with the tagline “Humanizing Global Mobility”, it may be clear where Globiana stands on that question. But what does that tagline actually mean and how does it translate to what we do and how we approach clients? “Globiana was originally developed as a complement to the benefits side of the global mobility business, but as time has gone on, there has been a recognition within the leadership and the broader team alike, that we have a role to play in filling a bigger gap,” says Elena.

The core of what we do is to bring down cultural barriers — within our team, which is multicultural and based all over the world, and through the products and services we offer. But a recent internal survey shows that to truly live up to our tagline we have to do more than break down barriers, we also have to promote an inclusive worldview, we have to help build bridges.  

As one team member put it: “This includes remembering that people are much more than their job titles or where they come from. It touches on how we form relationships with people who are not in our physical vicinity and how those relationships affect our lives.”

And yet another said this: “The attitude that there is always something wonderful to learn from each place and person, and that there is much to contribute without the fear of judgment.”

Likewise, living up to the tagline means being deliberate in how we choose to grow our team and how we support other vendors and clients who share our vision, awareness, and agreed-upon engagement.

Why does all of this matter? It matters because, for one, the way we see it, it’s just good business sense to invest in cultural understanding and outreach — that’s how you build lasting networks, make deals, and forge relationships. It matters because it is a validation of the importance of the diversity on our own team, as well as of the diversity of the clients we serve. And it matters because ultimately, it’s about worldview.

By: Felicia Shermis

It is well-known that merging two companies is a difficult undertaking, and international mergers count as some of the trickiest of all to pull off, as here you are not only merging company cultures and office structures, you are also combining cultural heritage patterns, both big and small. And while the reasons for why mergers don’t live up to expectations (or fail outright) can be many, integration is generally considered to be one of the biggest hurdles. To put some numbers on it, between 50-85% of all mergers fail, and a study by A.T. Kearney concluded that total returns to shareholders on mergers and acquisitions are negative.

Considering that integration issues encompass everything from company hierarchy to performance drivers to internal and external communication, it makes sense that it’s an important piece in ensuring a successful merger. The results of failing to address integration matters span the spectrum of, at best, an inefficient work environment to one that is downright toxic. Nowhere on that scale is there a positive outcome.

Because the topic of integration speaks to the very fabric of what makes a company function, it is vital that cultural integration is part of discussions early in the process of a merger and that the leadership have clear action plans for how to address it. Ideally, it should be an ongoing effort that has employees actively involved.

A famous example of a merger gone wrong is the one between German automaker Daimler and US-based Chrysler. On paper, this was a match with all kinds of positive upside — they operated in the same sphere and produced the same products. However, the two companies had completely different cultures. Daimler was conservative and known for having low risk tolerance, while Chrysler was diverse and creative. One was formal and the other looser in its structure. It didn’t take long before employee satisfaction dropped to all-time lows, and within a couple of years, they were recording major losses. What was thought to bring fortune to both companies ended up bringing chaos instead. Daimler eventually sold Chrysler. 

As an intercultural services company, Globiana has seen firsthand the difference cultural integration training makes. A recent survey conducted after completing trainings for a large international company based in Germany, which had merged with a large company in the US, highlighted why it’s so important to be intentional about integration training. 

As an example, take this observation by one of the participants when asked about future learning topics to cover: “The other company has a results-driven culture where compensation is tied to personal results, this is not the case in our company, and I’m not even sure that’s allowed by our workers’ council. What does that mean for our combined workforce?” And an answer to the question of what new perspectives had been gained through trainings was: “Most important to me was to learn why Americans are more focused on short-term results, which is different from how I am acting.”

Looking at these two responses, you get a good idea of why integration is so important, and also why it’s so thorny. Because, of course, not only do the answers reflect divergent compensation systems (which in itself can become a problem) but they also bring into focus the questions of larger cultural tendencies such as performance drivers and goal setting. It’s not hard to imagine the collaboration difficulties that can spring from leaving issues like these unaddressed.

A common mistake in mergers is to task employees, often managers, to lead the way in integration. This is problematic because they typically lack the expertise to address all that integration entails. And in addition, they most often don’t have the time, or the resources, to spearhead this type of effort in a sustained way.  

Using an expert is a cost-effective way of getting targeted training. Globiana for example has a global network of trainers, who in addition to country-specific knowledge also have expertise in how to bridge the cross-cultural aspects of a merger and how to facilitate collaboration and communication between groups.

