The Secret Diary of a Global Mobility Manager: Never work with children or animals

by Gina Tonic

Expat Academy The Secret Diary of a Global Mobility Manager: Never work with children or animals  Dear Diary,

Sitting in the highly specialised, efficient Global Mobility team within HR, sometimes requires super-human effort not to laugh out loud or just walk out of the door.  Something new is thrown in our general direction, on an almost daily basis, which we have to find ‘creative’ solutions for.  As professionals, we carry on with a smile on our faces providing ‘added value’ and strategic advice.

Too good to be true

With this in mind, whilst sitting quietly at my desk, enjoying my morning coffee, browsing the latest excel spreadsheet (and surreptitiously picking my children’s breakfast off my clothes), a new request for a ‘what if’ relocation costing pops into my inbox.  How reassuringly normal and standard this request seems.  No strange or potentially dangerous countries involved.  A family with two children.  This should take me five minutes.  And indeed the ‘what if’ costing did take me five minutes.  The rest of the work to relocate this family did not.

Discussions started well with sensible requests and questions.  Overland travel was an option in this case so flights or driving was discussed – Flights it is!  Temporary accommodation outside the city preferable for some space for the children to run around – no problem!  Have you thought about schools?  Yes all sorted out – brilliant.  Services up and running for this relocation. Easy! Back to cleaning food off my clothes and drinking more coffee.

Schooling issue makes relocation a little trickier

Then the phone rings, “Yes, hello, helpful Global Mobility person at your service.  How can I help?” It was that ‘easy to relocate’ family.  They had not realised that the school system was different in their new country and could we get their children into the one school in the city they wanted them to go to.  Oh and the new school terms starts in two weeks.  OK, this is a problem but nothing us highly trained International Mobility people haven’t seen before.  I swing into action, mobilising extra budget and really, really helpful suppliers to help this family get their kids into this particular school.  Minor problem; the school is boys only and they have two girls.  Heated discussions ensue but thankfully with the help of those suppliers, we find some equally suitable alternatives, which also have space and someone available to speak to during the school holidays.  Dilemma sorted.

Murderous accusations

The move continues and the shippers move in to pack up the family belongings.  The phone rings again.  Did I know that this family have cats?  No, I was blissfully unaware.  Again, not a huge problem and we have contacts with suppliers that can do this.  No, the cats cannot travel by plane with the family because they are a special breed and they are a bit sensitive.  Further heated discussions ensue including me being labelled a murderer for wanting to take the chance of putting their family members (the cats) on a plane with the others (the children).  Can the packing crew take the cats?  They are going overland with the goods.  We can put the cats in with the crew. Please!  They very kindly agree.  Finally, everyone is on their way.

Lessons learned

After the move I take a moment of reflection and think about what lessons I could learn from this move.  I am relieved to discover I am not a murderer, as the cats (and children) arrived safely.  We work with some really helpful suppliers.  Some people have different priorities when they move and I need to be sensitive to this. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of not working with children or animals but let’s face it, they make our job more interesting! Most importantly, dried cereal can be picked off some clothes without leaving a mark – who knew?!

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