Why local resources are important

As we move forward into a new era of global mobility, it’s critical to plan and prepare.

We’re all aware that the COVID-19 pandemic brought even more dramatic, rapid updates to a global mobility concern that was already of critical importance and subject to frequent change: immigration. Officials and governing bodies regularly assess local situations and consider new policies, solutions, and even technology to support doing business while staying safe.

For the last year, users of Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center (IRC) have been able to find the most current online resources for COVID-19 and immigration policies on the front page of every country report. That IRC feature will continue to be available for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, as the world has dealt with the pandemic as a whole, it’s become very clear that different effects are felt at all levels of community. Context, resources, and cultural attitudes figure prominently in these unique scenarios — and the results might not be immediately apparent in government-based resources.

One way to begin gauging an upcoming destination — especially when making decisions about scheduling travel — is to look at how traditionally large gatherings are being handled locally. Websites for annual events, schools, concert venues, nightlife and dining guides, clubs, and media venues often prominently feature responses to COVID-19, including the details of current policies and upcoming plans.

Similarly, the observation of holidays in a destination can also offer important local insight. Have mass transportation schedules and other traffic patterns been adjusted to accommodate customary travel within the location? When relevant, have places of worship been compelled to limit traditional services, or to offer alternatives? Are businesses adjusting hours and policies to accommodate more customers?

While the IRC has always made local resources easy for our users to find, they now offer important additional value.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

The Rise of Virtual Cultural Awareness

A natural progression of working from home has been more screen time with our global colleagues. We gain many benefits from interacting with cross-cultural virtual teams. Companies taking advantage of talent around the globe form heterogeneous teams with varying perspectives. When managed well, these differences inject creativity and innovation into even the most complex problems.

However, diverse teams are not without challenges. Cultural differences often create barriers to successful communication. Digital environments increase the potential for misunderstandings, especially when interpreting non-verbal communication.

Developing cultural agility helps teams to avoid cultural collisions and misunderstandings. Team members can gauge cognitive, relational, and behavioral differences along the dimensions where cultural gaps are most common, and managers can assess the whole team in those areas.

The attributes of a culturally agile person are:

· Willingness to learn about differences

· Awareness of your individual cultural background & preferences

· Knowledge about the cultures of your colleagues

· Adaptability and ability to style shift

Culturally agile individuals recognize, appreciate, and adapt to situations that are culturally different from their own experiences. This results in clearer communication.

A great place to start developing cultural agility is to invite team members to take a cultural assessment of their individual work style. Our cultural assessment is based on the six Cultural Dimensions identified by Dr. Geert Hofstede.

Cultural Dimensions are …

· A framework for understanding cultural differences.

· An objective means to discussing culture, using non-judgmental language.

· Helpful to quantify differences without defining right or wrong, good or bad.

Once the assessment is complete, the Cultural Profile:

· Measures individual cultural preferences related to the six Dimensions.

· Provides stimulus for reflection, self-exploration, and a lens through which other countries’ cultures may be understood.

· Highlights the central tendency of a country.

· Gives comparisons to a country that are a useful framework for discussing cultural differences and similarities.

· Identifies appropriate business practices for working with the target culture.

Coupled with discussion, the Cultural Profile is a powerful tool to provide both self-knowledge and awareness of specific cultures. Team members can effectively apply their native intelligence with confidence, and develop their ability to resolve business challenges.

To learn more about your own cultural work style and to take the Cultural Questionnaire assessment, please click here and we’ll email you the link.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, Managing Director

Are You Preparing for International Business Travel?

Achievements in beating back the COVID-19 virus have led to heightened interest in business travel. Like many aspects of doing business during a pandemic, the prospect of corporate travel raises many questions. The questions themselves are evolving, and their answers vary by industry and company.

One thing is clear: Both companies and employees have a whole new set of considerations when taking a simple business trip.

