Did I ever tell you the story of the expatriates who moved to Southern Italy? A world of business bonding over red wine, pasta and family time.
We have a large manufacturing site in Southern Italy, and I move many people to this region every year. The guys who work in Southern Italy are all friendly and eager to look out for each other but recently following an audit of our global relocation management company (RMC) it came to light that not one of them had used destination services to help secure housing on arrival in the host location. According to our policy, they were entitled to a five-day escorted house search, help negotiating their tenancy agreements in Italian and assistance to pay their initial security deposits.
Thinking this must be an administrative error I contacted the RMC in question to ask why details of the house search assistance had not been included in their audit reports. They responded to say that this service had been offered to all those who had moved to Southern Italy but that no one had taken this up.
I mentioned this to our CEO who had an upcoming business trip to Southern Italy and he jumped at the chance to practice the recent intercultural training techniques he had learnt. He told me (as if I didn’t know already) that in Southern European countries it was essential that you work on building personal relationships, so he volunteered to swing by the destination service providers office and spend some time with the local estate agents to figure out how the guys were managing to find living accommodation without their help.
Grossly unnecessary in my opinion…who cares that people were finding their own homes to live in and saving the company lots of house search fees. But boy was I happy that he did! Over a business lunch Mr CEO found out that our Site Manager in Southern Italy (Let’s call him cheeky Chuck). Had been personally greeting new arrivals and circumventing the Destination Service Provider. He was helping people secure accommodation and in return he and his wife had been receiving some rather sizeable sums of cash as a commission.
I was relaying this story to another Global Mobility colleague of mine who reminded me that the Italian culture was to put family and friends first. However, Cheeky Chuck was an American Citizen, so unless he had gone native, he really should have been able to put company values ahead of family and friends. He absolutely shouldn’t have made a cash profit out of the situation and there is a little matter of anti-bribery legislation.
One valuable lesson I learnt was that it pays to invest in intercultural training for your senior executive and encourage them to take an active interest in Global Mobility…Well done Mr CEO!