Firsts are a funny thing; you always remember them much more fondly than maybe the occasion or people involve warrant. My first kiss is recalled in my mind’s eye that I had it all together like a regular Casanova… the reality is something far removed from that and is likely to be something more akin to the UK comedy the Inbetweeners. Indeed, firsts are a funny thing.
I remember fondly my first ever Expat Academy event in 2016 which was held at the Guoman Tower Hotel near Tower Bridge. I remember my first dilapidation claim for a rather expensive lamp shade that an Exec had broke and wanting to tear my hair out, and I certainly will never forget my first ever Club 100 Huddle that I hosted last week.
Against the backdrop of a dreary, wet and quite frankly miserable day in London was the excitement of meeting many of my network face to face and tackling some quite meaty topics. We started with the obligatory coffee, tea and biscuits. Embracing every chance we could to talk to our fellow Club 100 members. It was so great to see old friends, make new ones and hear all about the challenges and exciting times ahead.
The day started with an icebreaker, hearing what you are all looking forward to for the rest of 2022. Clearly Christmas won but it was a great opportunity to hear about projects being completed by our members at Unipart and ERM in the policy, STBV and remote working space. Not long after we had settled, we launched straight into the challenging but growing topics of Sustainability and DE&I (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion). The energy in the debate, considerations and points raised against the statements was fantastic to see. As a network it was clear that costs are still the overriding business driver when compared to sustainability practices, with the challenge laid down that as a network we need to consider how we balance both the cost and sustainability impacts of our work. Something we’ll pick up throughout 2023!
Here at Expat Academy sustainability is very much at the forefront of our thoughts and how we want to conduct our business. Watch out for a blog on this soon to hear about what we’re doing.
After the morning break we heard from David McAlister from Global Expat Pay about the current economic challenges we’re facing and solutions to combat the pain points in GM. From regional inflation comparisons to GM team diagnostic pain points. David walked the network through what the future may look like with improved streamlined processes in the payroll and data processing in a GM team, meaning more space and time can be afforded to those challenging conversations with Expats about inflationary challenges and ad hoc COLA reviews.
We broke for lunch for more networking, conversations, and as I recall a fair few laughs. What I love about our network is how much the Club 100 network understand that our network huddles and events are safe spaces to say how we really feel, laugh about those problems we have but also feel and know we’re understood. It was great to see and be involved in those conversations.
After lunch we had a couple of brilliant corporate updates from Warner Music and ERM. I look forward to hearing all about how those programmes develop over the coming year. We then took up the challenge of Expat Mental health whilst on assignment and had a conflicting debate regarding the validity of traditional ‘Soft’ benefits. We discussed how Mental Wellbeing is now a staple part of any organisation’s employee support offering, but the lack of cultural adaptation and support benefits provided to help Assignees settle into their host country could be exposing them to mental health challenges during their assignment/ relocation. I stand by what I said during the session that I’d rather debate with an expat the need to lower their Shipment space to provide budget for these ‘soft’ benefits, than to not provide them at all! Such is the power of helping expats settle in their Host location. One to ponder and revisit in 2023 maybe?
We ended the day with another corporate update from the wonderful Jen Owen at Experian before moving on to our Global Mobility hot potatoes session. Hearing the challenges faced by those GM professionals in the room and seeking the experience and insight from members in the room. We tackled issues from COLA reviews and Inflation challenges to remote workers and policy reviews. Interestingly we briefly touched on European Posted Worker Directive challenges but as no one in the room had worked this out, and an update from Vialto was that it was still very much a work in progress on how best to approach the process, it was agreed that this topic would need to be one to revisit once we have something more tangible to share.
As always, we finished the day with some network drinks, more laughs and conversations about the GM worlds we occupy. I can genuinely say hand on heart it was amazing speaking to everyone who attended and hearing your challenges but seeing the determination and drive in everyone to work some of these challenges out is inspiring, and I’m incredibly proud we can journey with our network and support you all as much as we can.
So my first ever hosting of the Club 100 Huddle came to an end! I will likely look back on this in the future with an over inflated sense of connection and warmth, much like my teenage Casanova days, but you always remember your firsts. ‘Firsts’…. funny things indeed.