Further proof of the impact of integration training can be found in Globiana’s post-training survey where 84% responded that they “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” with the statement: “I am confident that I can apply part of what I have learned today in my upcoming work.” On the question about interest in a facilitated follow-up, 80% responded that they would like to see that happen.

Perhaps the most important point of all brought forward in the survey was the sentiment that simply knowing that intercultural integration is prioritized by the “new company” gives employees confidence that it’s important for the company to not just merge business but to merge people as well. One participant said: “It felt good to see that my passion for intercultural awareness and the importance of culture, diversity, and inclusion is shared by others and is top focus for ‘the new company’”. And another employee said this: “The effort and thought being put into the integration of the two companies is refreshing. Not only is it teaching me and others, but it is also instilling a sense of belonging in a very short span, which takes years to achieve.”

By: Felicia Shermis

Sources:

https://dealroom.net/blog/challenges-during-m-a

​​https://www.impraise.com/blog/employee-engagement-challenges-with-mergers-acquisitions

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-mergers-fail/

A while back, the team at Globiana started talking about how we can make a difference when it comes to the issue of sustainability. The question posed was something along the lines of how we can work to incorporate both environmentally and socially sustainable values and actions into our offerings while maintaining the same quality of products and services (or, make them even better). What would that look like for a company like ours, and why is it important? 

The initial query led to additional questions such as what is our broader responsibility in the world of global mobility — sustainability is, after all, a global issue. Part of our “job description”, for example, is to educate and support companies and their employees on everything surrounding working and living abroad. It seems natural that that should include environmental, social, and governance (ESG, for short) sustainability issues. And, to some degree, these have always been present in our work. However, they have never been a spelled out priority. 

Likewise, there has long been individual involvement in sustainability among the team members at Globiana, but there has not been a coordinated company-wide effort, and, while there has been an ongoing informal discussion among individuals, there has never been a clear company goal of how we want to address the issues.

So, now the question is, how can Globiana — or any company for that matter — make a commitment to make a difference? And why should we take this on as a company (beyond the obvious reasons why we all need to be working for a more sustainable world)? 

Camilla Degerth, a coach for Globiana who is also a member of the Climate Coaching Alliance says that the first thing to know is that there is no one way to do this. Many who work in the field of sustainability are still trying to determine the best ways to tackle ESG from a corporate point of view. What is clear is that implementation will be different depending on who you are. Camilla points out that the key is to make your efforts operational and not just paper products. In order to do that, she suggests starting with a discussion about what this would look like specifically for your company, in your business sphere. What makes sense based on your products/services/employees/customers? The more well-defined, the better. 

We all know that sustainability is a critical issue — for our environment, for social equity, and for governance — in short, for a functioning society and a living planet. But there are also business reasons for why implementing sustainability into operations makes sense. 

Consider research from Lightspeed that found that 90% of millennials see sustainable practices as crucial when choosing an employer, and it is clear that this is a tool to improve retention as well as to attract new hires. The retailer Patagonia is an example of a company that has a sustainable profile and a company culture that incorporates its values in practical ways with a range of green programs and ways for employees to engage. They attribute their low turnover rate (4%) in large part to their sustainability efforts.

You can save resources and money by implementing sustainable practices in everyday operations. Disney, for example, has a biogas facility that produces heat and electricity from their organic waste that helps power homes and that reduces Disney’s power consumption. Another approach comes from Intel which has tied some of its employees’ compensation to individual recycling metrics in a goal to become a zero-waste company. 

Camilla uses her own experience as a coach as an example of how you can apply your expertise and have an impact. In coaching people who are looking to make a difference in their organizations, she has found that one of the most powerful tools she can provide is confidence — the confidence to talk to senior people about sustainability issues, for example, or the confidence to institute a change or the confidence to set a goal. 

So, as we continue our efforts of incorporating sustainability into our business, we do so with the recognition that our steps and commitments are unique to us. However, we do believe that the responsibility to work towards a more sustainable world is universal.