Company considerations
– Travel is typically driven by business necessity. An employee’s physical presence may be required on location to manage a site or plant, open a branch, sell or service a complex product, or transfer a specialized skill. While virtual communication can meet certain business needs, others will only be fulfilled satisfactorily through an in-person role.

– Border status and immigration rules have been in flux for the past year. How volatile is the situation in the destination location? Is there a reasonable belief that the employee can conclude the trip and return within the allotted time? Is there a quarantine period? Will travelers need proof of vaccination? Travel managers are having to stay on top of a changing landscape across their countries of interest.  

– Deciding who will go has become a bit more complicated. Given the additional safety measures and potential costs, perhaps only a certain designation of employee will be approved for travel. Their personal health issues may come into play, as well as any household members at risk.

– Essential to the travel decision are duty of care and safety protocols. What information sources and travel support does the company have in place to assure the traveler’s safety? Beyond the changing border regulations, companies need reliable virus data, information on business closings or restrictions, and knowledge of potential obstacles to achieving the trip’s purpose. What procedures are in place in the event the employee becomes ill, or if borders close again?

– All of these considerations come with additional cost. What are all the obvious and hidden costs associated with sending someone on a business trip? And what are the costs of not going? ROI has never been more important, leading more companies to explore ways to identify and measure it.

Employee considerations
Assuming that other options like remote and virtual work have been assessed and dismissed, the employee has their own set of travel concerns.

– Safety is top of mind during these times. Again, the level of concern can be amplified by the employee’s or a family member’s general state of health, both of which can raise privacy concerns as well. The potential health risk is a strong factor in willingness to travel, as is the person’s vaccination status.

– Related to safety is the employee’s general comfort level with travel. In addition to the above reasons, they may be concerned about the length of stay, especially if it includes a quarantine period, modes of transportation in and out of the country, and the likelihood of a smooth scheduled exit. Conditions at the destination are important, such as virus prevalence and safety measures, as well as availability of appropriate lodging and local transport.

– Like company management, employees are concerned with the projected business result. Is a new location or branch to be opened? Are they securing new business or saving client revenue? Will a critical skill be applied or shared? What is the cost of not going –for example, lost business, delays, allowing a competitor opportunity?

Making sure everyone is well-informed
Both the company decision-makers and traveling employees need to stay abreast of:
– Information from immigration authorities to gauge feasibility of travel;
– Company procedures to prepare employees for travel and on-site;
– Fully open communication channels to discuss risk, support, contingency plans, and points of contact.

With businesses planning their return to travel and sharing their experiences, we can all benefit from others’ thought processes and best practices. Starts, stops, reversals, and eventual progress are all to be expected as we move ahead. Planning and flexibility let us put our best foot forward when we’re ready to step out the door for a trip.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

Given today’s business travel climate, you have plenty to manage with added logistics and safety. Let Living Abroad’s Global Business Travel Center  inform and equip your business travelers with the tools they need to navigate the unfamiliar with confidence.

Can You Measure Assignment ROI?

Why is Assignment ROI important now?

High costs make international assignments very visible to the C-suite, especially the CFO. As such, they create a powerful opportunity for HR to take a strategic seat at the table, and require HR to speak the language of finance. How can you successfully manage it, if you can’t measure it, as Peter Drucker so clearly pointed out decades ago? In most companies today, the CFO is bent on cutting assignment costs without a clear view to the expected value and return on the investment (ROI). Consequently, Global Mobility Managers are pressured to cut back through:

  • Localizations
  • Lump Sum” (domestic AND international)
  • Extended business trips
  • Single Status assignments
  • Long-term” assignments of 12 months
  • More local hiring

What if we knew the ROI?

If we found that traditional long-term assignments had a better ROI than the shorter alternatives, would executives rethink their assignment strategy? They need to know this!

Would we, as Global Mobility Managers, manage assignments differently if the success criteria were clear? We need to know this!

