Annual Conference – Get on Board

Expat Academy Annual Conference - Get on Board  The highlight of every Global Mobility professional’s calendar, of course, our annual conference was in fact better than we had expected! Thank you all so much for attending and ‘getting on board’ with the theme! 

On the topic of attendance, this conference kind of threw out the rule book because, normally, there would be a small-ish percentage of last-minute cancellations or no shows…not this time! Clearly, you were all so keen to get back together in-person! Not just to see us at the Expat Academy – although I’m sure we’re a huge pull 😉 – but mainly to network with your awesome community and have fun playing the fantastic games our amazing partners brought along. It was so interesting to see attendees reconnect with people they used to work with at other companies; we always say Global Mobility is a small world but seeing it in action is just fascinating! Conference-goers were even reconnecting in-person with their own team members who they see less often now with the working-from-home norm. This is what Expat Academy is all about – connecting the community. 

We hope everyone enjoyed the various ways to earn ‘Mobility Money’! How much fun was the ‘Rapidough’ game?! There were definitely some suspiciously quick guesses from team members to the two challenges to mould: ‘COLA’ and ‘Carbon Footprint’! We truly, truly wish we had time for the third challenge, ‘EU Posted Workers Directive’; that would have filtered the sneaky peekers to the forefront!

 Expat Academy Annual Conference - Get on Board  Expat Academy Annual Conference - Get on Board  But alas, every team won their Mobility Money’…funny that 😊 Talking of funny, who should give out the money but our very own Community Chests, who sportingly took the ‘chest’ part very literally with novelty/real (you decide 😉) muscles on show!

Taking a break from corrupt money laundering and ‘bare’ chests (what was this conference?!), we next heard from Tobias Nehls, Head of Global Mobility Management for Siemens on the topics of Streamlining, Sustainability and Survival. Firstly, we have to say how amazing his slide images were! But the content was great too and learning about the Siemens ethos around problems was fascinating; different problems require different solutions, and so they separate problems into two camps: blue problems and red problems. Blue problems can be solved with knowledge and experience; you may not have the knowledge and experience now, but you can obtain it. Red problems on the other hand are new situations where yesterday’s knowledge and experience cannot help. Sustainability is a big red problem, for example. Some new solutions are cropping up though, and one mentioned by Tobi was an Ikea furniture rental service, saving companies from buying new furniture and thus improving their footprint in the area of sustainability. Likewise, simple approaches that may sound counter-intuitive for a Global Mobility team, but are still the right thing to do, could be to ask businesses not to just think about the modes of transport being used for business travel, but whether the travel should happen at all. 

Lastly, one that really resonated with us at Expat Academy, was making sure that those doing business with colleagues or customers abroad have access to cultural training to ensure that they really know how to do business in that country and ultimately ensure that they have an efficient trip. A truly insightful session from Tobi, thank you! 

Next up, one of our long-time greatest contributors and last year’s Players’ Player, Leane Harding, spoke about her recent experiences in Streamlining, Sustainability and Survival as the Head of Global Mobility at Deloitte. Many in the room were nodding in agreement when Leane spoke having found new levels of burnout. At a time when Global Mobility professionals have been fighting so many fires, proactively proving their worth, reorganising, taking on more work and new work, there was a lot of sympathy and empathy when Leane showed a picture of a bunch of unburnt matches and mentioned that she is down to her last unburnt match. Transformation usually results in a loss of headcount and more work, and that can affect the wellbeing of the team. While making sure the team took time to stop, to communicate, and just do their best, Leane herself found the safe space of the Expat Academy Global Heads Network very helpful to talk about what’s going on with her peers and feel reassured that she wasn’t alone. She also found our benchmarking service to be invaluable. Thanks for the advert Leane! 😉

Expat Academy Annual Conference - Get on Board

Nevertheless, COVID hit, and Deloitte were not immune to the effects on business activities. Leane and her team looked around them to see who was going to take charge of the resulting overseas remote worker requests and displaced workers and saw no one. They only saw the opportunity to take charge and show their leadership that they are not simply a back-office function, but a leading advisory function. Although their leadership have not wanted a policy, there is a process in place, which the tax team have been instrumental in assisting to stand up. The pandemic has been really hard, but Leane believes the momentum is very much in the direction of Global Mobility. For example, Deloitte estimate that 80% of their new hires will be coming from abroad; and whose experience will be required to enable that?! 