By: Felicia Shermis

Sources: 

https://www.osha.gov/sustainability

https://recyclecoach.com/blog/6-examples-of-sustainability-in-the-workplace-and-their-impact/#:~:text=Sustainability%20in%20the%20workplace%20is,waste%20future%20for%20your%20company.

https://talentmobilitysearch.com/is-it-the-right-time-for-mobility-to-contribute-to-the-esg-agenda/

 

The topic of intercultural awareness and competence in the work world has never been more crucial. In a time when remote work has become commonplace, and where multicultural teams are increasingly prevalent, building awareness and knowledge across cultures have become a must. As many companies with a global footprint know, one of the big challenges is how to create an organizational culture that resonates with employees in different parts of the world. It turns out that it’s almost impossible to establish a common work style across cultures without first ensuring knowledge of our own, and each other’s, “cultural entry points”.

The simplified reason for why this is difficult is that we all have some measure of pre-programmed cultural propensities when it comes to how we communicate, collaborate, and function within a group or a hierarchy. Most of us are unaware of our own cultural tendencies, and how they inform how we interact with others, or how we behave in certain circumstances. Likewise, we often lack knowledge about what our counterpart’s cultural background means. As Globiana’s COO, Steffen Henkel puts it: “The level of awareness of cultural differences is a culture difference in itself”.

That’s because our cultural biases impact everything from how we view time, to hierarchies, to communication, etc. Consider the simple example of a workgroup where employees on a team see the importance of adhering to a set timeline differently — some come from a culture where timelines are strictly followed, and others from a culture where they are considered loose guidelines. It’s not hard to imagine the miscommunication and frustration among the employees once a project is underway and the parties who are supposed to collaborate are not on the same page about what needs to be done when. When this kind of discord takes hold, it is ultimately the quality of work that suffers.   

Intercultural Training is not the Same as Common Sense

A misconception about how to address cultural differences is that it’s just a matter of applying common sense. And since everyone can do that (in theory), investing in intercultural training is not necessary. The problem with that thinking is that common sense is in itself based on cultural assumptions, or as Steffen Henkel says: “Common sense does not exist. There is what one perceives as common sense in one’s own reference system, whether this also applies to other reference systems, one can’t know.” 

When it comes to the impact of gaps in intercultural knowledge, it is typically the case that something has to go wrong before the stakeholders take notice and decide to act. One such example comes from a recent Globiana client. 

The client was getting poor feedback in a customer-facing support division where the workgroups were spread out across Europe, Asia, and the US. The groups were not able to perform according to protocol, and they had communication issues that manifested in frequent miscommunication and unnecessary escalation of support issues. Their customers suffered the consequences as support was halting. 

A needs analysis by Globiana’s intercultural trainers identified the overarching issues affecting the support team as:

  • a lack of cross-cultural awareness within, and between the workgroups in different parts of the world.
  • a lack of understanding of how to communicate between groups located in different parts of the world.
  • a lack of feeling empowered in, and aligned with, company culture, as well as the other teams — in particular on part of employees in one geographic location.

Solutions to Address Intercultural Issues

Based on the needs analysis, Globiana’s trainers came up with a strategy for how to address the identified problems. They designed a segmented training program that included all affected workgroups. In a simplified breakdown, it looked something like this:

  1. Overview of the other cultures, including stereotypes, regional and generational differences, along with language biases. These sessions included active participation exercises.
  2. Combine the various groups in global virtual mixed team sessions to get the teams to speak to each other and not just about each other. Employees did exercises together to illustrate where and why their communication would break down.
  3. Collaboration between groups to develop a joint understanding of what the company values and culture are, and how they relate to the team — as a group and as individuals. This was also done virtually with teams from across the globe meeting online where a trainer served as a guide/moderator.

What Intercultural Training Can Lead To

As the training program progressed, improvements started happening in several areas. There was increased understanding and adoption of company values across the groups, and as they gained insight into how to communicate with each other, and knowledge about what it was that guided the different cultures in such things as decision-making, for example, collaboration across borders became easier. Gradually, the performance improved and the groups could provide customer support according to protocol, and up to company standard. The workgroups adopted a “we” mindset as opposed to differentiating themselves depending on their physical location. 

Ultimately, It’s a Matter of Quality of Work and Competitiveness 

Investing in intercultural training is crucial for global companies who want a strong company culture to guide the work of employees who come from disparate cultural backgrounds. It’s equally important in order to ensure effective communication and productive collaboration. 

Going forward, in an increasingly global work world, whether in person or via virtual collaboration, having knowledge about your counterparts from across the world, and a shared understanding of company values and goals, is not going to be a luxury that is a “nice-to-have” — it’s going to be a necessity to stay competitive. 