We believe that assignments would be planned and managed more strategically with ROI a key part of the pre-assignment cost-benefit analysis. Measurable results — once understood — can be attained through goal setting in the pre-assignment phase. Assignment management becomes easier with clear progress monitoring, feedback, and collecting ‘lessons learned’ post-assignment.

Can the ROI actually be done?

ROI is calculated by collecting data on costs, yes, but also by identifying and quantifying critical organizational success factors such as business development goals, transfer of knowledge, and culture. By using financial management analysis, we’ve created an algorithm with nine (9) variables, including Cost, Duration, Impact, Budgets and Productivity.

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The Assignment ROI Algorithm is a copyright of Living Abroad LLC (c) 2021

So what?

Assignment ROI is a decision-making and planning tool, allowing Mobility Managers to be more strategic and share a common language with the CFO and the executive team.  Once decisions are made about the assignment purpose and duration, the roadmap to success is clearer.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a systematic approach that gives you the strategic leverage you need with your executive team?

For the ROI White Paper or to learn how to bring Assignment ROI into your organization, please contact Michael or Jennifer.

Written by Michael Cadden, MBA, SGMS-T, Managing Director, Living Abroad and Jennifer Green, MBA, SPHR, Managing Principal, Green Global Resources

This type of crime is on the rise

Even if you have been closely monitoring your personal records while staying safe at home for the last year, it’s important to know that online crime has risen dramatically around the globe. For example, according to the US Federal Trade Commission, reported cases of identity theft in the United States doubled from 2019 to 2020. One of the greatest increases has been cases in which fraudulent information is used to obtain government benefits.

Many national governments provide resources for victims of identity fraud, such as excellent tips for protecting yourself against identity theft and related crime, examples of popular scams, and what to do next if you are a victim:

United States:

Identity Theft Recovery Plan

FBI: Internet Crime Complaint Center

 

United Kingdom:

Action Fraud: National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre

Information Commissioner’s Office: Identity Theft

 

Australia:

Australian Federal Police: Identity Crime

 

Canada:

Office of Consumer Affairs: Identity Theft

 

European Union:

European Union Agency for Cybersecurity

ENISA Threat Landscape 2020

Europol: Tips and Advice to Prevent Identity Theft Happening to You

 

Other great sources of information can include your home and host country governments, your bank and credit card providers, your local police, consumers unions, and special interest groups.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

Why is good information more important than ever?

Here in the U.S., recent political events in the midst of a pandemic have us consuming ever more information on our screens.  It has made us all hungry for good information.  By good information, I mean information that is well-researched, fact-based, and clearly written. Good information in business improves decision making, enhances efficiency and provides an advantage to the organization or individual who is better informed than the competitor.

For instance, teams working virtually can benefit from good, solid cultural and social country-specific information.  Many virtual teams are comprised of individuals who are not from the same country but are now working virtually to move the business forward.  And if this is a global mobility team from different business units and different countries, it’s even more important to understand the background, cultural similarities and differences to be able to communicate effectively.

Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and spend a little time doing a team building exercise.  This can be simply sharing communication styles for each nationality and discussing ways to present ideas that can be understood by the whole team.  This has done wonders to build stronger teams and stronger teams are more effective in reaching their goals.

Even though international relocations have slowed, companies are still moving employees globally. If assignments have been identified and accepted, now is the time for employees to learn about the host country.  Even as more people take the COVID-19 vaccine and are more comfortable with moving, relocating overseas has always been a complicated, life-changing process.  Learning everything there is to know about a foreign location is a huge undertaking.

Employees who are more prepared before they travel are better equipped to step confidently into the new business role, have more positive attitudes, and less fear of the unknown.  Offering them vetted destination information that they can peruse at their leisure is one of the best ways for them to learn about the new location.

Stated by one expat on InterNations:

“I researched just about everything, the climate, the public transportation system, various neighborhoods,” Neema (32) explains. When she moved from Lebanon to a mid-sized town in Oregon, USA, it helped her to know all about the new place before relocating overseas.