On the topic of sustainability, Leane was correct to point out that Global Mobility has probably trended towards some more sustainable policy options already; perhaps as much for cost reasons as anything else, but still worth noting. For example, the trend towards fewer long-term assignments and more local-plus or permanent transfers results in fewer home leave trips. Also, recent shipping challenges highlight a service some have used for years: furniture rental. And as mentioned already, more options are appearing in that space. Helpfully, Deloitte publishes their corporate goals, but moreover, they clarify what they really mean. Apply such an approach to a Global Mobility team’s activity, and they can take that, understand the goals better, and feel empowered to suggest or make changes themselves; perhaps also hold external vendors to account and ensure they join in on the journey. 

Leane closed with a statement that we must shamelessly plug here because, well, it’s our blog! She said, ‘use this network, it’s invaluable’. #weheartleane 

Another long-time friend followed and took to the stage, Boo Holmes from Speak the Speech, who shared some excellent tips on first impressions. He said that people don’t necessarily remember what you say or do, they remember how you make them feel. So, when taking to the stage, we must always remember to stand up tall, compose ourselves, connect with the audience with eye contact, smile, and use open body language. Why? Because humans are hard-wired to reflect what they are being given. So, the warmth and openness will naturally help with a first impression! Thanks, Boo, for piling on the pressure to everyone who followed on stage, which immediately was our very own James Holder! 

After the fun games and networking during the break, we played our own logo game: Logos, Laughs and Community Spirit, where we tested our attendees’ knowledge of their fellow community members’ company logos and facts about the companies themselves. We have to say, we do like the Gymshark ‘give a shit’ company value! Our muscle men were back to hand out ‘Mobility Money’ and the community was back to cheat their way to earning it! Even with Google under the desks, cheating was actually not too bad as no one scored maximum points. Plenty of money was handed out though, especially when it was a free-for-all to roll an unintentionally heavy wooden dice and claim to have rolled an even number! 

Emma followed up from this game by asking for some corporate updates and ‘help needed’ questions; another example of how connecting our community with each other is our core value. When someone says, ‘I would like to talk to anyone who has implemented a business travel tool with EU Posted Worker compliance’, and we have a full conference room of corporates, it’s

Expat Academy Annual Conference - Get on Board  inevitable that help is on its way during lunch! After a roll of a big inflatable dice brought insightful updates from SIRVA/BGRS, AIRINC, and Global Expat Pay, it was time to refuel and lunch! 

Refreshed and well-connected, we all came back for what must be one of our most popular speakers we’ve ever had: the Kresse half of Elvis and Kresse. In 2005, a chance encounter with the London Fire Brigade revealed that London’s damaged decommissioned hoses go to landfill. Elvis and Kresse was set up to save them, and so for over a decade, none of London’s firehose have gone to landfill and over 300 tonnes of material has been reclaimed. Furthermore, in 2017, the Burberry Foundation partnered with Elvis and Kresse to tackle the even greater global problem of leather waste. Now, tonnes of leather off-cuts from Burberry are recrafted into new luxury items, designed, and sold by Elvis and Kresse. They now rescue many more raw materials, transform them into luxury lifestyle accessories, and donate 50% of profits back to charities. 

