Managing VIPs – the joys of senior leadership moves.

Expat Academy Managing VIPs - the joys of senior leadership moves.

When they hit a Global Mobility professional’s desk they often invoke a small inward groan! It’s usually not because the move itself is physically difficult, but because those involved must jump through hoops in a stealth like ninja fashion in an effort to gather all the information necessary for it to run as smoothly as possible.

Often this delight arrives on the desk from someone that looks like a cross between a star struck teenager and a rabbit caught in the headlights! So, this ‘highly confidential’ / ‘top secret’ move is for an employee in the top salary bracket in, say, the finance department in the Chicago office. This nameless individual, who has a title along the lines of Senior VP or Executive Director, is moving from Chicago to London. It doesn’t take Einstein to figure that Trevor Davies*, his wife and three children are clearly going to be on the move soon as, I’m sure as is the case in most organisations, there aren’t hundreds of employees at that level in that location! Yet the scant details that physically arrive on the desk just state marital status as single as, heaven forbid, there would be too many clues as to who the person would be.

So, the heart sinks a little whilst preparing the cost estimate, as there is a vast difference between a single status, senior Chicago to London move and married plus 3 senior Chicago to London move – actually, you could probably bet the family jewels that the cost would be closer to double!

Even though everyone dealing with this super confidential case knows who the candidate is, everyone is too worried about actually speaking to the individual to gain the information required, in case they appear inefficient or can’t be trusted to deal with something ‘confidential’.

So as any proactive GM person would do (in the desperate attempt to reduce the workload caused by multiple reworks of said cost estimate), the employee record is pulled up on the HR system in the hope of gaining additional wisps of useful and necessary information. Then comes another source of frustration. Whilst waiting for their online personnel record to download it suddenly becomes apparent that those gaps are not the computer taking a snooze during download – they are just blanks as no-one in HR shared services wanted to take on the thankless task of nagging the senior individual to complete their HR record following the last data migration onto the new HR system.

So, the cost estimate scenario is run based on single status (all the while thinking that you may as well run the M+3 scenario at the same time because at least, if nothing else, you will look exceedingly efficient when the first cost estimate boomerangs back down the chain). Up goes the cost estimate for approval and is greeted by someone that demands to know why the costs are so high as ‘it didn’t cost that much when they were on assignment’!! It requires huge effort not to highlight that the reason for that may just be that cost estimates weren’t done back then and the figure added to the budget was somewhere between putting a ‘finger in the air’ estimate and a number the poor person in finance first thought of!

In cases like this, and to reduce long protracted discussions between you, the star struck rabbit in the headlights and senior leadership, the best chance is to be called in to explain the figures directly. I have always been more than happy to sit opposite someone and go through the numbers line by line all the time watching for the penny to drop as they realise nothing is being hidden in the figures and yes, it really is that expensive.

Once the penny drops, then comes the question ‘Would the costs be much different if we were looking to send someone with a partner and 3 children?’. With a large slow patient intake of breath, (to reduce the risk of inadvertently letting a heavy sigh slip out) and a small reshuffle of papers, the M+3 cost estimate can be efficiently produced to highlight how ‘much different’ they would be.

Following the senior leader’s review of these higher numbers it can go one of two ways:

  1. They agree to the cost estimate as the VIP is truly the best thing since sliced bread.
  2. Or they strike through some of the policy entitlements from the cost estimate to shave off as much cost as possible. This inevitably creates even more work when the discussions with the employee start as the employee negotiates it all back in over the course of the next two weeks (making you feel like a ping pong ball at the World Table Tennis Championships as the individual negotiations get batted back and forth).

The good news after all this negotiation, is that often these moves are not difficult. The assignee is a ridiculously busy person and, after the assignee briefing, soon realises that GM’s role is there to help this all go as smoothly as possible. The vendors are placed on high alert that they are moving a VIP and do all they can to offer the high touch service (assuming you have an awesome RFP and have brought in top notch vendors) and so the stress and workload eases away from your desk – at least until pay review!!

It’s the assignees moving from the headquartered office to some remote, amenity lacking, place in the farthest reaches of Timbuktu that used to give me sleepless nights!

Why not share your stories and join our members at the next network huddle in January 2018 to discuss current issues, challenges and receive expert advice and input from Expat Academy and the network sponsors. Click here to head through to our events page and register for either the Symposium Huddle on 9th January 2018 or the Club 100 Huddle on 17th January 2018.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent!

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