Expat Academy

Our first live European Super Huddle since BC (before-COVID) and it was great to be back in Amsterdam – the Venice of the North! Also, one place where it’s very important to know the difference between a coffee house and a coffee shop 😊 We certainly are…better together! 

A big thank you to everyone who attended and to our partners and sponsors. 

As James said at the start of the Huddle, the day was about reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones – the majority were in fact new, which was fantastic! It was also about learning, but more than anything it was about having fun. And we had fun! 

After the interactive introductions, we played a fun icebreaker to kickstart the day; using a map and coloured pens, we found out where everyone had previously travelled to and where everyone wanted to travel to. This was a test of aspirations and there was no shortage of those! We also used it for a free benchmarking service (see what I did there? 😉) to see if we could get any ideas for future events – Tuvalu anyone?! 

With so much happening in the last two years or so, Global Mobility’s role in an organisation has come under much scrutiny. It’s not just things that have fallen into our laps because no one else wanted to (or was equipped to) take on those battles, but we as professionals are also questioning our role and how we can be more strategic, get ‘a seat at the table’, etc. It has also been a great opportunity for many teams to highlight all the work that Global Mobility do that used to (still does) get taken for granted. We discussed the EU Posted Worker Directive, all things COVID, remote working, travel bans, and much much more! 

Our Expert Panel then dived deeper to give us their take on this topic, along with questions posed to them by other attendees. 

Huib van Rumpt gave us a great insight into what Avery Dennison’s take on Remote Working has been and how this is impacting his team. They are allowing remote working but limiting it to 15 days. Then the ‘B’ word came up – Brexit! The extra challenge with remote working and Brits is of course we no longer have the instant right to work in many countries that we used to. 

Marijke Have from Adidas described an interesting scenario many could relate to when the headline “our employees can work from anywhere” was announced before Global Mobility had worked out all the details. But they have settled on a 10-day remote working policy with a self-assessment for the first step. 

Likewise, Maaike van den Broek told us that Booking.com settled on 20 days, providing employees have the right to work in that country of course. Interestingly, they’ve had 4,000 requests in the first year! And what will make it harder is that a competitor has announced an even more generous policy, so in this “war for talent” that everyone is having to deal with (on top of everything else!), they now need to re-look at their policy. 

Next, we discussed Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DE&I). Penny Kidd from Spendesk is extremely passionate about this topic and so it was fantastic to hear what she has seen in the organisations she’s worked with and what – in her opinion – Global Mobility functions should do to support DE&I. While she believes there is no one-size-fits-all, she does believe there are opportunities for companies to learn from others with no need to reinvent the wheel. It starts at the start, naturally. What are your hiring practices? Are you allowing enough time for the advert to be live in order to get a diverse range of applicants? Is your hiring panel made up of diverse managers? And specifically, within Global Mobility, are your policies flexible enough to attract as many employees as possible who would otherwise be put off by a rigid ‘old’ policy? 

On that point, Jochen Lenz from Daimler Truck AG gave us an example where they found their policy was providing the same housing allowance to a couple as a single parent with a child. What if that child was a teenager? They wouldn’t want to share a room with their parent. Companies will want and need better data on their employees to be able to really make impactful changes, but as Jochen said, there can be a reluctance to ask for that data, or it just may not be appropriate. 

With several questions then posed to the panel to keep them on their toes, they truly deserved some bottles of bubbly to say thank you! 

With some yummy nosh to refuel the inquisitive brains and a great time to network with friends new and old, lunchtime also provided attendees with a chance to visit our excellent partners’ stands where they could fill their bags with goodies and even test their punching power on a boxing machine! The Expat Academy team may or may not have got very competitive on this machine later… 

Refreshed and well-connected, we all came back for a quick Expat Academy portal demo, updates on events, and a piece on our Global Mobility professional development programme, MyGMPD, delivered expertly by our very own Sugi Thatcroos, Chloe Hilsley, and Laura Mayo. Don’t forget to make use of the Benchmarking and Vault! Also, join the MyGMPD to train up your employees and retain their talent in this “war for talent”. These truly are unique benefits of Expat Academy membership. 

Following that, we had a second Expert Panel to talk about driving future Global Mobility success through teamwork – how can we work better together? The world has changed, and Global Mobility service providers have the tools and knowhow to guide in-house teams through their journey out of the pandemic. This inspiring session provided insights, trends, observations, and top tips from panellists David McAlister (Global Expat Pay), Ellen van Arenthals (Mercer), Tom Crosby (Tracker Software Technologies), Kirsty Gies (Everaert Advocaten), and Beverly King (Graebel). 

So much was discussed in not-a-lot-of-time! Apart from learning that Chris Blair was too afraid to blow the 2-minute time limit horn, we also learned that right now, employees want to feel a better connection with their employer. They want to know their company is doing good in their communities, being more sustainable, creating a product they believe in, etc., which inevitably needs to filter down to the Global Mobility team. But Global Mobility teams also do not need to wait for the filter-down strategy – or shouldn’t – if they want to show their strategic worth. Beverly coined a phrase – mindful mobility. 

Interestingly, looping back to remote working, we heard that a lot of companies are making noise about their intentions, but many still haven’t put a policy and system in place yet. However, the tech and support is increasingly more available now so excuses may run out soon! 

During the networking that followed, I heard a term that stayed with me. While we hear so many examples where employees are being made to return to the office two or three days per week, they all-too-often end up on video calls with their team anyway because they aren’t in the office on the same days! Leigh at Nike told me that her team have one ‘anchor day’ of their three days where they have to be in, whereby the team agree which day they will all be in the office to see each other face-to-face. I hadn’t heard this term (others may have!) but I like it! It did make me wonder why you need the other two days though… 

Next up, it was our great pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, Caspar Berry. After starting his working life as an actor in BBC drama Byker Grove alongside Ant and Dec, Caspar studied economics at Cambridge before making the momentous decision to move to Las Vegas and become a professional poker player. Now a veteran of over 2,000 speeches in 30 countries, Caspar uses his unique experiences to deliver challenging messages about risk-taking and decision-making to maximize returns in an increasingly uncertain world. 

Caspar brought the theory of the butterfly effect to life and warned that we can’t catch every butterfly; we can’t control everything to prevent anything going wrong. So, we will always have to deal with uncertainty and risk. And if you apply this to trying to predict the future, there probably isn’t one future to be predicted – there’s always another butterfly. 

Just to spice things up at the end, we thought it would be a great idea to provide people with a few drinks and concurrently have Caspar run a poker table in the networking space! Alcohol and competitiveness are a match made in heaven! 

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