Expat Academy Annual Conference - Get on Board

So, what could a Global Mobility team take away from this? Everyone must think differently about waste. We regularly hear Global Mobility teams struggling to think of what they can do in the sustainability space to actually make a difference. Consider that Elvis and Kresse were trying to find a way to accept thousands of used prison mattresses because those mattresses would have springs in, and that metal could be reused. How many people would have looked at that problem and seen that possibility? “The most ecological item you can own is the one you already own”, Kresse told us. “Don’t get rid of your old petrol car for a new electric car; keep it until it breaks”. So, Global Mobility, why give a furniture allowance to the expat so they can buy new furniture? Why give them a shiny new car (or allowance to buy one) upon arrival? Doing things like sharing items and house swapping are sometimes harder, yes; but it’s zero carbon and it’s the right thing to do. We’ll give you another quote we heard recently from another source: “Wrong is wrong, even when everyone else is doing it. And right is right, even when no one else is doing it”.

One more refuelling break and we were onto our keynote speaker, Ann Daniels, a world record holder and one of Britain’s leading explorers. Experiencing temperatures as low as – 50C and dealing with various encounters with polar bears, she has sledge-hauled over 2000 miles in the most inhospitable environments in the world, completing over 10 polar expeditions and surviving over 400 days on the ice. She understands the importance of good planning, hard work, and a positive attitude together in the most difficult circumstances. On its own, positivity is very important to success, but it is not enough without a good plan and hard work. Ann had thought about giving up during the nine months of training for the selection of her first expedition, and being a mum of three did not make that training easier. But with those three keys to success, she persevered and was selected. A few things Ann said resonated with us at Expat Academy and talking to members during the networking, they resonated with many others too: it’s easy to help others when things are going well, but it’s more important when things are tough; it’s okay, and moreover, it’s important to ask for help; and Ann does not see herself as superwoman in these extreme conditions testing her resolve – she is simply carrying on, putting one foot in front of the other. On those first two points, you can clearly see how that resonates with Expat Academy and its members when it comes to things like benchmarking and networking. That last point though – coming from someone who many will see as superwoman – can be words of encouragement for those of us feeling like Leane Harding, who are down to our last unburnt match. Carry on, putting one foot in front of the other. 

Awards! What annual conference is complete without awards?! The Expat Academy Players’ player award, voted for by our members, was an award for which we had to think a bit on our feet! Our winner, Ezeibe Agomo from Equinix, threw us a curve ball earlier in the day saying he had to leave prematurely, i.e., before awards time! Luckily, being the speedy adapters we are, we found an opportunity to present him with his award after the logos game – phew! Members say Ezeibe is a great contributor at the Expat Academy huddles and the Global Heads Network, and never hesitates to provide industry insights to support others. Expat Academy Annual Conference - Get on Board

At the intended awards time, we started with our first Key Contributor award, from the Club 100, and it was someone who provides thoughtful input into our benchmarking service and is a source of support and advice to the Expat Academy community: Claire Bourke from Latham and Watkins! 

The next Key Contributor for 2022 belonged to our Symposium Network. Caroline Teisserenc from Rothschild and Co. has made an astonishing contribution to the benchmarking over the last year, at a time when people needed support. It doesn’t seem to matter what the question is on, she will participate! 

The last award was brand-new for this year. GMPD Star Learner is aimed at recognising the dedication and perseverance of our GMPD community and there was a standout winner this year: Will Scrupps from Imperial Tobacco! 

And that was a wrap! What a fun day we all had reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones, playing games, and learning. Thank you to all attendees and partners who made the day so special. We shall see you in November for our Network Huddles! 

What to expect: 

  • Three Against Three – Our World-Famous Global Mobility Debate Game Show!​ 
  • Technical updates from our Network Sponsors with Huddle discussions​ 
  • Expat Coach & Mentor Kate Gondouin will discuss the unseen impact of cultural adaptation on your assignees’ mental health and provide a personal story that will make you re-evaluate your programs​ 
  • Global Mobility Hot Potatoes – Huddle opportunities to discuss key topics important to you with your global mobility peers and technical experts. Share your knowledge and learn from others​ 

Register for the huddles:

Symposium – 8th November here

Club 100 – 10th November​ here

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