“It was not as confusing as I feared it would be. Of course, the situation is still pretty new, and it’s taken me a while to adjust. But it was good to know stuff like that I’d be going to a laidback university town with a diverse population, or that I could ride a bike to get to the office.”

When your assignee needs to know how to conduct a business meeting in Singapore, what the grocery options are like, or the nearest international school, well-organized content is a must.  While you may be tempted to rely on open-ended searching to find this information, many hours may be wasted chasing the right details and guessing which sources to trust.

The world is complicated.  The good news is that everyday tasks, housing solutions, school questions and social customs can be made less overwhelming.  Good information is also essential for effective operation and decision making at all levels, from global teams to expats.  While global mobility managers are making sure employees move safely, providing good information anticipates their needs, bolsters their well-being, and optimizes success.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, Managing Director

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Including Diversity in Your 2021 Plans

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become increasingly important topics in our industry. They are important to corporations that want to make a safe, supportive workplace available to all employees, while ensuring that they attract and retain talent from a diverse population. And they’re important to individuals who look for an inclusive professional experience, opportunities for advancement, and an appreciation for diverse ideas and skills.

Some companies have implemented D&I initiatives, others have developed longer-term strategies. Still others are just starting to consider what a thoughtful, effective policy might look like, and are looking for resources to help them clarify what it might encompass. Seen through the lens of Global Mobility, the considerations take on even more layers and require global knowledge.

Fortunately, there are resources — organizations who have made it their mission to advance the equal rights of all human beings, and in the process have amassed a knowledge base and expertise that helps others along that journey.

One such resource is Stonewall Global Workforce Briefings. Covering 37 countries, they outline a country’s legal, socio-cultural, and workplace situation for LGBT individuals; offer employers advice on creating inclusive workplaces; and highlight best practices from Stonewall’s global membership program.

These briefings explain the legal landscape with regard to immigration, gender identity, equality and employment, family and same-sex relationships, and freedom of expression. They also discuss everyday life, the workplace, healthcare, and local LGBT groups and advocacy.

Equally valuable are the tips from Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champions, companies that are committed to an inclusive workplace and benefit from the shared tools and expertise.

Living Abroad’s clients can access this and other LGBTQ+ information in both our Global section and individual country reports. As evidenced by the lively and fascinating discussions at ERC’s virtual 2020 Workforce Symposium, we are all learning and evolving our workplaces and programs toward the goal of better diversity and inclusion across the global mobility space.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

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What should you not do in Cameroon?

What should you not do in Cameroon?

 

In Cameroon, which statement is NOT true?

a. Business cards should be printed in English and French.

b. Cameroon politics is always a welcome conversation starter.

c. Taxis drivers are not to be tipped.

d. Always greet the oldest or most important person first.

Click here for the answer!

Don’t forget to check this first!

While the spread of COVID-19 is a global health concern, it’s very important for all of us to be vigilant regarding other issues and concerns related to health and wellness.  Here are four questions to ask yourself, especially as you prepare for travel and life as an international assignee in the coming months:

Am I up-to-date on my own healthcare? 

It is critically important to follow local guidelines with regard to routine and emergency medical care. This includes not neglecting other, non COVID-19 related medical treatment. In the past year, most health facilities and doctors’ offices have made environmental and procedural changes to maximize patient safety. The availability of video and telephone medical appointments has also expanded considerably to accommodate patient needs. If you have specific concerns, it is always appropriate to contact your provider in advance.

What do my health insurance policies include, and will I need more coverage later?

Insurance policies can vary widely and change, particularly at the turn of a calendar or financial year. Take note of changes to physician, facility, and caregiver networks, and be sure to evaluate your policy’s formulary for changes to prescription coverage. If you will be relocating in the coming months, it is important to know that private plans may only be valid in your home country, or may restrict benefits available in other countries. Some plans have only regional coverage. If your employer does not already have full information on provisions for coverage, inquire at a consulate of your destination country. After evaluating what is and what will be available to you later, you may want to pursue expanded coverage if you think risks might be higher in your destination.