By: Felicia Shermis

Recent studies show that anxiety and depressive disorders have increased steeply in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, as we are nearing a year and a half of pandemic living, robust discussions around the subject of mental health have started taking place, both in the context of work, and in society at large — what it is, what the effects of bad mental health are, and how we seek and provide treatment. Perhaps most importantly, the pandemic has changed how we talk about mental health — as more and more people are affected by poor mental health, it has gone from a “they” problem to a “we” problem. The deeply rooted stigma surrounding the topic is slowly dissipating, and in the professional world, there is a realization that this is not just affecting individuals, but it’s a whole workplace problem. 

The discussions are to a great extent driven and shaped by younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Zers, who are gaining influence in the workplace and in society at large, and who are making their voices heard. These generations see mental health as a natural part of overall health, and as such, they are demanding more from employers in terms of options for access to mental health care, as well as overall workplace culture and how mental health is viewed, treated, and talked about. 

In the workplace, mental health has long been a subject most people have shied away from talking about for fear of being overlooked for a promotion or being seen as unreliable or difficult. As a result, mental health, and mental health care, have been a low priority when it comes to health care options and duty of care packages. It has been close to a non-existent subject in company culture as a whole. 

Employers who want to stay competitive going forward will have to do better. Not only does it make sense from a purely human perspective to shift how we relate to, and act on, mental health, it also makes sense from a business perspective. That’s because the impact of mental health on work is significant. 

Pre-pandemic research, published in the Harvard Health newsletter, found that workers with depression reported the equivalent of 27 lost workdays per year. Out of these, nine were sick days or other time off, and the remaining 18 days reflected a loss of productivity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy around one trillion dollars a year in lost productivity. 

Other research shows that employees with depression are more likely than others to change jobs frequently. And when it comes to the expat population, studies indicate that mental health concerns are greater with employees working abroad than with domestic ones. 

Overall, the numbers are clear — not only can mental health issues such as depression and anxiety lead to lowered productivity but they also impact retention, and considering the pace at which mental health has declined this past year, the effects on work going forward can end up being significant.

In the US, for example, a tracking poll from Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the number of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder has gone from 11% in the first half of 2019 to 41.1% in January of 2021. Many other countries are reporting similar statistics. Additional data show that it is the younger generations that are proportionally more impacted by mental health concerns. They are also the ones driving the call for change in how we relate to and address mental health. 

A study by Businessolver, presented at a recent webinar, shows that 87% of millennials and 82% of Gen Zers believe their employer should do more to promote mental health. The same study reports that about 95% of people — employees, HR pros, and CEOs — say that mental health is as important as physical health, and yet 64% of employees believe that if someone reached out to HR about a mental health issue, it would negatively impact their job security. Clearly, there is still a gap between how we think and feel about mental health, and how we act on it. 

Taking all the factors above into consideration, it’s easy to see that for employers to stay competitive, mental health, and mental health care will have to be a priority going forward. Areas to address include:

  • incorporating mental health into company culture, meaning company culture will have to be open and supportive of mental health struggles and mental health care. This includes communicating clearly about what mental health resources are available.
  • analyzing data around mental and physical health care programs to see how they are being used, and then build wellness programs so that they relate to both physical and mental health in a meaningful way.
  • ensuring easy and affordable access to mental health care.

We’re in an extraordinary time right now where how and where we work has changed to a great extent in a short period of time. As a result, employers are actively reassessing support programs and employee benefits. Mental health — care and well-being — should be a natural part of this shift. As Adam Grant writes in this NYT article about languishing: “As we head into a new post-pandemic reality, it’s time to rethink our understanding of mental health and well-being. ‘Not depressed’ doesn’t mean you are not struggling. ‘Not burned out’ doesn’t mean you’re fired up.” 

There are still hurdles to overcome with how mental health is viewed — at work and in private life. Aside from the fact that we are talking about the health of employees, colleagues, friends, and family, the incentive to make sure mental health and mental health care are adequately and openly addressed and covered by employers should be obvious  — not only will it be a way to attract the best talent, but it will also increase productivity and retention. It will be a win — for the company, its people, and society at large. In short, it’s a win for all of us!

By: Felicia Shermis

Resources:

NYT — Languishing article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html

Flexjobs, Mental Health America study:

https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/flexjobs-mha-mental-health-workplace-pandemic/

Kaiser Family Foundation:

https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

Businesssolver:

https://www.businessolver.com/resources/resource-library

Harvard Health Publishing:

Resources