Do I have the generic names for the medications I take?

If you regularly take a prescription or over-the-counter medication on the advice of your doctor, you should obtain the generic names of these drugs. You may even wish to take an adequate supply with you, as a prescription readily available at home may not be easy to acquire abroad.  Be aware also that some countries require special documentation to accompany large quantities of medications, and that some medications may be regulated differently. Any medications taken with you should be in the original labeled containers.

What else might I need when it’s time to travel?

A copy of your medical insurance policy that includes coverage information can be very helpful, as can medical and dental records. If you are being treated for a specific medical condition, you should have a signed and dated statement from the prescribing physician describing the issues, and identifying treatments — including medications and dosages. In addition, take written prescriptions, which may be honored by your doctor or pharmacist abroad. Now might also be a good time to tap into current and destination support groups and other networks, so that you’ll be prepared when the time to travel comes.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, Product Manager

“Good afternoon, Ms. Jones. Hi there, Suzanna.”

What impact can this simple exchange have on a newly developing cross-cultural relationship?

I have an American colleague who is easygoing, friendly, and wants to build trust with her associates in France. On a recent conference call, she noticed that she was often addressed by her surname.  “It felt stiff and strange,” she said, “and even a bit unfriendly. Is there anything I do to fix this?”

The first step is knowing that a communication gap like this can often be attributed to cultural preference. I have no doubt my friend’s colleagues are just as interested in building trust with her as she is with them. But different communication approaches can lead to misperceptions, and a slow start at establishing a meaningful business relationship.

Cultures that have a preference for Formal Communication, like France, follow strict rules about forms of address, especially based on age and status.  Use of a first name is by invitation only, and highly dependent of whom you are addressing. Children are taught from a young age that questioning or disagreeing with authority is not acceptable, and this attitude permeates well into adult life.

Informal Communication orientation cultures, like the United States, use more flexibility in how you address others.  Use of a person’s first name comes with ease and is expected in return. Expressing an opinion or questioning a decision regardless of power or authority is acceptable. Reticence in this behavior can be perceived as reluctance, and even negativity.

Another cultural preference that can influence business relationships is Power Distance. Renowned social psychologist Dr. Geert Hofstede defines Power Distance as the extent to which less powerful members of organizations accept an unequal distribution of power.

Cultures with a Hierarchical orientation are formal, with a top down approach. The person with power has the solutions. Subordinates rely on managers for direction. Employees are expected to complete tasks as directed, and the powerful are entitled to privileges.  You will find that you have to assert more positional authority in order to achieve results.

Cultures with a Participative orientation are more informal. Ideas and suggestions can come from any organizational level. Subordinates are expected to be consulted, and they participate in decision making.  There are fewer levels of management with a matrix structure. Completed work depends on collaboration, and employees have equal say. In general, it is more important to get the work done than it is to go through appropriate channels.

The impact of Power Distance can be significant unless you are aware of the potential for communication gaps in doing business, and what you can do to close them.

Here are a few tips for a Participative-oriented manager working in a Hierarchical culture from Catherine Mercer Bing’s book Many Cultures, One Team: Build Your Cultural Repertoire.

1.  Leverage the Power Position of senior management to drive projects, make introductions and connections, and communicate expectations.

2.  When dealing with change, tell subordinates what to do differently.  Do not leave it to them to figure out.

3.  Use legitimate power to exercise authority.

4.  Use an approach with higher-ups that is perceived as a “help me understand” posture.

5.  Use the proper organizational channels.

6.  Respect the formality of the hierarchy.

What are your own personal cultural preferences? What are the preferences in the countries and cultures where you are building business relationships? Find out by visiting the Culture Coach Online and completing your Cultural Profile Questionnaire.

Click here to request access.

Written by Diane McGreal, Living Abroad Cultural Advisor